Today marks one year since my mother passed. It’s still early, so I can’t express all the emotions I feel today. In many respects, it feels as if she just left. I can remember her funeral like yesterday, the years of struggle with her illness, and more than that, my lifetime with my mom. At the same time, I’ve somewhat adjusted to my life without her. I can make it through most days without feeling the heartbreak, but it’s hard not to remember when I look at my son. My mother loved babies more than anything in the world, and I know she would have had so much fun with Tripp.
Suffice to say that today is a tough day. In times like this, I try to remember a time when I was filled with hope and faith. Ironically, one such time occurred shortly after my mother passed, and so I’d like to share with you the eulogy I gave at my mother’s funeral a little less than a year ago in the hopes that it too will give you encouragement to face whatever difficulties appear in your life –
About a year ago, I remember sitting at the kitchen table across from Mom and saying, “I don’t know how I can live without you.” To her credit, she fought that off far longer than anyone could’ve expected. I remember hoping, “if she could just see Tripp and hold him in her arms once.” Then, if she could just make it through Angela’s wedding, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, her birthday. Then, the day she passed was nothing short of God’s perfect timing. Not only had she gotten to see Virginia win a few hours earlier, but it was also the first day of spring and Palm Sunday – the day in the church when we hail Christ as King, so it was fitting that my Mom would be reborn into eternal life with Him on such a glorious day of praise.
I was in San Antonio at the time so I had to go to an unfamiliar church for Palm Sunday and I was feeling sad and alone, like I’d let Mom down by not being there when she passed. We had gotten through most of the Passion, after Jesus asked forgiveness for those that condemned Him, after He’d asked why God had abandoned Him, and to the part where the criminals to His right and left speak up. One challenges Jesus and says, “if you’re the Son of God, save yourself and us.” The other recognizes they were receiving a just punishment for their crimes and humbly asks for God to remember him. Jesus responds in Luke 23:43, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Instantly when I heard those words, I was overcome with this feeling, almost like a voice, but not in my head, it just kept repeating, “You are loved.”
All of you know my mom, and regardless if you’ve known her thirty years or thirty minutes, it didn’t take long to figure out that that was her motto. I used to love to sit back and watch when she would meet someone new, especially someone timid or self-conscious. She would smother them with her love and affection. Within five minutes, you’d have something to eat, a jacket or blanket to keep warm, a full run down of what was most interesting to her – usually some combination of her family, the newest deal she found at Marshall’s, Virginia sports, the most recent Norbit movie, and maybe even a few tips on how to decorate your home. I almost felt bad because some people were so overwhelmed, you could just see it on their faces. It’s just so rare to experience a love like that, but that was my mom.
And that love was something I desperately needed as I sat in that church. I had been gone for over a week when Mom passed, and during that time I had felt guilty for being away so long. I think stemming from that, I began questioning a lot of what I was doing with my life. I’ve always tried to follow Mom’s lead, to be loving in all I did, towards God and the people around me, but I began worrying I wasn’t doing that. I was worried I was leading the wrong life, that I was making mistakes that I couldn’t overcome, that time was running out and I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I was truly meant to do. It was eating away at me inside. And then, that beautiful message – “You are loved.”
As we finished reading the Passion, and after some incredibly kind gentleman handed me a handkerchief to dry my tears, I realized that that love my mom always showed towards me, and towards everyone, was a reflection of God’s love for us. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross not to reward our perfection, but so that despite our imperfection, we could still experience God’s love on this earth and live in it for eternity after we died. What a blessing! All of us, though we’re unworthy, can accept the abundant gift of God’s perfect love, and I think all of us in this room got a small taste of it through my mom, who never knew a soul unworthy of her love and affection.
So, I’ll close by saying this. For those of you out there wondering like me, how do I go on living without Mom? Well, she may not be able to say, “hi, honey” and give you a hug anymore, but when a stranger lends you a handkerchief when you’re having a tough time, or your spouse makes you scrambled cheese eggs in the morning, or when someone makes you feel good when the world’s telling you you’re bad … that’s my Mom, and that’s God letting us know we are loved.