Just like we did at Dad’s funeral nine years ago, each of the four siblings shared a tribute to our beautiful mom. This is what I shared…
I’m curious about something… How many people in this room have had a chance to taste some of my mom’s baking? Some of you may not even know you’ve had it… If you attended a potluck either in Landmark or in Arden, you probably had some. If you attended Cynthia’s wedding, you probably had one of her buns. If you worked with me or my siblings, or visited our homes, you may have had something she’d sent us home with. There was always lots to go around.
There’s a story in the Bible about Jesus looking around and seeing a lot of hungry people and realizing they needed to be fed. With only a few loaves and fishes, he managed to feed 5000 people. In the process, he gave them not only food, but love. Well, I think my Mom took that story to heart and made it her personal mission to feed all the hungry people she could find. With a few of Dad’s farm eggs, some Prairie Dawn flour, and her magical hands, she too fed 5000 people. Even in her final days, when she could no longer stand and could barely speak, she still tried to get out of bed a few times, insisting that it was time for us all to sit down at the table and have something to eat.
That’s how our Mom lived her life – always giving, always loving, always making food for people. She never had much money, and yet she found ways to give that went far beyond what monetary riches could have done. Just like the story of the feeding of the 5000, I believe God worked a miracle through her hands.
Paul said yesterday that one of the reasons he married Mom was because he could see she had servant hands. He couldn’t have been more right about that assessment. St. Francis of Assissi is quoted as saying “Spread the good news, if all else fails, use words.” Mom didn’t need a lot of words to spread God’s love – she didn’t need to preach a sermon or write a book – she just needed her beautiful, loving hands.
In the last week of her life, when my siblings and Paul and I cared for her, several visitors stopped by or phoned to show their love for Mom. In the stories that were shared, we heard these four common themes that mirrored what we already knew about Mom:
- Mom was one of the most loving and generous people they’d ever known.
- Mom liked to feed people.
- Mom loved adventure.
- Mom loved to play games.
Growing up, most kids go through a phase in their lives when they feel embarrassed about their Moms, for one reason or another. I don’t ever remember feeling that way, partly because my friends all thought I had one of the coolest and kindest Moms around. Some of my friends still talk about how good she was at telling stories in church, bringing fun and life into everything. She was also the most fun to have at the Sunday School or community picnics, because she’d rather have a water fight with the kids than sit in boring conversation with the grown-ups. I think sometimes my friends came over as much to hang out with Mom as to visit me.
She would never have said this about herself, but my mom was a healer – she helped God heal wounded souls. Henri Nouwen talks about the wounded healer, who is able to reach out to people from the place of their own woundedness. Mom was one of those wounded healers. She suffered some pretty deep wounds in her early life, losing two brothers and her mom, and that allowed her to be deeply compassionate to the wounded people she encountered in the world.
Growing up, we had to get used to a lot of wounded people spending time in our home. Whether it was the young children whose Mom was unable to care for them, or a young mom who was going through trouble in her marriage, Mom felt compelled to bring them home and wrap them in her love. Some people bring wounded animals home, Mom brought wounded people – and she didn’t let them go until they’d been well fed and well loved. Just recently she told me about some lonely teenage girls who started to drop by and play games with her and Paul. I had to chuckle, because I knew Mom couldn’t resist opening the door to them, even when her own health was failing.
At the back of the program, you’ll find a photo of Mom climbing a tree. A tribute to our Mom wouldn’t be complete without talking about how she loved to climb almost anything she could find to climb, especially trees. My kids were always proud of the fact that they had one of the only Grandmas who would climb trees with her grandchildren. She’d also climb big rocks or mountains or climbing walls. When she went to seniors camp a couple of times with Paul, she came home quite proud of the fact that she’d been the fastest one (or sometimes the only one) up the climbing wall. One of her friends told me that just this past summer on a trip they’d taken together, when Mom thought she’d beaten cancer, she’d found every opportunity she could to climb things. Right until the end, she lived life to the fullest.
When I turned 40, I decided to mark it by skydiving. Most Moms would try to dissuade their daughters from taking a foolish risk like that, but not my Mom. She came to watch and was jealous that she wasn’t the one jumping out of the plane.
It’s been really hard to write this tribute, and even now it feels so incomplete, because I just don’t know how to wrap words around a love and a passion for life like Mom had. Words seem trivial and almost trite. I know that the best way to write this tribute is to write it on my heart and to spread the love Mom gave to me to everyone I meet. I won’t be feeding the 5000 (that’s not my particular gift), but I will promise to live in the way that my Mom taught me – serving as a wounded healer, loving the lonely, using my gifts to make the world a little better, and relishing every adventure and tree-climbing opportunity I can find.
If you want to honour my Mom, I invite you to do the same. Spread the love of God in everything you do. Enjoy life to the fullest. Climb trees when you need a little excitement. And eat good food – especially buns and butter tarts.
Mom used to say that she didn’t expect many people to show up at her funeral. We’d always laugh at her when she said that, because we had a much greater sense than she did just how many people she’d touched in her life. Along with her great love, she had great humility. But a love like that spreads (especially when it’s clothed in humility), and now I stand in front of a church full of people who’ve been touched by her in one way or another. All week, I’ve been getting emails and phone calls from other people she’s touched who couldn’t be here today, including one from a man she befriended in a hotel in Colorado this past May.
What a legacy she has left! The love she shared isn’t easily forgotten. Thank you for proving her wrong and filling this room. If Mom were here, she would have found the most wounded people in the room by now and given them each a hug. I could really use one of those hugs right now.