Not All Moms Are Created Equal: My Mother’s Eulogy

I remember asking my mom as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up. She always answered without hesitation, “The one thing I always knew I wanted to be was a mom.”

My mom LOVED Mommin’! She was great at it and she was always there to help out other moms when they needed it whether it be picking their children up from school, sharing advice or giving a new mom a much needed break to cry, re-group or just have time for themselves.

I had the honor of writing and delivering my mom’s eulogy on Monday. I could have written an entire book of memories and lessons. I keep thinking of memories (like the one above) that I wished I would have included but I will continue to document them for my brother, sister and I, but mostly for her grandson, because I want him to know what an amazing woman his Gammy was!

Good morning. My family would like to thank all of you for coming here today to share our grief, help each other heal, but most importantly, to celebrate the life of one incredible human being…my mom. For those who don’t know me, I’m Lindsay, Mary Ann’s middle child…although my mom had me thinking for many years that my name was “Sweetheart.”

I would have thought that writing my mom’s eulogy would be the hardest thing I’d ever do, but it wasn’t. To be honest, it was actually a therapeutic escape from the nightmare my family has been living the past fourteen months. A few weeks ago I really disappointed myself. I was talking with my cousin, Val, and I told her I felt like I was forgetting what life was like before my mom’s diagnosis. As soon as I said it, I was overcome with sadness and fear. That would be the last thing my mom would want after all the incredible years and memories we shared. So, after my mom fell asleep in the hospital that night, I decided then to start to writing about the greatest memories I had with my mom and that’s how this eulogy began.

My mom put her entire being into raising my brother, sister and I. You didn’t even have to know her very well to know she LOVED being a mom. As I typed, my childhood memories brought me back to how much I loved my mom tucking us into bed every night, how she loved reading to us, memories of hearing her cheer us on from the bleachers, how she loved our friends and always had a place at the dinner table for them, how much she loved surprising us with little gifts “just because.”

A lot of the memories I wrote about consisted of lessons I learned from my mom. My mom’s advice was always to take the “high” road…which as we all know, is rarely ever the “easy” road. But on top of taking the high road, she always took it a step further and challenged us even more… she would make us pray for those people in our lives who were difficult or unkind.  Do you ever do this? It’s not easy. Do you pray for your best friend and then follow it up with a prayer for the kid who made fun of you at school or a co-worker who threw you under the bus? Do you pray for a family member and then follow it up with the person who intentionally damaged your property, stole from you or stabbed you in the back? I do this. I do this to this day because of my mom and some days it is still SO HARD!!! But it helps. It often helps me forgive. It helps me feel better because it allows me to let things roll off my back and move on!

I know that many of you here today remember my mom’s animated story-telling. I have heard that so much from so many of you. She loved to tell stories. One of my favorite memories is when I was the co-host of a radio morning show on a classic rock station. My morning show partner was a goof ball (so naturally my mom loved him) and he always wanted to call my mom on put her on the air and ask her questions about me hoping to get some good dirt and embarrass me. Being live on the radio didn’t make her nervous at all. She LOVED it! She was so entertaining with her story-telling, she earned her own segment that aired each week. She shared all sorts of stories…funny stories about her and my dad’s marriage, priceless stories about some of her parenting fails, and comical stories about small town living. She truly became the star of the show. Listeners of the show still comment about that segment and that was over four years ago.

My mom had the best sense of humor. My mom never took life too seriously and I adored her ability to be able to laugh at herself. In my 36 years, I’ve learned there are a lot of people who can’t do that. That is something I got from her and appreciate these qualities because it creates a lot more opportunity for laughter. My mom loved to laugh and she had a great laugh. She also liked to make others laugh. My cousins commented last night that she was still making them laugh just a couple weeks ago even when she was too weak to laugh herself.

She had my brother and I rolling with laughter a couple weeks ago and I love sharing this story. My mom never complained but she would get frustrated and overwhelmed because there was always a new challenge…diabetes, low white blood cell counts, shingles, bed sores, new pains… which often meant new medications which meant new side effects which sometimes meant another medication or an additional tip to try to decrease the adverse effects. She liked to talk about medications and doctor appointments as little as possible. One morning, after meeting with the hospice nurse to go over the new plan of attack to try to keep my mom comfortable, I sat down in a chair at the foot of the bed facing my mom and started explaining the new plan. I explained we were going to increase the dose of two different medications, we were going to keep the dosage the same on another medication but increase the frequency and apply the cream form instead of her taking a pill, then we were going to try a medicated bandage to help with the bed sore and so on. I finally finished rambling and asked, “you have any questions, Momma? She said, ”Lindsay…do you know where the remote control is?”

