I don’t like the word “eulogy”. But like it or not, this is what this is. And if this is too long or feels too personal, please feel free to close this window right now. But if you’re interested, here it is. The things I said about my mom at her memorial service. Plus a few pictures…
How does one wake up and say, “thanks for this day” on the morning when one faces saying goodbye to one’s mother?
I try to wake up each morning and have the first words out of my mouth be, “Thanks for this day and I give it to you” but I got stuck this morning on the “thanks for this day” part. But then I realized that I can say thanks for a life lived in light of eternity. Thanks for the example that one need not be perfect to be loved. By us. By God.
When Mom was three years old, she learned to read. Before she turned four, she came down with Rheumatic Fever and the doctor confined her to bed. She spent so long in bed that she had to learn to walk again. She survived the time by reading. Thus began a lifetime of devouring books.
Several years after this event, Mom moved to a new town – one of many, many moves in her life. Starting out in a new school part-way through the year is neverfun, but it was made worse by the fact that a school program was scheduled to take place and all the girl roles were filled. So young Kathy was given a boy part to play. She was the only girl on a stage full of Junior High boys. She prayed desperately that Jesus would return so that she wouldn’t have to do this horrible thing.
But God didn’t answer that prayer, for which I am thankful.
Despite the fact that Dad was is taking photographs, there are some pictures of Mom that are only in my mind.
Mom: walking into the living room and calling, “The Mountain’s Out!” We’d come galumphing down the hall and sure enough, there was Mt. Baker, peeking through the overcast haze. Mom taught me that views matter.
Mom: reading out loud with me up until I was 16 years old. We never did finish Ivanhoe. Mom taught me that words matter.
Mom: at checkpoint Charlie, the border guards scrutinizing her passport, looking at it, looking at her; looking at it, looking at her. Apparently she looked itimidatable. All it did was make her cross. Mom taught me that there is a time and a place to stand up for yourself. Facing Communist guards is not one of those times.
When I was small, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand about my mother. I didn’t understand her dislike of noise. I didn’t understand how her love of classical music could include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition but so rabidly exclude Ravel’s Bolero. I didn’t understand her obsession with tea. Winter cold or summer heat, emotional turmoil, or mid-afternoon pick-me-up; tea was a necessity. She was Scottish, after all. 100%. First generation. Tea and shortbread and tartan and scones. Not scOnes…scawnes.
I also didn’t understand Mom’s enjoyment of “Ducks” having something to do with the “U of O”. But by the way she talked about it, I knew that I wanted to be a Duck because Mom was a Duck.
Mom was a saver. She saved every single card and letter that Dad ever sent to her. Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter. For six and a half decades. She kept ideas: for stories, for Bible studies, for crafts. And she kept recipes because she loved to cook. She especially enjoyed trying new recipes. They say that if company is coming over you shouldn’t make a new recipe. Mom didn’t ascribe to that philosophy. She taught me what it is to be fearless in the kitchen.
She also taught me to eat my vegetables. I’m fairly certain that every dinner she ever made – excluding Sunday night Popcorn, of course –
included vegetables. Every. Single. Dinner. The next day, she could take a fridge full of those leftover vegetables and turn them into delicious soup.
Yes, Mom served us, and served God, with food. Up on Orcas Island, if a child broke a bone or was ill, she would call the kid’s mother to find out their favorite dessert and then she brought it to them, freshly baked. It was part of her firmly-held belief system, one which she called “Banana Bread Evangelism”.
If a new person moved to their neighborhood, that person received a loaf of banana bread and a sincere welcome. Likewise, when Mom and Dad moved to a new town, she’d bake some bread – once the loaf pans were unpacked – wrap it in foil, and set out to introduce herself, to begin a relationship which, prayerfully, would later provide opportunities to live out First Peter 3:15. Mom was prepared to give an answer to everyone who asked her to give the reason for the hope that she had. And she did so with gentleness and respect. Because it wasn’t reallyabout the bread, it was about the message that went with the bread.
The very day they moved from Silverdale, Washington, to Arlington, Washington, she and my son walked across the street to ask their neighbor, one last time, if she knew Jesus, because this might be the last chance she’d ever have to hear about God’s love. Mom taught me that if you claim to love Jesus, you talk about Jesus.
