The day after our mom died, my sister and I sat at my kitchen table trying to write a eulogy for her funeral. We had written one for Dad 16 months earlier, but Mom's was proving difficult.
My sister rejected every one of my ideas. I rejected every one of hers. I accused her of being bossy. She accused me of being passive. In the space of 24 hours we had reverted to the two little girls fighting in the back seat of a '57 Chevy during a family vacation. Except that this time we didn't have a mom in the front to act as our referee.
Dad's eulogy had come easily. He had some quirks, which made the writing easier. Mom was harder. She was a bit more straight laced, a bit more serious--the one who cried the first time she cussed in front of us and who worried about us dating "fast" boys. The one who signed our report cards and told us to do our best and to brush our teeth. The one we thought we might disappoint. Not because she gave us any reason to think we could change her feelings towards us, but because we somehow knew that she saw potential in us--sometimes more potential than we saw in ourselves.
She was also the one who suffered from Parkinson's Disease for the last twenty years of her life and who never stopped worrying about us during all those years when we should have been worrying about her.
Because worrying about us was her domain. She laughed when we teased her about it, but she never stopped. When we lived at home, she wouldn't go to bed until we were home safe--although falling asleep on the couch was apparently okay. When we went to college, she wrote letters every week, worried we might be lonely. When we moved away, she worried about our cars and the weather every time we drove home. When I had surgery for cancer, I woke up with her face two inches from mine, worried that I might stop breathing.
And now that she was gone, my sister and I couldn't seem to write a eulogy, worried that we wouldn't do her justice.
The newspaper with her obiturary arrived the next morning. We had given the information to the funeral director, but hadn't written it out ourselves or seen the final draft. It was a relief to see that the cropped picture had turned out okay and that all the family names and history were correct.
It was at the second paragraph that we stopped. And laughed, together. Because there in that final printed tribute to our down to earth mom were words that didn't come close to belonging to her.
"She loved gold."
Our mom loved sale racks and discount stores and a good bargain. She could stretch a small paycheck to cover prom dresses and cheerleading outfits and birthday parties and special Christmases, but the only gold she ever had or ever wanted was the gold stars that we brought home on grade school papers.
She did, however, like her golf, which we had mentioned. And thank goodness for that because, with just one misstep of a letter, it ended up giving us a eulogy.
"For those of you who knew our mom, you may have been surprised to read that she loved gold.....she also loved a good laugh..."
It was all we needed. A start. Mom had given us a good start at life and she had somehow managed to give us a good start at the hardest part of that life--saying goodbye to her. The start was all we needed. The rest flowed smoothly.
Mom deserved gold. But what she loved was us.