In Memoriam

In Memoriam January 21, 2015

My mom passed away on 12 Jan.  For those friends who are interested, her is the eulogy I gave at her funeral.

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How do you measure the life of a woman?  Many today measure it by wealth: she who dies with the most toys wins.  By that standard, Sally actually did pretty well.  Some count the amount of success achieved in a career.  Others seek fame—getting your picture in the right popular culture magazine.  Still others would say that rising to a position of leadership and power in an important institution is the true measure of greatness.  But, as is so often the case, the coinage the world counts is counterfeit.  

To truly measure the life of a woman, you must look beyond the superficial form to the inner essence.  Through a lifetime of knowing my mom I’ve been blessed to be able to see beyond her outward body, recently deteriorating from age and chronic pain, to see mom’s shinning inner grandeur.  And what a marvelous woman she was, a woman of generosity, humor, compassion, devotion, faith, hope and love.  Another way to measure a woman’s life is through her friends.  Sally had the remarkable ability to make instant and lasting friendships, as witnessed by her many friends and family gathered here today.  And her life has been blessed by so many wonderful friends.  Another measure of the life of a woman might be her children.  By this standard, mom was a true champion, even if I do say so myself.  

I’ve been reflecting on my mom’s life for the past couple of days, trying to think of wonderful memories and things to say.  And there are a lifetime full of them.  Indeed, I realized that I have known my mom longer than anyone alive except my uncle Norm and Aunt Laura.  But I also realized that, in some ways, what I don’t remember about my mom is just as important as what I do remember.  I don’t remember her carrying me in her womb for nine months and giving me life.  I don’t remember her sharing with me her body’s nutrients.  I don’t remember her changing my diapers for months on end.  Apparently my diapers prove the Big Bang theory—the spontaneous explosion of an infinite amount of matter from a minuscule space.  I don’t remember her feeding me, protecting me, or staying up all night with me when I was sick.  I don’t remember her teaching me to walk or read or share.  Remarkably, I don’t remember any of these most fundamental things she did for me, and that in a very real sense, only she could do for me.  But what I vividly remember, and can never forget is what lay behind all these simple things I’ve forgotten: a mother’s precious infinite love.  

A couple of weeks ago I had fixed some dinner for mom.  She noticed I had forgotten to get myself a fork.  Although she was in chronic pain, and could only walk with difficulty, she got up and shuffled over in her walker and brought me a fork.  For her, sixty years later, I was still that little baby boy who needed his mom to love him and take care of him.    

But the passing of Sally isn’t just a time for a rush of memories.  It brings us face to face with the Terrible Question: Is this all there is?  Was all the love and grace of my mom nothing more than a random collection of neurons and biochemical impulses?  When her heart stopped beating did my mom simply cease to exist?  

There are only two possible answers to this question, yes and no.  The first is eloquently summarized by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for whom death was absolute, irrevocable, and ultimately meaningless.  Upon hearing of his own wife’s death, Macbeth exclaimed:

All our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.  Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale 

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.   

(Act 5, scene 5)

Christ, on the other hand, provides the second possible answer to the Terrible Question in John 10:25-26, where he proclaims:  “I am the resurrection and the life:  He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”  When we think of this frequently quoted passage, we often stop here.  But the next phrase is the crucial one, for Christ then asks each of us the Terrible Question: “Believest thou this?”  This is a question we must each answer for ourselves: “Believest thou this?”  

There is an amazing paradox in the Terrible Question, for if we can answer Christ in the affirmative—that we do believe that Christ is the resurrection and the life—the Terrible Question is marvelously transformed into the Wonderful Answer: that through Christ we may have eternal life.

Thus, although today we mourn the passing of Sally, we should mourn more for the living, than for the dead.  We are left alone to carry on without her.  Sally has embarked on a marvelous new adventure—one greater than any she had during her life here.  The frail body we have placed in this coffin is just an outer shell.  She is now a glorious being.  Though we have been temporarily deprived of her love and laughter, it is really only for a brief time.  For, sooner than we think, we too will all make this wonderful transition from life into Life.  Then we will meet Sally and Ken, and all the other loved-ones who have preceded us, in a joyous reunion. 

Though we’ll all miss you, Mom, we’re glad your suffering is over.  As the Lord has promised: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev 21.4-5).  What a marvelous promise for mom and for each of us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16)  May we love each other as God has loved us.  For only with eternal love is eternal life worth living.  

Goodbye mom.  We love you and miss you.  

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