My mother passed away on October 28,2016. Below is the eulogy I wrote for her funeral service. I am almost embarrassed to post it because it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the woman she was. There are really no words to describe such a precious life, though, and I feel I must at least put a marker here in my blog for her…a blogstone, if you will, until I can come back and write more. It seems my blog is collecting entirely too many blogstones these days. I hope this is the last for a long, long while.
A Splendid Torch
My Mom was special, and I don’t say that just because she was my Mom. She really was special. She had a light about her that was different, a positive energy that flowed through her and into those she came into contact with. Even if you only met her once, you knew there was something different about her. It was a glow. She would say it was the Holy Spirit, and I am inclined to believe her.
I remember singing “This Little Light of Mine” with her over and over again as a young child. Remember that song? You have to hold up your pointer finger to sing it…
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Hide it under a bushel, (now shake your head) NO!
I’m gonna let it shine…”
And she really did let it shine!
Growing up, we were at church every time the doors were open. We were allowed to run and play around outside, but Mama did not tolerate acting up in the church. That same pointer finger that “let it shine” could drill a hole into your leg if you were whispering or rattling papers too much during the service. Of course, I was the perfect child, but my brother, Chris, got dragged out of the choir loft by Mom once in front of the whole church because he was acting like Stevie Wonder while the preacher was talking. No, acting up in church was being disrespectful to God and that was not something Mom ever tolerated from her kids.
Mom had a childlike excitement about life. Almost everything was turned into something that was fun. Instead of folding clothes, we had folding parties at our house. She danced around while we practiced piano and jumped up and down and clapped her hands at parades, to her teenage children’s, and later grandchildren’s, absolute horror and embarrassment!
She was an overachiever in every good way. I remember the first 4-H exhibits that we worked on together for the county fair. We had no idea what to expect. We started working on the exhibits several weeks before. Mom wouldn’t do the projects for me, but she would help to come up with ideas, help me gather materials and give me direction on how to do it. Her way of “giving direction” was to help you to come to the conclusion that whatever she thought you should do was actually your idea all along. She was truly a master of child psychology! When the day for the fair arrived, most kids entered 5-10 exhibits, Mom and I entered 120. Nobody else stood a chance! She was like a giddy kid in a candy store walking around gathering all of the ribbons we received. I received the Most and Best Exhibits award that year, but Mom really deserved that trophy!
Mom was always doing something for somebody…taking meals to people, driving people to doctors appointments, planning bridal showers, making sure people had what they needed, and for many years she did this while working 6 days a week at the Western Auto Store and raising two children.
I can’t write about her service to others without mentioning Earl Roxby. For those of you who didn’t know Earl, he was a mentally challenged man who lived to be 90, and whose mother died and left my parents as his legal guardians. I don’t remember a time that he wasn’t part of our lives. He was 20 years older than Mom, but called her “Mama.” He was able to live on his own for most of the years after his mother died because Mom, as well as many others in the community, made sure he had everything he needed. Earl was a part of our everyday lives, though. He thought of Chris and me as his brother and sister, but he could never understand why Mama let us drive and wouldn’t let him. Mom never felt she did enough for him, and even years after would tune up and cry because he died in a nursing home as she cared for my father while he was dying. But she gave to him all she could, just like she did for everyone she loved.
Her care for my father as he died from cancer was nothing short of heroic. She was an encourager to the point of bullying if need be, and she didn’t care if he got angry. I’ve seen her get in Daddy’s face and say, “Graham Hood, don’t you die on me!” And Daddy listened to her, because I think he was a little afraid of her. We all had a healthy fear of Mama, not because she was ever mean, but because she was so bold. She loved us all fiercely and, though usually a gentle spirit, could become scrappy if she needed to. She was like a lioness defending her own.
The first time I read George Bernard Shaw’s “A Splendid Torch,” I thought of my mother.
In it he says:
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Those who came to see Mom in her last days will testify that she gave of her life, her “splendid torch” to the end. Still thinking about others, still encouraging, still giving herself even as she was hemorrhaging from her nose and mouth, even as she knew she was dying. I stood and watched the last week of her life in amazement and gratitude that I was born to such a woman. How blessed I am!
Being the encourager that she was, this is what Mom would say to us right now. Live today, always do your best to keep peace between yourself and others, always try to be kind, smile, laugh, be silly, and sing, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket…Which she couldn’t! Most of all, she would encourage us to love others deeply and to love the God who created us with all that we are.
She celebrates with my Dad in heaven today, but there’s a piece of her spirit, her energy, that she imparted to each of us before she left this earth. That is her light, her life, her splendid torch that she has shared with us and that will continue to make our own splendid torches burn a little brighter for many years to come.