[This is what my sisters and I read today at the service for my mother. -Shabbir]
Each of us in this room was nurtured by my mom. For many of us, this had life-altering consequences. We wanted to share with you the lessons that had the greatest impact on us.
The most important thing mom did for me was to help me get my first job. At 15 I was turning into an awful teenager with all the obvious problems.
Mom figured out that the solution was work. Not a summer job, but an after school, weeknight, going to school bleary-eyed job. She fought over the objections of my teachers, my father, and the teasing of my friends because she believed I needed to learn self-reliance and self-confidence.
Since I didn’t get the point at first, she shipped me off to Uncle Brian’s and Aunt Debbie’s farm in Illinois for a real education in the concept of work.
Although I was a disaster as a farmer, I learned the lesson she was trying to teach. The confidence and self-reliance I learned allowed me to be independent. With this strong foundation, I was able to straighten my life out over the next ten years. As the old adage goes, “she taught me to fish” when everyone else thought I was a lost cause.
What’s surprising is that my story is not unique. My mother changed lives for the better, and lots of them. I suspect every single one of you could come up here and tell a singularly powerful story.
Since I’m the oldest, I’m going to cheat a little bit, and mention a second lesson, and that is love. With her at 50 and me at the worldy-wise age of 30, I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new from her. And then Darryl met Linda.
It was Mom and Pop together that taught me what a loving relationship looked like. Seeing Mom and Pop’s relationship could teach you everything you need to know about the marriage values of love and cherish. Obey was a hard one for Mom, but then you all knew that about her.
There’s a lot of cynicism about marriage today, but Mom and Pop were role models for us all. Every day I aspire to be the kind of husband Darryl is. May we all be so lucky to have such role models.
When my mother told me she wanted all of us to move home in her final days, I thought she was crazy. “OK”, I said thinking, “that is just nuts. Why would I leave my three children and husband to stay in her home?” Yet, last week I found myself doing exactly that without a second thought. We all moved in on a Sunday night – instantly filling her home with the chaos, mess and clothing that only three sisters can bring. Her husband, one of the kindest people I know, held the door open knowing it had to be this way and welcomed us. And then we waited, staring at her and holding her hand as if any minute she would sit up and ask us for a Diet Coke with lots of ice.
But, as the week wore on and we wore out, we gave up staring at her and began to enjoy the familiar, easy company of family. My brother arrived with his wicked sense of humor and a magic laptop that played any song, anywhere. My sister broke out the cards and we played Skip-bo on my mom’s bed for hours, insulting each other, ordering Chinese food and laughing about when we were kids. My mom sat amongst all of this, refusing to miss a minute of it and enjoying the closeness she had insisted from us. She finally left on a Saturday morning while normalcy was occurring around her. Her grandchildren were running in and out of the back door, one daughter was in the shower using up all the hot water and other members were talking, laughing and cleaning up the kitchen. She sat in the next room, listening to the sounds of a family she built with her own two hands and finally deciding she had done a good job. She died as her beloved spouse held her hand, ushering her into the next world while a very loving hospice nurse she knew from her previous work closed her eyes for her. If you have to go, this is the most beautiful way to do so.
As we lived those last days in her home, it was obvious that she had done what she had intended to do with her life. She made the world a little better for a while with her own two hands. But more importantly, she made the world better by loving people and encouraging them to go out and make a difference. I hope Mom knows we’ll be ok and we’ll stick together. I hope her next family, whether they are in Heaven or on earth, enjoys her as much as we did. To be sure, there needs to be a large enough bed for cards, talks and the occasional Diet coke with lots of ice.
My mother never knew a stranger, and we always had a random group of unrelated but happy people sitting at our table. She had a knack of creating a family anywhere she went – whether it was striking up a conversation with the butcher or adopting three stepchildren as her own. My mom hugged people right when she met them, and kept hugging them when she said hello or goodbye or any chance she got. She had a huge gift for making people feel welcome in her house. If it was a holiday and you were at our house, you were definitely included in all the festivities. At Easter, my mom would make up huge, elaborate Easter baskets for everyone (kids and adults alike) to hunt. In addition to the baskets there were hundreds of pieces of individual candy hidden, but the catch was that you couldn’t pick up any of the loose candy until you found your basket with your name on it. Anyone who came to Easter Dinner, be it our in-laws, good friends, whoever, would have a basket with their name on it hidden somewhere in the backyard. It was often hilarious to see 50-year old men running amongst the children, climbing up trellises or crawling under the deck to find the first Easter basket they had hunted in forty-something years.
Just like my mom made anyone who entered her home feel special, she made me feel special from the first day I met her, when I was nine. It was a crucial time for me, when I needed guidance and love and reassurance. Mom took me in and provided a loving, stable environment. She was stricter with me than anyone had been before, but consistent and loving as well. Because of this, I learned what it means to be a whole person. I learned from her the gift of giving and helping others – to make people feel welcomed and loved when they enter my home. Though I can’t say that I have mastered this skill like she did, the gift of giving and sharing is something I strive for and value. I could never thank my mom enough for instilling this value in me, shaping my life, and helping me to grow into the person I have become.
There are many stories I could tell you about Mom. Many small and many large life lessons learned. However, one stands out in my mind that exemplifies the person my Mom was.
Shortly after her original diagnosis, I was in the grocery store with her, when a young man dressed in white approached. His white attire signified to me that he was a nurse. His eyes teared as he lunged to hug Mom. “Oh, Linda,” he said, “I’ve been so worried about you. I heard about your diagnosis.” With this he hugged her again. “Have you found a new job?”, Mom said. He replied that he had, adding that it just wasn’t the same. He said that he missed her and was happy to see her out and looking well. Again, more hugging. After he left I asked Mom if this man had quit working for her. “No,” she replied, “I fired him.”
So you see, to know her was to love her. And to be certain, if she knew you, you felt loved. This was her special gift. She made everyone feel special, a part of something. She felt touch and hugs especially, were important in this stranger filled world.
In that spirit, I’m sure she would want us not to mourn what we have lost, but to celebrate what we have gained. May we love one another and never forget to hug.