As I posted a link to the video of my father’s memorial service, here’s a link to my mother’s memorial service:
What I had to say begins at 45:00, and the part where seven of us sang the fourth movement of Brahms’ Requiem, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” begins at 1:17:00.
Here is what I planned to say at the service. (I also spoke at my Dad’s graveside service, but didn’t write out my remarks ahead of time. I learned my lesson.)
I haven’t seen a lot of my Mom since she had Alzheimer’s, because I live in Virginia. When I did see her, I’d see how much worse she’d gotten since the last time I’d seen her, and it would hit hard because I wasn’t seeing it happen gradually.
When I came here for Dad’s memorial service, Mom couldn’t do much of anything, and it broke my heart. But I wanted to be a loving presence, so I held her hand and said, “I love you, Mom. I love you.”
And I swear she answered me, “I love you.” It was three syllables and the right vowels. So my Mom’s last words to me were “I love you.”
And you know what? I believe her. Mom and I didn’t always understand each other, but one thing I’m sure of was that she tried her best to love me and to love all her children and grandchildren.
Alzheimer’s strips so much away from a person. When all that’s stripped away, she could have ended up a bitter and resentful person, but not Mom. Down to her core, Mom was left with her loves.
There’s a cute speeches phase of Alzheimer’s, just like there is for little kids. I got to have dinner with Dad on one of his trips to DC when Mom was in that phase. He told me that she’d said to him, “I love you! We should get married!” In fact, he said she’d never told him she loved him as much in their whole lives as she was doing then.
Another cute speech was reported to me by my sisters. They said that one day, Mom said, “I just remembered that there’s this place with rooms full of books, and you can take home as many as you want!” As a public librarian, this made me happy.
And that makes me remember that so many of my deepest loves in life are loves that my mother instilled in me.
She taught me to read. And instilled in me a love of books and reading and reading aloud to children. Exactly the passions that make me love being a librarian.
Mom loved little children and babies to the very end, and that’s a love she instilled in me. Though I prefer to enjoy *other* people’s children, as a children’s librarian, I’m lucky enough to get to do that on my job.
Lately I joined a church that has a wonderful choir. I’ve been reminded how much my love of music and singing and hymns and choral music came from my Mom. She made sure our family owned a hymnal, and she was the one who started Becky and me in our habit of singing hymns on long trips. She got me piano lessons and flute lessons and voice lessons and took me to choir concerts until I was old enough to sing in them myself, and then she attended all of mine. And she wasn’t faking interest – she loved to hear the choirs singing.
It was Mom’s idea to pay us to memorize chapters of Scripture. She was the one who’d patiently listen even when I didn’t necessarily know the chapter as well as I thought I did. And memorizing Scripture changed my life, because it found its way into my heart. Mom passed on to me her love of God and her love for God’s Word.
Mom, I love you, too. Thank you for passing on to me the loves that make me who I am.