These are the words I spoke at my Mom's memorial service this afternoon:
The fifth of 10 commandments in the Bible says, “Honor your father and your mother…” That is what I hope to do in the next few minutes – honor Dad and Mom with these words.
After Mom died on the morning of June 16th, Dad, Roz, Debb and I spent time together over lunch talking about Mom. At one point it was asked, “What are the things that were truly Mom?” We began to reflect on that a bit, voicing things that came to mind. It was very therapeutic.
We will miss Mom terribly. But, we all have so many vivid memories of who she was that we’ll cherish for eternity. I decided to “alliterate” them (using the letter “L”), just to keep this more light, and to possibly make them easier to remember. So, here goes:
Lists (and Labor) – From as early as any of us can remember, Mom was a list-maker and a hard-worker. I don’t know if she made lists for Dad, but we kids sure had our share! That was Mom’s kind way of keeping us busy, teaching us to be diligent, and making sure we learned to accomplish tasks (and get things done). Roz mentioned something I’d forgotten. Sometimes Mom (who was a super-duper housekeeper) would put on our lists, “Pick up specks.” And we did!
Learning (and Listening) – Mom was a teacher at heart, quietly causing me and my sisters to learn in many ways. She wasn’t overbearing about it. Rather, she indirectly communicated to us that there was always more to learn. She wasn’t a big reader, but she listened and paid attention to everything that went on around her. We learned a lot about what was “proper” from Mom. I will be forever grateful to her for this.
Loving – When we were talking about Mom after she died, I mentioned that I was embarrassed at times about how much Mom loved me. When I would come to visit her and Dad, I truly felt uncomfortable at times at how she waited on me hand and foot. Roz and Debb tease me, saying that she loved me best. But, the truth is, I know that she loved others as much as she loved me, especially Dad! She had a tremendous capacity to love her husband, children, family and friends. Mom was a very loving woman.
Letters – More evidence of Mom’s exceptional love for me are boxes of hand-written letters in our attic in Texas, letters she wrote to me once I finished college and moved away. I am almost certain that I received nearly a letter-a-week from her for the first ten or fifteen years after leaving home following college. She wanted to stay in touch with her son (and my growing family)! She was so selfless about putting pen to paper, sharing her thoughts and life with me and Ellen and our kids. She also stayed in touch over the years with many others. This was her letter-writing ministry of love. What a great legacy! Too bad letter writing is almost a thing of the past these days.
Lovely – Mom was an attractive and very lovely woman all of her life. As my cousin, Ellen, said in an e-mail following Mom’s passing, “She was always well put-together and looked great!” Very true! Her skills as a hairstylist, and her love for art/design, propelled her to always put herself together well (and she helped Dad to look his best, too!). I really admired that about Mom. To this day, I think about my Mom as I get dressed for each and every day. What I learned from her was that appearances were not the most important thing, but being sloppily dressed/put-together wasn’t the way to be either. She was absolutely lovely.
Lashes – I hesitated to put this in here, but Mom started wearing false eyelashes some time along the way, and she wore them well. One of my favorite stories about Mom is that when our house on the farm was burning in 1976, she went back into the burning house to get two things – her eyelashes and the beauty shop appointment book! Typically, we might think that women who wear false eyelashes have a tendency to be vain, or are somewhat inauthentic. Not Mom. She made it a part of who she was and I loved that about her!
Laughter – Dad, Roz, Debb and I all remembered how Mom loved to laugh. She was always up for a good, clean joke. I remember a time when she and I actually embarrassed Dad out of the room. We were reading from a Norwegian Joke Book, and just got the giggles so bad, we couldn’t stop. Just when we thought we’d had enough, we’d say, “Oh, how about just one more!” And then we’d look into each other’s eyes and communicate, “Let’s just keep laughing like this forever, O.K.?” Mom absolutely loved to laugh, and to the end, we all loved to laugh with her.
Loyal (and Lowly) – Probably the most compelling trait that I will never, ever forget about my Mom was that she was loyal. She faithfully dedicated herself to being my Dad’s life-long helper/partner. No question about that! She was also absolutely loyal to those people/things she loved and believed in. In addition, she was okay with being lowly. Not that she was beneath anybody or anything. Rather, she just deferred to others all the time and whenever necessary without thinking anything about it. She had a true servant’s heart and noticeable Christ-like spirit about her. She did not need the spotlight to be on her. She actually shied away from it most of the time. Her goal was for others to receive the attention, not her. She never demanded attention for herself.
Lord – Finally, Mom knew Jesus as her Lord. She acknowledged her need for a Savior and accepted the free gift of salvation through Christ’s suffering sacrifice on the cross. She knew that living a good life was not enough, that she desperately needed God’s grace and unmerited favor. As a result of her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, believing that He came, He died, He rose and He now lives, she is actually with Him in glory for all eternity! Praise God for that promise and reality, available to each and every one of us.
In closing, I think I speak for all of my family in saying that we were so blessed to have known and loved such a wonderful woman! I will cherish the precious memories of times with my Mom as long as I shall live. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when I will be reunited with her in heaven! I’m sure we’ll laugh together and sing praises to God for all eternity. God bless the life and memory of Doris Ellwood.