What follows is the remembrance speech that I read at my mom’s Celebration of Life service this past week.
There are many words that can be used to describe my mom – patient, kind, loving, determined, beautiful, positive. But one that sticks out to me is brave. There are a lot of times in life when it is hard to be brave, and losing your mother is certainly one of them. But when my family first started discussing arrangements for my mom’s Celebration of Life Service, I immediately felt that I should prepare something to say. My mom always loved my writing and I jumped at the opportunity to honor her with my words. But as the days went on after she passed, I struggled to find the right thing to say, to think of something I could focus on to help things start to make sense. It just didn’t feel real. I kept thinking she would just walk in the door at any moment or laugh at a joke someone had told or start telling us a story about treasured memories. I struggled to even think about her being gone, let alone search for meaning in all that had happened.
Then I started to realize how all of the things that people who were comforting me said and did had begun to create a picture of who my mom was and what she had taught each of us. I began to see lessons of bravery, courage, determination, and love as those around me simultaneously honored my mom and brought my family comfort.
It began with a Bible verse, Joshua 1:9 to be exact, which reads: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” A few Christmases ago, my dad had given my mom several coloring books that paired inspirational Bible verses with beautiful flowers. For those of you who knew my mom well, you know that she loved coloring books and flowers. I remember sitting with her in the days following that Christmas coloring pages from these particular books. She even encouraged me to frame one of the pages I had colored, with that same verse from Joshua, and keep it in my room. And while I see it every day, noticing this verse sitting in a frame on my nightstand while packing to come back to PA a few weekends ago gave me comfort. I was able to think of the strength she still had and the bravery she had instilled in me to face this difficult situation.
Then, on the day my mom passed away, I got a message from one of her co-workers, a fellow nurse. She recounted a time when she had visited with my mom after she had been diagnosed and had asked her if she was angry. My mom not only responded that she wasn’t angry, but that she still believed everything happens for a reason. Even in one of the darkest moments of her life, my mom clung to her faith in God and relaxed into his plan for her. The last thing she wanted was for others to feel bad for her, which is why many of you may not have even know she was sick until you received the news she had passed. I talked to her almost every day and even I only realized just how sick she was looking backwards. I always admired my mom for being such a positive and optimistic person, but she was so much more than that. It was only because she was brave enough to accept God’s plan that she was able to see the best in every situation, even those that seem to have no light at all.
But even with these reflections I still struggled to understand how I could possibly begin to honor my mom with just a few sentences and paragraphs on a page. It wasn’t until I received the gifts of two Giving Keys that all of my thoughts about the legacy my mom was leaving behind really began to organize themselves. If you aren’t familiar with Giving Keys, they are keys stamped with a word that is meaningful to whoever purchases them. But the real purpose of these keys is to “pay it forward” by one day passing the key onto someone who needs the meaning of the word more than you. The day before my mom passed away, my best friend, who had lost her own mother only months before, gave me a key with the word “courage”. Then, a few days after, I received a package in the mail from a cousin who had recently undergone surgery. She had mailed me another key, this time with the word “strength”. I couldn’t believe it – two keys given to me by separate people that were both featured in the verse I had clung to during all that has happened in the past few weeks – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” It was as if God was reminding me of what I already knew – that my mom would always be looking out for me and the rest of my family, reminding us of the lessons and skills we would need now more than ever. My mom loved others selflessly and I believe that her faith and her love for others were all wrapped up in her ability to be courageous, strong, and brave. She consistently looked past the negative in life and found a way to see the best in everyone and every situation, and she taught her children to see the world this way too. She was courageous enough to be true to herself and her beliefs, even when the world didn’t agree. She was strong enough to handle life’s challenges with grace and love. And she was brave enough to believe that everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan for each of us.
So mom, “I hope that I see the world as you did ‘cause I know
A life with love is a life that’s been lived.”
Because to those we love most we never truly say good-bye, just see you later.