Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turn Out the Lights or at least Shine Them Over There

As the day of our mom's funeral nears, I am wondering if I should say a few words during the ceremony. I think I would like to but am a little hesitant, as these honors can sometimes be viewed as attention grabs by the person giving the speech. I would not want my sisters to think my actions and words would be to edify or pump myself up in the eyes of our precious guests. I guess that is what is so great about blogging, you can say stuff in a surprisingly honest and direct way, without feeling the judgments of your readers. Now when I spoke at my Dad's memorial, I didn't overthink this at all. I was just so moved to tell the world how much I admired that man, who had so deeply shaped and molded my life.

With Mom, it was a little different. She helped shape me, but I never knew she was doing it. Her way was patently less direct than Dad's. You see, she always took the backseat and never once desired the limelight for herself. She was simply, "Phil's wife". She didn't want the name recognition or the applause. She was satisfied to be a behind-the-scenes worker. Making sure her family was cared for; getting dinner on the table; clothes washed; house picked up. These were never obsessed over at the price of her relationship with her family, but rather simple tasks to be completed because that was what you did. The house had to be clean, because that meant it was. The dinner had to be on the table, because the family needed to eat.

She had a gentle and serene character. Slow to anger and quick to hug. Her idea of cussing was to say, "jiminy christmas". She never met anyone who didn't immediately fall in love with her. Strangely, I was reminded of her by a movie I saw a couple of weeks ago. The premise of the movie was that everyone told the truth, no matter how difficult it was. Nobody ever lied. The cameras panned a cemetery where a tombstone read, "Here lies an average woman who lived an average life." That got me thinking about different things and what we might put on our mom's tombstone. I believe the following would fit perfectly, "Here lies an ordinary woman who made life extraordinary for everyone else."

On the surface, there really wasn't much to my mom, until you started peeling away the layers. The first layer is where you found her kind spirit. The second layer is where you would discover her generous and ever present smile. The next is where she kept her humility, a gift from the Lord to be sure. Further down, you'd find her fierce patience. Next came her desire to sacrifice. Finally, you'd see her loving heart. Her heart which only became larger as she grew older.

Part of my job this week was to call her friends to inform them of her passing. Every single one of them had the following to say about our mom. "There are no finer people than your mom. I know you kids are good because you came from good stock. Thanks for calling us because we just loved your mom so much. We couldn't have asked for better friends. We've known lots of people, but your mom stood above them all."

Compliments like these are what people say when they get the "someone died phone call". But I believe the emotions and tears that these words were spoken through tell more than the actual words. I would like to think their one friend's comment will come true. The one who said, "I know you kids are good because you came from good stock." To be honest with you, that's a hard thing to live up to. I'm not sure I can. But I think I need to start trying.

We could all learn a lot from my mom. She was a simple person from a simple family and just about one-third of her life was lived with Alzheimer's. But she served everyone with her words, her actions, her habits, her work ethic, her decisions, her love, and then her smile, her toe taps as she listened to her music, and finally her gentle, yet lost gaze. She was a model of love and humility for all of us to follow.

Does this make her more special than anyone else. Not really, because lots of people can be described in this way. But it does make her a member of a wonderful, yet sometimes too exclusive of a club. A club where the only membership dues, are to care about other people more than you care for yourself.

So how will you be remembered? What contributions will you have made? What's important in your life? Are you lost and not sure where to turn next? Then follow our mom's example. Work hard, keep a good house, care about your spouse and kids more than yourself, look for ways to put the spotlight on others and away from yourself. Try orbiting the center of someone else's universe for awhile, instead of expecting others to orbit around you. Go to church and love everyone, just as Christ does. This won't take your disease away, but I promise, it will enable you to live despite your condition. And don't we all truly want to live rather than just simply exist? Isn't that why we were created; to live?

So don't put it off. The lesson learned is simple. Live life, love people, serve your fellow human and get out of your own way. Because you never know what might happen next.

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