Mom loved a good theological discussion. To find a question in Scripture and debate the ins and outs, the why’s and wherefores. She had a lifetime of knowledge, but more importantly, a lifetime of love for the Lord.
Of course, that didn’t mean she agreed with you if you tried to convince her that Christian Rock music was a legitimate thing, or that drum sets belonged in churches. Choirs belong in churches. And if there was a choir, Mom would be in it.
Another love Mom had was gardening. We had a large garden on Orcas. Every winter Mom and Dad eagerly anticipated the Burpee Seed Catalog; planning and refining their order for weeks. Then, once the seeds arrived and the conditions were right, all of our daily saving-of-the-coffee grounds-and-egg-shells-and-rotten-tomatoes suddenly made sense as Dad tilled in the compost and the dirt became rich and dark and perfect for those fortunate seeds. They planted, they watered, they waited and they weeded.
Our mother, weirdly, loved weeding. Up until the end of her life. Weeding was a joy to her.
Finally, after all that preparation, came the first signs of buds, the growth, the harvest. And then came the canning, the freezing, the storing-up-for-winter. I had no idea what a sticky, sweaty mess that was until I tried it myself, years later. Once was enough for me. But every year her shelves glittered with golden peaches, purple plums, cream-colored pears, cinnamonny applesauce, verdant beans.
I could have done without the beans.
And let me tell you, if Mom could have preserved zucchini, she would have.
If Mom wasn’t weeding or cooking or singing or dreaming of new ways to feed us zucchini, she was sewing. Dresses for us girls, shirts or ties for Dad, dolls or stuffed animals or Raggedy Andy’s or Ann’s. She sewed quilts from the leftover scraps and tied them with yarn in the church basement. She lived out Proverbs 31: we were clothed in scarlet and had no fear for the winter because she took care to make sure we were prepared.
She and Dad were a team. Sharing dreams and kisses and our best interests. Dad was gone a lot with the Air Force or with Pan Am or flying helicopters into snowstorms to rescue lost hikers, but Mom carried on; knowing Dad would back her up in her decisions. She knew he’d step right back in when he returned, she knew he wanted to be with us but also wanted to provide for us, and flying was how God called him to do that. And in the lean years, when flying didn’t always cover the bills, she stepped in; to substitute teach, to work at Darvills bookstore, to tutor or to help watch kids at the daycare down the road.
Yes, they were a team. For 65 years. They barely knew each other when they got married, living as they did on opposite sides of the nation. But they knew enough to know that this union was right. So when Dad proposed over the phone, Mom said yes. “Yes” to whatever may come. “Yes” to living their lives in the presence of Emmanuel, God With Us.
Mom is now with Emmanuel. Absent from the body, no longer present in their cozy home, reading her books and her Bible – I should say Bibles, plural. Underlined, worn, creased, cherished. Memorized. Sung.
She’s no longer up at 4a.m., praying. Praying for me, for Kris and Jenny, for our husbands, our children, and our grandkids – even the ones not yet born. Praying for all of you. Praying for missionaries, whom she felt she knew. Praying for – and with – Dad.
One more photograph that is only in my mind: Mom praying before bed, years ago, when they lived in Wisconsin. I was staying with them for a few months. It was late in the evening, and I walked past their open bedroom door and there she was, kneeling at the side of the bed, like a little child, hands clasped together in prayer. I’d blundered into a sacred moment, but she didn’t mind. She opened her eyes, stood up quickly, and hugged me good night.
She could stand up quickly then, 13 years before the cancer, before the stroke.
After the stroke, not too long before they moved to Arlington, we were visiting them in Silverdale. Mom was having a hard day. I don’t know what triggered it, but tears began to flow as we sat at the table. She was frustrated with her inability to sew and sing and serve as she had for so many years.
“All I can do is pray,” she finally managed to say.
“Mom!” I said, in the middle of the busy years where a quiet day when all “I could do was pray” was nothing but a dream. “Mom, that’s not an ‘all’! That’s your job now.”
But it wasn’t enough. She wanted to be doing. She did not go gently into her waning years.
But thanks be to God, she went gently in the end.