My mom, my best friend, died suddenly May 4, at age 68. Now I’m trying to write her eulogy.
The one thing that’s killing me right now is how proud my mom was of my writing. She read everything I wrote from the time I was able to hold a pencil – and she never held back on honest feedback. So now, now that I’m writing the most important thing I will ever write, it’s impossible for me to imagine that I can’t get her feedback on it – and to know that there is absolutely no way I will be able to do her justice.
When I think back to my early childhood, I remember her teaching me about language. Sometimes when she’d read to me at night, she would find a particular phrase in a book that she liked, and she’d read it over to me a couple of times so we could admire it together, the way the words flowed and complemented one another, the pictures they painted in our minds.
My mom was always my fiercest advocate – and she taught me how to be a mom. Whether it was fighting to get me into the best schools, standing up for me against mean teachers, or taking my side in middle and high school drama, I never doubted she was in my corner. She catered to all of my weird neuroses. She made sure I had mashed potatoes when I got my braces tightened and ginger ale (never Sprite – she knew the difference) when my stomach hurt.
My mom taught me what it means to be a friend. We were always bringing food to people who were struggling, visiting people in the hospital. For years in high school, we hosted a Dysfunctional Family After-party on Thanksgiving where we would serve pie and coffee and cocktails to friends who needed to decompress after their own family Thanksgivings.
My mom taught me to be resourceful and independent. She would do anything to put food on the table – freelance writing, babysitting, pet-sitting, TV producing, selling her produce, flower arranging. She had a million talents and she used them all to survive.
My mom taught me to look on the bright side. When she met my dad, he was a 37-year-old successful lawyer living in Lakeview and she was a 22-year-old waitress and aspiring actress living in the Marengo Street Commune. Within weeks of their first meeting, my dad had her on a plane to Jamaica for a tropical vacation she never forgot. She thought she’d landed a hotshot lawyer. He thought he’d landed a flower child who would take him away from his boring life. Six months later, they were living in a van and selling wood crafts in California. But she loved him, and she loved what came next: They moved to North Carolina and built an entire house. And they had me. For the rest of their lives, even after they divorced, my mom and dad stayed close. There was no bitterness that neither of them got the life they expected. Because they got what they needed, and they got me. My dad made a special trip to bring my mom flowers last Valentine’s Day.
So. I will now rely on everything she has taught me to somehow get through this. I will be resourceful and strong as I find ways to navigate this grief, which seems endless right now but which I know will end. I will try to find the bright side in this horrible situation because I did have such a wonderful mother, and I did get 40 years with her, and it is nice to get a chance to reconnect with so many people lately. I will be sustained by my incredible friends because my mom raised me to pick good friends and to keep them by being a good friend in return. Ultimately and most important, I will be the best mom I can be. Because that is to me, like it was to her, the top priority in life.
There is so much I am heartbroken about right now. So much of my life and my girls’ life that she’ll never get to see and that I just always assumed she would. I thought I’d have her forever. I won’t. But I will love her forever. The very last text she sent me, the night before she died, was “I love you.” I feel kind of bad that I never texted her back that night to say I loved her too – I was busy with work and kids and I figured I had all the time in the world to get back to her. But I really don’t feel all that guilty. She knew I loved her. I knew she loved me. At the end of our relationship, there was nothing left unsaid. There is just so much sadness and sorrow and disbelief.
But if there was anything to say about my mom, it was that she was spontaneous and always up for an adventure. I guess she is just off on her next great adventure.