Last night we had a beautiful memorial service for Mom. Although I planned it, it was beautiful because of those that executed it.
My daughter, Jessie, spent endless hours going through photos and music to create a video of snapshots of Mom’s life set to beautiful and meaningful songs. The video played just after the pastor’s wonderful welcome. As it played, it brought tears to our eyes as we walked through memories Mom had shared of when she was young and then into the memories of our lives with her.
I was supposed to follow the video with a reading of the 23rd Psalm but had my daughter, Brandy, step in for me. The 23rd Psalm has been one of my favorites since I was little but I had been fighting sinusitis all week and was running on adrenaline with a less than trustworthy voice. Although the request was last minute and the reading, while known, was less familiar to her, and she had to follow that beautiful video, Brandy didn’t hesitate. As Jessie before her, she tugged my heartstrings.
The first of three songs was “Faith of Our Fathers”; a hymn that Mom had told me years ago was one of her favorites. It’s one of those wonderful old hymns I was raised on. At Daddy’s memorial service we had sung “How Great Thou Art” because it was his favorite so I knew I couldn’t do Mom’s service without it. Leading it was my youngest daughter, Heather. Our crazy warm December also had her fighting a bug but her younger, trained voice was able to carry us through that song and warm our hearts with two solos later in the service, bringing tears to my eyes, her father’s and others in the audience.
Our next substitution stepped up to do a reading, John 14:1-7. I had penned my brother into the program but he preferred to avoid the public reading. No worries! Although she usually wants more time to prepare when she reads at her church, his wife, my sister-in-law, took the podium with just one practice run before the service and read the passage beautifully.
The pastor gave a message of hope that perfectly tied into Mom’s life, speaking of how Mom used her hands to care for, feed and clothe her family and tying that into the life of Jesus using stories such as when he calmed the sea.
My oldest brother stepped up next to deliver the eulogy, calling me his ghostwriter. As I had done for Daddy’s service, I wrote Mom’s story for Bob to read. Although my words, I knew he would make it his own and he did, bringing laughter here and there, adding little comments that rounded out my story. He acknowledged there were details about Mom’s childhood that he didn’t know and learned for the first time when he read through the eulogy.
Next was the opportunity for others to share stories. At Daddy’s service various people from his past had come to the front to speak but when one lives 99 years, there are fewer people around who have lived long enough to tell stories.
No one jumped up to share so my nephew, another substitution – this time for his father – stepped up to lead us through the Lord’s Prayer. Again, although asked at the last minute, this man that as a child wouldn’t speak to anyone but two cousins spoke out loud and clear.
It wasn’t until later that my grandson said he was just getting up to speak but the moment was lost. I would love to hear what he was going to say and maybe someday he will tell me.
As for me, although ideas had popped into my head during the week, I hadn’t taken time for any of them to solidify. It was a rough week in which I made several unfortunate mistakes and learned of others around me who were also dealing with the aftermath of mistakes. Given that, I would like to have told this story:
The other kids were gone from home and Mom and I would watch Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue in the afternoons. We discussed the many and varied guests and topics such as Gypsy Rose Lee (a famous stripper) and Madalyn Murray O’Hair (an atheist) or civil rights and abortion. I certainly wasn’t a worldly teenager (that’s an oxymoron in itself) and was, in fact, very naïve but I think I had the best mom in the world because I could express my opinions and she would discuss them with me but never told me what to think.
Along with that openness, Mom would always point out mistakes she made when making a garment or a quilt or some other item. If she found a mistake while making it, she would correct it but when found at the end, she would say that it just showed it was handmade. I always felt it was her way of saying that we try our best but we will make mistakes because we are human. Only God is perfect and yet he loves us in spite of our mistakes.
Upon hearing about my week, Brandy reminded me of the things I taught her: “This too shall pass. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Don’t let a mistake define you.”
I always told my children mistakes are just life lessons. My mom taught me that.