My mom passed away a few days before my birthday. The following text is a eulogy I wrote for her memorial service -- forgive the length, but I wanted to share what a wonderful person she was and what she meant to me.
The best time I had in Girl Scouts was when my mom was troop leader. I remember most of my other years in Scouting as a lesson in sewing, in cooking, in acceptable “girl” activities. With Mom, it was different. We went camping, rock hunting and hiking, and more than once tied each other up when practicing our knot skills. The activity that sticks most in my mind is when she gathered up the troop and took us to Superior to hunt for Apache Tears. It was a blast. I had been fascinated by rocks for a couple of years, and to actually be rock hunting… well, that was a dream come true.
I remember being disappointed, however, when all we got were dull, black lumps of rock covered with a white film. Where was the beauty in that? When I said this to my mother, she smiled and told me, “Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface – you have to look past that.” She took our tears and gave them to a geologist who lived across the street. He had a rock tumbler at home, and Mom explained that the stones had to be subjected to a little adversity before their true beauty could be revealed. When they came back, they were beautiful, almost glowing from inside with a golden luminosity that couldn’t be seen before.
That was my mother – glowing from inside with a generous heart and spirit, and at her best in adversity. When the chips were down, she was there, wanting to do all she could to help and make things better.
When I was in college, Mom took a job as a social worker with the Salvation Army. I was happy that she had found fulfilling work, but I often wished she had chosen something a little safer, like being a librarian or secretary. I took as much time as I could to volunteer there so I could keep an eye on her. She took care of Tempe’s poor families, helping them out with food, gas, utility expenses, Christmas presents… often from her own pocket when funds ran low. As I worked with her, I saw past the surface of these people she helped as I heard their stories. Even the transients, or “street people”, whom I had always feared because of their different appearance, reinforced that lesson of long ago. “Look past the dirt, poverty, pain, and illness, Mel. See their hearts.” And I did. I became friends with Jake, who had a degree and could do math in his head; with Junior, who put the word out on the streets that my mom was a lifeline and anyone who hurt her would have to answer to him; with Dennis, who called me “Princess” and was equally protective of Mom; and Lui, who loved animals as much as she did.
I will always remember the lesson of the Apache Tears. “Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface – you have to look past that.” And so, when it came time to kiss my mom for the last time, I saw beyond the physical and into her huge, generous heart and luminous spirit. I couldn’t say goodbye. I could only say what I always did when I kissed her.
“See you later, Mom. I love you.”