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.

What AM I? I’m Just…ME!

“What ARE you?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question throughout my life, I’d be retired by now. It’s the question I’m asked the most followed by “when do you plan on having kids?” which is then followed by, “You don’t WANT kids?”

The “what ARE you?” question would stir up a lot of anxiety in me as a child. My olive-colored skin, dark hair, dark eyes and high cheek bones attracted attention and curiosity because they weren’t the norm in the small southwest Kansas town I grew up in. As a teenager when someone would ask, “What ARE you?” I would quickly respond, “What are YOU?” That always resulted in priceless expressions and some good internal chuckles for me.

I remember as a teen when people would use the derogatory term for someone of Mexican descent and then realize I was standing there. They would get embarrassed and say, “oh! Lindsay, YOU don’t count.” First off, I’m part Spanish. The derogatory term for someone of Spanish descent is different than the derogatory term for someone of Mexican descent. I would gladly (mostly sarcastically) take these moments to inform them of the correct offensive word because it really was a great opportunity to educate bigots on geography and culture:) Secondly…”you don’t count?” Uhhhh…still not sure how that was supposed to make them seem less pathetic?

What ARE you? It was difficult for me to answer because I knew my “ethnic ingredients” consisted of many different nationalities and I just figured that’s how it was for everyone else. That’s why I didn’t understand why most people didn’t answer “other” when marking what their ethnicity was on forms that requested that information. I haven’t done the Ancestry DNA test but my sister has. My results would be similar so I’ll post it below in case you’re curious. I think I will have stickers made after I do my test so I can stick it to all the appropriate forms that require that information 🙂

29% Irish
17% Spanish
17% Native American
10% Scandinavian
9% Asian
5% Western European
4% African

As you can see by the information above, telling people “what” I am isn’t easy because I’m a lot of things. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life, and at times, has caused confusion and internal conflict. I’m currently attending graduate school to become a licensed clinical social worker. In one of my classes the teacher told one of the students that if she wasn’t there to become a “radical” social worker (radical social workers have radical liberal views), she should consider a different career path. The NASW (National Association of Social Workers) even endorsed a political candidate. These situations prompted me to ask if there was a list of political, anti-religious, personal opinions that we needed to believe in order to be “worthy” of becoming a social worker. I expressed in this class that if there was a list of specific personal criteria in order to become a social worker then the admissions office needs to make sure they are more selective by asking what people believe before accepting people into the program, but that would be discrimination. I’m working toward an MSW degree to become a therapist. To be an effective therapist I believe it is incredibly important to put your personal, political and religious views aside.

Take a look at the following definition: a social institution, in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established.

Is the definition above a definition for social work or organized religion?

Here’s some questions which consumed me the last few months…

  • If I didn’t vote for the candidate that correlates with the social work belief system, am I worthy of an MSW degree?
  • If I attend the Catholic church, am I worthy of being a social worker?
  • If I am mostly pro-life, am I still worthy of being a social worker or a feminist?

I believe in same sex marriage and in the right to love whomever you wish and I still feel worthy of attending the Catholic church. In all of my years attending the Catholic church, I have NEVER heard anyone say, “If you support the LGBTQ community, you should consider a different religion.” The truth is, though…I’ve never felt like I have belonged to any one particular group. As a kid it wasn’t unusual to see me playing football with the boys one minute and playing Barbies with the girls the next or sporting my Jordans complete with a Jordan jersey and mesh shorts one day and decked out girly-girl as can be the following day. I remember in grade school I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a football player or cheerleader for Halloween so I wore a jersey with a cheerleading skirt? In high school, I wasn’t part of any clique. I played sports, I was a cheerleader, I was in the band, I sang in the choir, and I participated in plays and scholarship pageants.

There’s so much emphasis put on the importance of community but I don’t believe that identifying with a group is for all of us. Being part of a group is preferred by many people and that’s great if that’s what is meaningful to you. I’ve discovered that intimate relationships are the type of relationships I feel the most comfortable in. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “If she attends the Catholic church then she prefers groups.”Attending Catholic services is just one of the ways I feel close to God. It is a very intimate experience for me.

People rarely believe me when I tell them I have a fear of public speaking because I used to have a radio show that was broadcast to thousands. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was because of the intimate aspect in radio. As I would broadcast, I would imagine I was talking one-on-one with someone because that is what felt natural to me. I can’t do that in front of a group because I can’t stay focused due to the fact that I can see that I am speaking to a group. And just because some of us don’t prefer groups, doesn’t mean we don’t experience unity. I have the best supporters/cheerleaders a girl could ask for!

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue my education in social work. There are a lot of aspects I love about social work that I believe will fuel my soul. I will remain authentic and true to myself. My mom taught me early on that there’s a universal language. That universal language is compassion. I’m just going to keep on speaking that language! I’m also going to keep attending the Catholic church because there are a lot of aspects I love about Catholicism. My upbringing in the Catholic church, along with the guidance of my parents, is where my spiritual foundation was built. My faith is a huge part of who I am and what has helped me through my darkest times. I am very proud of the woman I have become and my religion is a huge part of who I am and what keeps me positive, hopeful and brings me peace each and every day.

Labels often lead to assumptions; assumptions can be right but can also be false.  I would like to ask a favor. Please don’t assume…

– That because someone is pursuing social work that they believe all wealthy people are evil and greedy.
– That someone who is homeless hasn’t tried to find employment.
– That because someone attends Catholic church that they don’t support the LGBTQ community.
– That just because someone attends church every week that they live by the word of God.
-That just because someone isn’t religious or spiritual that they don’t possess strong morals and values.

I’ll stop there. You get the point.

So “what” am I? I’m just me. Following my heart.