My mom passed away April 20, 2018 – the most unexpected and tragic event of my life. I wrote a speech for the Celebration of Life, and when I chose to post it on my blog, I wrote an intro explaining it (read here). However, here is the speech that poured from me while the embers were still burning in the two weeks following her death. I detest public speaking, but I could not imagine a world where everyone in it did not know the magnitude of what her life, and death, meant to me. I trembled and cried through the whole thing, and it was absolutely perfect.
My mom taught me two languages.
One of these was the power of Words. I have always loved words. Words are magical and uplifting. They’re artistic and savory, and some pairings are exquisite. Words can heal wounds, and create them.
My mom taught me my first words. She taught me to read, and through the reading of words I was able to find my voice, learn compassion, travel to far away lands in my mind. She taught me to let it out, don’t hold it in, write it all. Be honest, authentic, only say what you mean, your words create your reality. Be kind with your words, use your words to bless people. You’re only as good as your word.
With this love of words and all of the power that they hold, I still don’t know how to portray to you the enormity of what this woman means to me, to those of us that were honored to call her mom. Oh, Mom, one of the most beautiful words that has ever existed.
Since my mom’s passing, I’ve waited for the right words to come. They would have to be so big, so enormous, to even begin to encompass who she was and do her justice.
Ultimately, there will never be enough words to say who my mom is.
The other language my mom taught me was Love.
I never doubted her love for me. She wasn’t necessarily a touchy feely love, but she was a constant presence. In my early twenties I realized my mom wasn’t much of a hugger and didn’t say “I love you” all that often. I got pissed for a while, as one does in their early twenties, but then I realized that I was a hugger and I loved to say “I love you,” and of course she always reciprocated. She loved me however I needed to be loved.
She taught me to love with my time, with my words, with my acts of service, with showing up when it matters.
She taught me that love is dropping everything and taking your grown ass daughter to the doctor when she has strep throat.
Love is what bubbles up in my throat and renders me unintelligible.
Love is letting your kid suck her thumb until she’s eight because it makes her feel safe. But also forcing her to take her pills when she is sick. Love is assuring your little girl that she won’t die on stage during the dance recitals that both fascinate and mortify her. Love is a safe lap to sit in, and being courageous enough to kill cockroaches. Love is actually driving your seven year old around the county chasing the end of the rainbow, because she truly believed it could be reached.
Love is being soft during all the hardness.
Love is going to your granddaughters’ school concerts every winter and every spring. Rolling out of bed early to babysit them at a moment’s notice and adoring every doodle they create. Visiting them at work, texting, calling, checking in. Being there for every Christmas morning, birthday, no school day, cheerleading competition, graduation, and random Tuesdays. Love is being there.
My mom taught me that love is not settling for anyone, that when you’re open to a great person, there will be an even more spectacular person waiting.
Love is working long and hard for your family. Keeping their ungrateful mouths fed, clothed, and completely loved. Love is an undying, unconditional, irreplaceable gift you give your children, whether they appreciate it or not.
Love is calling your adult daughters Chickiepoo, Pooh Bear, and Miss America.
Love is the beautiful agony of childbirth and the subsequent energy that magically appears to get you through the next years of life without sleep.
My mom showed me that love is listening to whining and excitement and giving encouragement and honest feedback, even when, and especially when, I don’t want it. Love is being a rock, something that holds you up, and being so accustomed to it, you barely notice its existence.
Love is music. Love is laughter. Lots of laughter.
Love is helping your 17 year old daughter raise her baby without once making her feel shame or guilt over it. Being the strength we didn’t know we needed. Love is having a spare futon for your kids to always fall back on. Love is open arms.
Love is late night runs to the grocery store with your teenager to read magazines and chill when no one else is there except the hot Mexican floor cleaners.
My mom taught me that love is putting everyone else’s stories before your own, everyone else’s excitement and pain first. Love is making sacrifices that no one knows about, countless tears that no one sees, and sleepless nights of worry and concern for your children’s health, happiness, and ability to be in the world. Love is not something you can repay.
Love is being authentically who you are, and standing up for other people, all people. Love is having to be called the bad guy. Being misunderstood. Love can sometimes be lonely.
Love is doing things, and not doing other things.
Love is living in a forest. A happy dog wiggling. A bbq with family. A boat ride. A good book. Squishy goobery faces of little ones. Love is whatever makes me happy. And sad.
Love is wanting to tell everyone in the world how amazing your mom was, and standing up in front of an uncomfortable amount of people to do so.
Love is watching Elton John and drinking margaritas with your mom when you think she has pneumonia. Heading to the ICU early in the morning to play Hall & Oates because you know music will make her smile.
Love is being able to say goodbye and thank your mother for every tiny thing she did. Being able to hold her and stroke her hair. Putting a damp rag on her forehead, just as she did for me. To be blessed to say “I love you” again and again to her in her last days.
I told my mom that I loved her like a leaf loves its tree; I am just one of the many beautiful things she’d created and dedicated her life to forming, and without her patience, diligence, and love, I would not exist.
I told my mom that she was my Person, the one who always had MY back, and was there for ME. And that now, I get to be two little girls’ Person; be there for THEM in an exceptionally unbalanced, beautifully off-kilter, quasi-karmic way of paying my thanks and love for HER, forward to the next generation.
My mom taught me that love never dies, it transforms.
Love, to me, is what others might call God. That intangible, all encompassing energy that flows through all things. Me, you, and my mom.
That’s who my mom is.