There was only one thing my mom loved more than being a mom…and that was being a Gammy! THE memory I have about my mom that takes my breath away and will forever melt my heart to think about was the moment she witnessed the birth of her grandchild. She and I were blessed to be part of my sister and her husband’s support team to help bring “Gammy’s Little Angel Faces” into the world. I will never forget the gasp of amazement, the sparkle in her eyes, the radiant smile on her face, the high-pitched tone in her voice as she exclaimed, “Sweetheart! He’s sooooo cute!!!” as she tried to fight back tears. She was beaming with pride!

My mom often beamed with pride and she often did so because of this parish. So many have shared memories with me about my mom and so many will always remember my mom as a faithful servant to God. She was and loved every minute of it. She loved serving St. Raphael Catholic Church. It was something she was very passionate about. She loved teaching so many of you here, your children, your grandchildren in CCD, RCIA and marriage preparation, but she also did so much teaching outside of these walls as a spiritual mentor.

My cousin, Stephanie, shared a great story with me. She said, ”For Aunt Liria’s funeral, I was so, so sick. Britt and I were getting ready to sing for it and every time I opened my mouth, I squawked. It was bad. Your mom wasn’t on the list to sing with us but when I asked her to help, she didn’t hesitate and jumped right in. We practiced before and I just sounded terrible but she assured me it would be ok. A little bit before the funeral I could hardly talk my throat hurt so bad. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little vial of holy water and told me to take a sip. Other people might have flasks of liquor but not Aunt Mary… she had Holy Water! Do you know, we got up there and we sang (and she helped us) and it was as if I was never sick! I could hit the high notes, I didn’t hurt, it was gone…. I was even able to sing at the cemetery with no problems. Shortly after, we were at the dinner and I lost my voice. She was God’s Earthly angel.” I love that story. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the Catholic faith and I do have to tell you I am incredibly comforted by the fact that many of my mom’s closest friends in life were priests.

I hate that my mom is gone and I miss her terribly and will continue to miss her so much, but my heart is so full and I’m incredibly grateful because God gave her to my brother, sister and I. At 36-years-old I know that not all moms were created equal. Growing up I thought all moms were the same. I just assumed that all moms put their children first. I thought all moms prepared meals for their children, read to them and kissed them as they tucked them in at night. I thought all moms played Barbies, dress-up, school and house with them. I thought all moms were compassionate and held their children when they were hurt, sick and sad.

I often feel sad because there are people who never experience the unconditional love my siblings and I did from our mom. Some mothers have it backwards and have children with the expectation that their children should love them unconditionally. Our mom chose to guide us, not program us. She believed self-determination is built on the value of autonomy and it is one of the things I appreciate most about my mom because letting your children spread their wings and fly has to be one of the hardest aspects of being a mom. Granted, my brother, sister and I may have all ended up quite quirky, but I’m so proud of the people my brother, sister and I have become and it’s because our mom inspired us to be proud of and embrace our authentic selves.

The last fourteen months were hard and the past few months were incredibly hard. There were many moments many of you were apologizing to my mom, dad, brother, sister and I because we were consoling you about the fact that our mom would be leaving us soon. Don’t apologize for shedding tears for my mom when you’re around us. I truly believe the depth of our grief is equal to the depth of our love and we have shed so many of our own tears. We are happy so many loved her so much and that you were blessed to be loved by her. Besides, the gift of comforting others is a gift we received from our mom. My mom always told us there’s a universal language and that language is compassion. Teaching us that language is one of the ways she will live on in so many of us. I am so blessed because I am rich. I am rich in all the ways that truly matter in this life because of my mother. She passed on the greatest lessons.

My mom told us that she imagined Heaven was paradise. I know my mom is in Heaven right now with some of her most favorite people. I know she’s in paradise barefoot, swinging in a hammock, singing along with the Angel choir.

“Love you, Miss You” like crazy, Momma.

Lessons To Share

This last year I have learned, learned and learned some more. I have learned an overwhelming amount of medical terms, become an (at best) amateur caregiver, was forced to face a challenging, shitty life change and made a big life change by choice as well. Last year I was faced with my most challenging crisis to date. My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on December 14, 2015. She’s been through a complex surgery and grueling recovery, six months of chemo and six weeks of radiation. People told us that it was going to be a roller coaster. If this figurative roller coaster had a name, I would call it “To Hell and Back.”

There have been so many lessons learned in the last year it would take a few posts so I’ll highlight the ones that have stuck with me the most.

1. Don’t Assume Someone Isn’t Hurting, Sick, Sad…Just Because They Don’t “Look” It
Many people have this image of what someone with cancer looks like, but I can tell you that just because someone doesn’t look sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t. I have a lot of hopes. One of those hopes is that we remain mindful that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. If you can’t find it in you to be kind, civility would be greatly appreciated. Here’s a picture of my mom in her last month of chemotherapy. Isn’t she beautiful?

