My mother passed from this earth quietly on the morning of March 30. She left us (snuck away, she did) as we all headed to the kitchen for a quick cup of coffee (it had been a long night of bedside vigils and driving across country for all of us, and looked as if the vigils would continue throughout the day…coffee was much needed, we thought). She took one last, quiet breath as my youngest son (who doesn’t drink coffee) passed through the hallway near her bedroom door. By the time we entered, she was gone. A long life filled with memories had ended, and a journey to eternity had begun.
At her memorial, I was “in charge” of delivering the eulogy. Not an easy task at any time, but speaking has never come easy for me and speaking about the best and longest friendship of my life wasn’t making my phobia any easier to handle. So I did what comes naturally…I wrote it all down–and then I simply read it out loud. Not exactly the best delivery ever, but it was audible and mostly comprehensible.
Today I share my words with you; primarily because I don’t want to lose them…or maybe because I am simply not quite ready to lose her. I know that she is “still in my heart” that I “still have my memories” and her love “will always be with me,” but it isn’t quite the same thing, you know? So, bear with me, and understand that I am merely sharing a lifetime of memories with a mom…my mom…my best friend and fiercest enemy…my loudest cheerleader and strongest critic. I love you, Mom…I will miss our multi-hour long chats!
When I think of Mom, a million little memories flood my mind, making it difficult to choose just one. She wasn’t a great world leader or a famous movie star or even a human rights activist–she was simply a mom. But the word MOM conveys a whole world of meaning for me: a word meaning love and life and compassion and faith…filled with little memories of a life lived long and full. It’s the little things that make up a lifetime.
It’s the little things we remember. It’s often the little things that make a profound impact on others, those lingering memories that change history. Today, as I try to tell you who my mom was, those little snippets of memory flood my mind, so I will try to share a few of those memories with you now.
Like the time she helped me make a sock doll–while she was trying to have a conversation with a neighbor–just because I had found a pattern in the encyclopedia and couldn’t wait until the neighbor left.
Or the time she took all the pillows from the living room and built a pillow tent on the sofa so that I could hide from the thunder that scared me.
Or the times we travelled on long trips–any trip with dad was a long trip–and she would sit in the front seat with a bible picture book and read the stories from the bible to us. Those were my favorite moments in a car ride.
Or the three years we spent “not speaking” because she had made me mad–teenagers can be so emotional!
Or all the band concerts she gladly suffered through in order to support me in my desire to be the world’s greatest flute player!
Or the times when she sat in church, eyes closed and smile on her face, listening to me sing “Build My Mansion,”–during my “I want to be a famous singer” stage–and how she’d tell me, even just a few weeks ago, it was her favorite hymn.
Or all the clothes she lovingly sewed for me, that I often shunned because no one else was wearing handmade clothes–snotty brat that I was.
Or the time she had her stroke and she had to call everybody herself–she wouldn’t let me because she said they wouldn’t believe a teenager–and she sounded like a drunk person on the phone, and I was torn between fear for what was happening to her and humiliation that the school would think she was drunk. Again, snotty brat!
Or all the lunches we shared at Chick-fil-A while she was working at the mall and I was a college student.
Or the time my first son was being born and she wouldn’t go into the delivery room (she didn’t want to get in the way), but kept peeping through the little window to make sure we were alright, and she saw her grandson enter this world and thought it was the most incredible thing ever–and then she, a woman who had six kids of her own, wouldn’t hold him because he was so small she was afraid she’d break him!
Or the time she sat in our backyard swinging my third newborn son while she sang him lullabies.
Or all the times I saw her standing outside, waterhose in hand, floppy straw hat on her head, spraying her precious plants with lifegiving water. Sometimes I wished I were a flower so that I could have the kind of attention she gave to them. Plants really were a therapy and a special little gift from God to her and she thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent gardening.
Or the times she dressed up like a witch to greet the neighbor kids on Halloween.
All those tiny little moments of a lifetime, like the sands of time in an hourglass. And all those tiny little moments of my mom’s life were all about love. She wasn’t perfect, she had flaws like everyone does. Like all of us, she was a complex mixture of good and bad, high and low, dark and light, worry and faith, fear and happiness.
But one thing I alway knew about my mom–at least I knew it when I became old enough to understand what love really is–was that she loved…she loved her family, she loved her kids, she loved her friends, she loved her gardens. And love was what she shared. Even when she fussed and fumed and worried and grumbled, it was because she loved and wanted the people she loved to be the best they could be. It hurt her when they weren’t. But it didn’t stop her from loving.
My mom has left me a million memories and I wish that I could share them all with you, but more than that I wish that you could share all of your memories of her with me. She left a little bit of herself in each of us and my prayer is that as you leave today, you take all those memories–the good and the not so good–and remember they are the memories that make up a very long and wonderful life…the life of my mom, Norma Nichols. Treasure them, hold them close, and love them as she loved all of you.