(This was to be read at my mom's funeral)
Three words written in permanent marker on my mom’s bathroom mirror: I am third. That isn’t just a quote of the day; that is the way she lived her life. She was third. God was first. Others were second and she put herself third.
My mother was a strong Catholic whose faith did not waiver. She didn’t just go to mass on Sunday. She lived a Catholic life without apology. She said her rosary each night. It didn’t matter what was happening in her house. She went to her room when the rosary came on the Catholic channel and she recited it. When we were growing up she woke us every Sunday morning and took us to church, too. It was probably not by mistake that God saw fit for her to have the car wreck that ultimately took her life while she was on her way to church.
After I married a non-Catholic man I asked her how to live with that decision. I wondered, “Should I ask him to become Catholic, too”? She told me no. She told me I should show him. She said when she married my dad she never insisted on him being Catholic. She believed changing religion was a big decision and it was something only that person could decide for themselves and they should only do it because they see it as their answer. The only way my father saw it as his answer was through the devotion he saw in my mother. Eventually, he wanted that for himself.
Her strength was phenomenal. Her faith was steadfast. This morning I turned to a passage in her bible that seemed fitting. It was from John 14: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and have faith in me. In my father’s house there are many dwelling places, otherwise how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you”. (Interestingly enough, this is the same scripture Father Ranjan read at her mass.)
Second in her life were others. I cannot count the number of people who told me that my mother was kind and welcoming. That they always felt like they were welcomed in as part of our family. When I asked her how she could give her last dollar to another person and go without herself she told me the story of the burned pork chop. She said a mother made dinner for her family of six. They only had enough to feed the six and one of the pork chops was burned. She said the mother fed her husband and children the ones that were not and the mother ate the burned piece. She said that is “just what a mother does”.
She never missed anything we did while growing up. What we did and loved became part of her life. Our practice, games, performances – she was there. She was involved in band booster, PTA, you name it, she was a part of. She didn’t just watch us, she became active for us.
She shaped who we became. Parents of today could learn a lot from her. Her support helped us believe in ourselves. It was no different when her grandkids arrived, either. It might have actually been compounded. She believed her grandkids were the best and somehow each of them thought they were her favorite. She sent special cards, attended every event they were in and would be on the road for weeks at a time in their homes. When my son was born she was on a plane and spent a month in Germany with us. She was there for his baptism, birthdays, first day of school and anything else he invited her to attend.
If anyone in the family ever moved you could be sure our mom would be there to clean our house and put down shelf paper! And all of you who knew her know that she didn’t think it clean until she created that suffocating bleach-comet cocktail and scoured it with a scrub brush!
We are all very sad today and have many questions about what life will be like without her. We have already questioned how it will be to make our trips home on Sunday. We won’t be calling mom to tell her we made it to our destination as we usually do. We won’t be saying, “I love you” or “See you next weekend”. But we will lean on the memories. We will cling to the family that mom has created and shown us is so important. It might be easier to skip Christmas this year and pretend it isn’t around the corner…because we see Christmas and Easter as holidays for her….but we won’t. She won’t let us. Through her life she showed us through her actions what and who are important…and we will carry on.
And third, she put herself. Because of that she will have her reward in heaven. This is her treasure at the end of life on earth. I know mom is home. She is with our Lord and she is with our dad. She packed her little blue bag one final time and we all heard the train whistle last night during her rosary. She made it. She is there.
I will miss you mom.