Happy Birthday, Mama

In honor of what would have been my Mom’s 78th birthday, I am reposting my eulogy for her.  As a remembrance of who she was to me, and as a reminder to always wear my perspectacles.

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Hello. I am Rebecca. Thank you all for being here today. I am humbled by the multitude of hearts in this room. I pull much strength from you seeing as I am plum out.

My parents have been members of this parish for about half a century. All of their children attended the school, myself from Kindergarten through 8th grade – Go, Spirits!  As a result, I have faced a lot of fears in this church. When I was six – and then again at eight – I marched down that aisle petrified as the flower girl in my sisters’ weddings.  I sat face-to-face with Monsignor Barry for my first confession in that room back there, which, as anyone who knew the man can attest, should be listed as a feat of strength.  I read psalms and readings from this podium where I stand now. And I sang my first solo at that podium over there. Each of these things were panic-inducing, but none of them compare to the sheer terror I am feeling right now.

For how do I properly summarize the woman whose life we are here to celebrate? How do I stand here in front of all of you whose lives she touched and do her justice? How do I say goodbye to my mom?

As you may know, I am the youngest child of our little family. There are 10 years, seven months, and 30 days between me and Cheryl, which often leads a lot of people to jokingly comment on how I was the “mistake”. My friends, Joanna & Amy, and I referred to ourselves in high school as “The Three Mistakeers”, so I have a sense of humor about it.

But my mom never referred to me as a mistake. Even though I’m certain my arrival was completely unplanned and unexpected, she never once called me an “oops baby”. She said I was a surprise.

And that, for me, defines who my mom was. She was barely in her 40s and having a baby when it was not the norm as it is today, and she made a choice: Not to resent me, but to love me.

I was the youngest of five and for all intents and purposes, she was starting over. The other children were 10 and older, primarily self-sufficient, so my mom could have just phoned this one in. But she was there for me. She coached soccer teams (even though she had NO previous knowledge of the game); she drove carpool and went to every single soccer, volleyball, basketball game and swim meet; there were always fresh baked goods in the kitchen and home-cooked meals on the table; she made my lunch every day, volunteered in classrooms, at sporting events, and carnivals; she made me and my dolls clothes, and she fostered my love of reading and language. My mom nurtured my talents, let me make mistakes and find my own path. And now, looking back, the most amazing part of all of this, is that she did it without pretense or want for gratitude. She just did it because she was my mom, and she loved me.

When my mom decided I was a surprise, she changed the course of how my life played out. She raised me to be confident, kind, responsible, polite, quick-witted, self-effacing and a little goofy.  She raised me to be like her. And aside from the gift of life, it is that for which I am most grateful.

Thank you, Mom, for truly loving unconditionally. Thank you for this beautiful family you created. Thank you for being my mom. 

I will spend the rest of my days striving to be the person who still surprises you.

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