Sunday, January 15, 2012
For My Mother
It is heart-wrenching and soul-searing to watch your mother draw and exhale her very last breath at three in the morning, even though you know she is now forever free from her illness...this is the eulogy I delivered at her memorial service on January 14th. (I have to say here that I don't particularly like the word "eulogy" or the way it sounds.)
In celebrating her life, I think we can all agree that my mother, Janis Shobert, was a very complex woman, but she had a deeply caring and sensitive soul. I don’t know if she was familiar with this Gandhi quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but she certainly exemplified it. Her life’s events and circumstances instilled within her abundant doses of love, courage, compassion, wisdom, grace and generosity. (Not to mention a great sense of humor and famous one-liners!)
Each and every one of you are here because she touched and impacted your lives directly or indirectly. She truly cared about you. Some of you are alive because she diagnosed your symptoms and urged you to go to the doctor. Some of you have changed or expanded your careers with her encouragement, for example.
Jan couldn’t bear to see suffering, injustice, bullying or other wrongs. I’ve seen her face down people twice and thrice her size and stand up for others. She traded jumper cables for a very neglected grey cat a few houses away and that cat rewarded her with his devotion and an endless supply of mice. She took children under her wing and gave them a safe haven.
Mercy and compassion followed her everywhere she went. She rolled up her sleeves and cared for ill and dying friends and family - she welcomed an unexpected half-sister with open arms and love a few years ago - she slipped money to the newly homeless - gave to the holiday toy drives at the fire department - helped people on their paths of recovery - and as a cancer survivor, she called her former son-in-law when he was dying of cancer and helped to ease his emotional pain. She called friends from the hospital two days before she passed to make sure they were okay.
From I Corinthians 13:13 (RSV)...“So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” That love was the bedrock of her very being and character and helped her to summon her greatest courage in facing the long, dark nights of the soul throughout her life and seeing, appreciating and enjoying the dawns that followed.
And that was her greatest strength, that deep and abiding love.
The countless people she helped throughout her life responded to her wisdom and counsel because they knew this without a doubt: She talked the talk because she had walked the walk many a long, weary mile. She was the real deal and it came through abundantly.
Physically, she was a tiny woman, but spiritually and emotionally, Jan Shobert towered heads and shoulders over most of us. She would disagree with me, saying “But how could I not be there for them?” Well, exactly. She was there for all of us when we needed her and she gave so freely of herself.
Her legacy lives on in each and every one of us in this room. In memory of Jan, be the change you wish to see in the world - by reaching out a helping hand or heart to those who are in need, one person at a time. That’s how Jan made the world a better place in her own way.
You’ve more than earned your rest, Mother, and I’m truly honored to have been one of your daughters and to have had you as my mother and my first and greatest advocate and teacher.