I hope at least some of this is coherent. Some of what I say I may be saying strictly for myself. Some of it may reflect the feelings of others --feelings for a mother and for other loved ones you’ve lost and still miss. I’ll leave it for each of you to pick and choose…
No place for a better start than with the obvious: Alzheimer’s sucks.
And it was a final, cruel, life-test for a woman who had been tested time and time again throughout her life. A woman who demonstrated a quiet strength and dignity with each and every test she faced. As much as the disease would allow her, she continued to demonstrate that strength…that dignity…clear up until the day she passed away.
I’d like to think of mom now…I will think of mom now…as sitting beside dad and smiling, with my oldest brother, Byard Lee, close beside them; all their differences, all their conflicts, all of life’s emotional baggage gone, replaced with an overwhelming sense of love and understanding. Real or not, that’s the image I will keep forever in my mind.
I once gave mom a note, shortly after I finished going back to school and moving to Roseburg, Oregon for a teaching job. In that note I tried to express what I could not say face to face: that whatever good I have in me, whatever level of decency that might be there, I believe I received directly from her. I gave the note to her at a time in her life that, in looking back, I don’t know whether or not she was able to read and understand it. But I’d like to think she could and that, even if she couldn’t, she still knew the depth of love and gratitude I tried so lamely to express. The love and gratitude that each of us feels for a mother who worked so hard, who tried so hard, who loved so deeply, despite every external and internal obstacle that might have been stacked against her.
If she were here with us today I would say thank you.
I would thank her for her gifts:
* The subscription to Dr. Seuss books when I was very young, that started a life-long
love for reading and books.
* The candy bars brought home from the grocery store –just for me and no one else
* The electric typewriter she gave me for graduation, the biggest symbol of her
confidence in knowing that her youngest loved to write.
* The beaters from the mixer, dripping gooey and good with chocolate cake mix.
I would thank her for her protection:
* The automatic seat-belts she employed, her arm slamming against your chest if she felt
the need to brake a bit hard –which was fairly often.
* Her covering my back when it came to dad and I knew I was really in for trouble and
probably well deserved it.
I would thank her for her discipline (or her attempts at discipline):
* The times she wore herself to a frazzle with a belt while we wondered what it was that
was patting at our butts and legs.
* The time she bought “Mom’s Helping Hand,” a plywood paddle she used to try and
keep Gary, Glen and I in line on our vacation through Oregon. (She quickly found out the flat side
had little effect, but using the edge was much, much more effective).
Her’s was a tender heart:
* A heart that often may not have known how to deal with the conflicts it faced, but never wished
for harm to any she knew and loved.
* A heart that showed itself –along with about four pounds of butter— in the bread she made.
* A heart that worked hard to raise five kids and the emotional turmoil that kids bring without even
being aware they bring it.
* A heart that stood solid in a marriage that, like most marriages, had more than its share of
* A heart that found joy in children: a joy that I hoped my own children would feel, recognize and make their own.
* A heart that instinctively knew how to take a boy –who often felt lost, confused and alone— and
make him feel special and unique.
* A heart that each of us holds so very closely. A heart uniquely human.
I will always remember and miss that tender heart, that decency, that underlying strength. I only hope that I’ve been able to reflect a small part of the goodness that was in her to my own kids, so it will continue to radiate out and touch the lives of others.
I will be forever grateful to you mom.
Through you I know…I am certain…there is goodness in the world.
I will always miss you.
I will never, ever stop loving you.
And I will always be proud to say you were my mom.