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2. Your Mom Earned That “Protection” Badge, Damn It!
Even when you’re a grown adult, Moms will always want to protect you especially when they aren’t feeling well. Moms don’t even care about how crappy they feel, all they can seem to do is worry about their kids and feel like they are inconveniencing everyone around them. You will want to remind her that you’re an adult and she can talk to you about her concerns, her fears and very private things like whether or not she has eaten enough, what she had to eat and when, has she had a bowel movement, how much she weighs but when she doesn’t want to, don’t push it!

“Protector” is a title our moms earned and we shouldn’t take that away from them during rough times. Moms devoted oodles of time and energy making sure we looked both ways before crossing the street, protecting us from germs, feeding us, clothing us. Moms want to be the ones that are always there for us…they want to be our pillars, not the other way around. And just because we (children) don’t always agree with that way of thinking, we should respect it. When our mothers aren’t feeling their best for whatever reason, it’s important for them to feel strong and I believe they feel strong when they are protecting us from hurting emotionally. I bet my mom is laughing so hard reading this wondering when I’m going to start taking my own advice! Ha!

3. There Will Be Days You Won’t Be Your Best You No Matter How Hard You Try
And that’s okay, but don’t be a jerk because you’re not the only one dealing with crap! There are quite a few people who will give you the benefit of the doubt a time or two but not much beyond that. During my review with my sales manager this last year, she took that opportunity to address the struggle I was having with compartmentalizing. I was so grateful she brought that to my attention. I now know that is something I need to improve on so I try to be cognizant of this daily. On the days you’re not your best you, own up to it.

There will be days you don’t know who the hell you are anymore. You’ll wonder if “not knowing who you are anymore” is another one of these “new normals” you have to start adjusting to. The original me did resurface, but not without a few scratches, dents and flat tires along the way. This is resilience. I learned about this last semester. Sometimes it takes people longer than others to bounce back, and sadly, some never do.

4. Dealing With Crises Is Not “One Size Fits All.”
An expert shared with me that when most people are faced with a tragedy, they often become an exaggerated version of themselves. A negative person typically becomes more negative. Sometimes optimistic people will be so optimistic they end up in denial to the point where they won’t entertain important options. Everyone handles crises differently and that’s why a lot of times there is conflict during crises. I recently came across some incredible advice for everyday life but is also very useful when having a different perspective from someone else…

“Try to see where the other person is coming from, not where YOU WISH they were coming from.”

5. People Will Surprise You
People you expected would always be there for you don’t always show up when the going gets tough. People will distance themselves or completely vanish from your life. This goes along with the previous lesson that people handle crises differently. Just remember that is about them and how they have learned to cope. It’s not about you. But guess what?

6. AGAIN, People Will Surprise You!
In a good way! There will be people who make up for the ones who vanish and sometimes it’s people you never would have expected offering sincere, much-needed support. Often times you won’t want to accept it because you don’t want to feel like a burden. Well, let me tell you something! There really are a lot of terrific people in this world with lots of love in their hearts who want to do good and feel their purpose is to lend a hand, an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Let them. It’s truly a win-win.

7. Eliminate and/or Learn To Deal With Toxic People STAT!
There are toxic people you can rid of by cutting ties. Unfortunately some toxic people are people in our family or people we work with. If there are toxic people in your life that you haven’t set boundaries with, start working toward setting those boundaries now. Don’t wait. Toxic people are the last people you need to worry about during a crisis because even (and sadly sometimes especially) during a crisis it will be about them. Setting boundaries is an acquired skill. It can be uncomfortable at first but setting healthy boundaries is something I started working on a few years ago and I’m so glad I did. I can’t imagine what this last year would have been like for me mentally if I hadn’t learned to develop this skill.

8. Self-Care Is A MUST
If you don’t take care of yourself first it will make it very difficult to help care for another human being. This could be its own separate post so I’ll mention a couple ways I practice self-care.

– Take time for yourself even if there is only a small window of opportunity.
– I joined a cancer support group for a short time and it was very beneficial for me to spend time with people who could empathize with what I was going through.
– Don’t ignore your emotions.
– Ask for help.

Most importantly remember…

9. Cancer Patients Are Silent Soldiers.
People fighting cancer are fighting a battle that so many of us can’t possibly understand unless we’ve walked in their shoes. We can’t fight this battle for our loved ones (it took me a long time to finally accept that), but we can fight it WITH them. I received the best piece of advice from one of my mentors when I told her how helpless I felt. She shared the most valuable advice I have ever received…”Just be with your mom. Laugh with her. Call her. Text her. Hug her. Make sure she never feels alone because there’s nothing worse than feeling alone.”

I’ll leave you with the words I try to live by every day…
Be GRATEFUL for each day.
Be HOPEFUL for many more.
BELIEVE there’s a reason and
Have FAITH that God will help you through it.