Goodbye Mom. We will miss you.

Here is the eulogy I mostly delivered at today’s service of my mother’s life. Sometimes being an adult sucks.

On behalf of my siblings, Sarah and Nathan , their spouses Don and Evie , the grandchildren Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily and Lauren and Evan , we wish to thank you for the love and support you have shown our parents throughout course of our mother’s battle with breast cancer. As the Boston daughter, I was often asked by my friends why I did not have my mother seek treatment at Dana-Farber in Boston or Sloan-Kettering in New York. I truly and honestly believe that the care my mother received at the University of Tennessee hospital by Dr. Timothy Pinella, her primary nurse Ruth Borden and countless others including Merritt Brakebill was equal to or better than the care she could have received in Boston. For this, I am truly grateful.

Cancer never defined my mother. Approximately 15 years ago, we received the crushing news that my mother had a 3% chance of survival after one year with the return of her cancer. As her children and probably her spouse, sister, mother, in-laws, nieces, nephews all tried to wrap our heads around the probability, my mother in her mom way simply told Dr. Pinella “I don’t have time to die, I have grandchildren.”

While others may have faced the odds presented with complacency, my mother fought cancer. In my eyes, she won. She continued to teach through chemo and radiation and she learned. She learned and re-instilled into her now adult children the lesson of a cancer diagnosis. Learn what is important: and if it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter. For her, this was simply her family, her faith and teaching. I’ve reached the decision that being a teacher must be like being a mother: you never give up the role.

Others will speak and have spoken about my mother as an educator: To me, she was simply, complexly Mom. Looking back through the pictures that were shown in the fellowship hall with my siblings; we laughed at the bad 80’s hair, the horrific 70’s plaids and discovered our parents as a couple before they had kids and cried at the pictures of graduations, weddings and baptisms.

Sorting through wedding pictures from nearly fifty years ago, I am reminded how my parents lived out their wedding vows: for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, sickness and in health, to love and cherish. Dad, she loved you. She loved telling the story of how, in vanity, she didn’t wear her glasses at her wedding and couldn’t see when you stuck out your thumb instead of your ring finger and the minister smacked you. She couldn’t stay mad (for very long) if you winked at her. She took great pride in causing the great Philadelphia Phillies collapse of 1964 and reveled in the fact that Yankees triumphed in the 2011 World Series over the Phillies. As hard as it is for your control freak daughter to admit, mom died how she wanted: at home with only you by her side. You were truly the love of her life as she was yours. As parents, you taught us the most important lessons: family, faith, service and the love of college sports.

Sarah and Don, Mom marveled at your ability to raise your family, volunteer, work in time consuming demanding jobs. Sarah called me and said “oh, Don just made a big mistake, he told me he wanted to collect cast iron. What’s going to happen when mom finds out?” Don, Mom took pride in converting you into a cast iron collecting college football fan. I think it’s time you raise the white flag of surrender; you’ve been assimilated. Sarah, mom was amazed at your ability to teach Kindergarten to Algebra II and just about every subject in between. Seeing you and Don as a couple, is like looking back at Mom and Dad. You have faced the challenges set forth in wedding vows and as a couple have met them. She was so proud of you. She admired your ability to be calm in the face of adversity and take one step at a time. It is a skill I wish I had. She told me this fall you two were probably the proudest parents in the state after Donald, Patrick and Kathryn lead worship: I know she was probably the proudest grandmother on the planet that day.

Nathan and Evie, well, let’s face it. Mom bought Nathan at a garage sale and then got mad when I sold him to a friend for some baseball cards and jacks. She made me take you back AND grounded me. Evie, I told somebody this week that the only s who can sing are the ones who married into the family. She loves the fact that you and Crystal sang today. She appreciated how grounded you were by your faith. Nathan, you totally inherited the rabid live and die with your team football mentality. She loved laughing at your Saturday antics and she never quite got how you became such a rabid UT fan especially when there was a perfectly good team located up I-75 in Columbus. She was thrilled that you took Evan to the Horseshoe last year for his first Ohio State home game.

Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren and Evan, Grandma loved you with everything she had.

Donald, Grandma always shook her head in amazement at you. From your helping any kid with homework, to standing up for your beliefs she was proud of the young man you’ve become. Her favorite stories of you, though, are from when you were a toddler: when you tried to mow the grass with your toy mower and you couldn’t quite figure out why the grass wasn’t getting mowed, to cutting your own hair because your head was hot and playing all positions in a one person football game, she was always impressed with how you managed to stay occupied.

Patrick, Grandma loved your inquisitive curiosity. She had so much fun finding odd ball treasures for Patrick’s collection (I mean, how many grandmothers would buy a blow dart?). Your voracious reading is just like Grandma. She loved your explorations in linguistics and vocabulary. She would often tell people about one of your teacher’s making a “Patrick vocabulary list”. She always laughed when remembering how I caught you climbing up a ladder to the roof and when I asked the 4 year Patrick what he was doing, I was promptly told “Climbing down”.

Kathryn, you are your mother’s daughter. Your mother was her mother’s daughter. I think, by extension, that makes you grandma. Grandma loved your fierce competitiveness. Your glare cracked her up. From the time you could glare, you glared: from not wanting to share kiwi, to a server taking your plate too early or simply clearing the table after dinner, we all know the glare. Somebody, usually your mom, could get Grandma to stop glaring. Nobody has been able to stop the Kathryn glare. Grandma marveled your adventures at Russian and Chinese camps. She loved watching you play softball. You have amazing artistic ability. She probably told everybody she knew that your carving won an award at the Oklahoma State Fair.

Emily, you are a fireball of energy that Grandma loved to enjoy. She called me last summer to tell me you cartwheeled UP the hill from Tic-Toc without getting hurt! She told me she didn’t think she could turn that many cartwheels ever. She was so impressed with the dress you made last summer.

Lauren, Grandma loved your library. She loved how organized your lists were. She made lists and thought it was the best way to stay organized. She loved the letters you wrote Grandpa. You are a much better letter writer than Grandma (and she’d always remind me how busy you were when I kept saying ‘Lauren owes me a letter’).

Evan, Grandma loved how you thought everything was awesome. She smiled every time you shrieked with enthusiasm. Your joy and happiness makes everybody happy. That is very special and Grandma loved it.

Emily, Lauren and Evan: Grandma loved Camp Chaos. She loved playing cards (she did not like losing to the kids), watching the dance competitions of kids versus adults (I think she secretly cheered for the kids’ teams since she didn’t dance) and having you at her house playing, laughing and breaking some of the rules. I know that Grandpa will be great at leading Camp Chaos this summer. Take turns, but each day one of you needs to make sure he wears his hat while working in the garden.

You six are her legacy. Continue to stand up for what is right as your parents have taught you. Do justice and love with all your heart.

Dad, Sarah, Don, Nathan, Evie, Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren, Evan and all of those who loved my mom, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss that I was reminded of by my cousin Matt, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” We aren’t quite there yet. But we are working on it and that is all my mother would ask as a parent and an educator. Via con dios, Mom, go with God.

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5 Responses to “Goodbye Mom. We will miss you.”

  1. Gede Prama Says:

    I really like and very inspired… :)

  2. Jackie Young (Hollins '90) Says:

    Wow! Tears to my eyes and I didn’t even know her. Well done, she is proud, no doubt. Sincere sympathies to your whole clan.

  3. Martha Malloy Says:

    Lella this is a wonderful tribute to your mother. She was a very special lady and I will truly miss her. I am so sorry I did not get to see you all but I know you understand. May God continue to bless you all with His perfect peace

    • zebrastravels Says:

      Miss Martha, as I told your daughter, I would throw you out if you were there. Your support, friendship means the world to my Dad and as I told Sarah’s eldest 3 about Beth, we met you when we first moved here and have been friends since. Please mend quickly and may everything go well for you.

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