When we were told two weeks ago that mom’s cancer was terminal, I asked dad if I could deliver a eulogy for mom at her funeral. He was taken aback but agreed right away.
This is what I have written. I am just hopeful that I have the strength to be able to read the whole thing this afternoon. It’s been an extremely emotional week so far, and I only want to make my mother proud…and I want to be strong today for her.
Hopefully these words do my mother justice…
I’ve been wondering for awhile about what I would say once I got into this position…standing in front of those who loved Marilyn as a family member or as a friend. Let’s be honest…I could go on for hours discussing just how kind and sweet and loving of a woman she was, just how devoted of a wife she was, and just how amazing of a mother she was.
I could go on for hours, but instead let me go on for just a few minutes.
Marilyn was, simply put, one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met or will ever meet. Obviously, I’m a little biased but I think today’s turnout confirms that opinion. She was also a woman who never liked to be the center of attention, and if she were here now she’d probably want the focus taken off of her and placed back onto all of us. I know that she would not want us to focus on the sadness of her death, but rather to embrace the life that she had and find peace in the knowledge that she is no longer suffering…is no longer in pain…and is now at peace with God.
Marilyn was born October 1st, 1945. She grew up in Sackville, New Brunswick and eventually made her way to live here in Amherst…by way of Toronto, Newfoundland, Cape Breton, Windsor, New Minas, and Saint John.
I don’t know if I can truly give all of you a clear example of who my mother was…so I’ll give you a few different examples instead in an attempt to paint a larger picture.
- Mom loved singing in the church choir. At best guess, she spent TWENTY SEVEN years in the church choir…and her love of the choir is why we are in the church today. Even in the past year when she wasn’t that great physically, she’d find a way to come to church and sing in the choir…while dad would pick her up once it was all over. So I can tell you with great confidence that she’d be absolutely thrilled to know that these lovely people are singing in her honour today…and you can bet that she’s looking down from above and singing along using God’s hymn book.
- Mom loved to travel. Spain…Florida…Hong Kong…the Bahamas…Venezuela…Vegas…mom loved to travel and she did with dad. Whether it was a family outing to Disney, taking a romantic cruise through the Panama Canal, or camping along the edge of town at Loch Lomand, dad did what he could to ensure mom got to see as much of the world as possible.
- Mom loved to give. She actually created a “Mrs. Claus Day”, which was normally New Year’s Day, where she would make sure everybody that was sitting at the table would get one more gift…usually something small that she picked out herself. As a family, we’d always do our best to get together on New Year’s Day for a late dinner just to spend time with each other. Mom, for whatever reason, wanted to give out more gifts to people. She never really did explain why…whether she heard it from a friend or saw it on television and thought it was a good idea…but it was something that she just wanted to do.
- Mom loved spending time with friends. Whether it was playing dominos, spending time in the senior’s dart league, bowling (she actually bowled a triple 325 once), being a member of the Red Hatters or simply sitting around a campfire on a warm summer night…mom very much enjoyed the company of others.
- Mom was a bit of a worry-wart. For a very long time, mom was always concerned and worried about my little brother and how he was doing in school. And it wasn’t just “I hope he does well”, either. I can’t tell you how many times she came to me and wondered what my little brother was going to do with his life…always concerned that he could do better in school. Saying, “I don’t know about that kid…I don’t think his grades are going to get him anywhere”. But within the past year, I never heard those comments. Within the past year, he not only came out of his shell, but also dramatically improved in school. Her worry was eased and within the last few months especially, I never heard her say anything other than how proud she was of the man that he is now becoming.
- Mom was always there if you needed her. Here’s an example: my dad had gotten me NASCAR tickets for my birthday one year. We were going to drive down to New Hampshire and take in a race…father and son. About a day before we were to leave, dad ended up throwing his back out and couldn’t go. Mom stepped up to the plate…regardless of her distaste for loud noises and fast cars…and went to the races with me. I was in my early 20’s at this point so it’s not as though I needed a chaperone or anything…but mom just wanted to be there for me and help me enjoy my time. And that was simply another great bonding experience that we shared together. Dad actually told me on Monday that it was a trip that mom always remembered fondly, and that’s something we’ll always share together because it was one of my favorite memories, too.
Mom was my best friend when I was growing up; always there to hear me complain or whine or simply to seek approval. She was my own personal guidance counsellor. I’d drop by to visit and on the way out she’d ask me if I needed anything. I’d say “no” and then she’d say there was a sale on toilet paper so she had some extra I could have…or there was a sale on laundry detergent and here was a jug of detergent that I could take…or that she had an extra $20 to give me because she was worried about me paying bills. She didn’t need to…I never asked her to…but that’s just what she wanted to do.
There were times where I simply felt a need to “tell mom” something…and she was always there with an open ear, an open mind, and an open heart. I can’t tell you how many times I would tell mom something…something I had done wrong, usually, that I didn’t want dad to find out. Needless to say, she would then turn around and tell dad anyway. You would think I would have gotten upset because mom betrayed my trust in her. But I honestly don’t know if I ever got mad at my mom…or if I did, was mad for more than just a few minutes. You just couldn’t stay mad at that woman for any reason. Instead, I realized that my best friend usually told dad these things because she was concerned about me…and quite frankly SHE needed to tell HER best friend.
She was my father’s best friend for over 40 years. As any couple, they had their fair share of ups and downs over that span of time…but I’m sure the both of them would be quick to tell you that there were far more “ups” than there were ever “downs”. They were married 42 years…it would have been 43 in April…and that’s a heck of a long time. It’s something I have always admired about them the most…that through thick and thin, they were able to work through all obstacles and remain a devoted, loving, married couple.
And it gives me peace knowing that the final few days, weeks, and months of mom’s life were spent with dad showing mom just how much he loved her:
- Multiple trips home from work every single day…just to make sure mom could have a bathroom break where he would pick her up and put her in her wheelchair, pick her up and place her down in the bathroom, pick her up and put her back in her wheelchair, then pick her up and place her back in her seat facing the television. He’d make sure she’d eat something or simply feel more comfortable, and then head back to work.
- Multiple trips to Halifax every week for over a month from January 4th until she was brought back to Amherst on February 12th…sometimes through a snowstorm where it would take three hours just to get back home.
- Multiple trips to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre here in Amherst every single day until her passing…hand-feeding her at meal times because she was too weak to feed herself…talking to her regardless of whether or not she could talk back…always being there for her.
Mom passed away knowing that she was loved by her husband, her best friend, her soul mate. And dad, I couldn’t be more inspired or more impressed with your love for mom than I am today. I am truly humbled to be your son and only wish that I can live up to your example one day.
I loved mom with all of my heart and will truly miss her every single day of my life going forward. “Going forward”…that’s something my mom would want all of us to do, especially now. She wants us to get through today as best we can and go forward with our lives. She would not want us to remain saddened with her passing. I truly believe that she would want us to go through our grieving process and do whatever we could to move on.
I’d like to close with some lyrics from her favourite song…a song that played over a video of photographs shown during her visitation yesterday. She loved it because it was a song about a woman getting cancer and letting her friends and family know that she was going to be alright in the end.
She flew up to Heaven on the wings of angels
By the clouds and stars and passed where no one sees
And she walks with Jesus and her loved ones waiting
And I know she’s smiling saying
Don’t worry ’bout me
Don’t worry ’bout me
Mom…we’re not worried anymore.