One of my mom’s friends came up to me after the funeral and told me she’d been disappointed to not have heard me speak. I eulogized my grandmother and she thought I’d do the same for Mami. But I didn’t. I let her childhood friend go on and on and on about her. Because it made me happy to have gotten a little bit more of the story we did not know. The part of Mami that she didn’t speak much about.
But since then, I keep thinking that perhaps I should have. I found a copy of my grandmother’s eulogy recently and it struck a chord. The title of it was: I will not mourn her. I couldn’t say the same thing about Mami though.
If I’d written a eulogy 2 years ago I would have included the bible passages that the church would not let us read because they felt they knew a little more about death than we did. You see, I wanted to read 1 Corinthians 13. Because it defined my mother. But apparently, that verse is only appropriate for weddings because it’s about love.
I remember reading it to her in the middle of the night as we stood around waiting for that final breath. Remember my dad attempting to read from the bible but being unable to form the words as his beloved laid there, eyes closed with life seeping away with each breath. It was as if his breath was taken away as well. So, I took it from him and let him leave the room as he cried.
And I read the words that described her so that she would hear them and would take them with her to where she was going.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Faith, hope and love. Some days I wish I could go back to that last day. When I sat at her desk while she watched from her bed. I wish I’d crawled into bed with her. Held her. Told her I loved her and how much I would miss her. But I didn’t. We spoke every once in a while. I took care of whatever needs she had. Asked her if she wanted food, water. Made sure she was comfortable. I tried to make her feel like this was just another day. That I did not mind caring for her every need. Because I didn’t.
If I’d crawled into bed with her she would probably have kicked me out. If I’d shed a tear, she would’ve told me to stop it. To not start with the waterworks. But oh, how I wish.
Mami was everything. I don’t know how to describe our relationship. I know that my eulogy to her was written before she passed as I got inspired to write Denial or Deliverance and then I did do the obituary to share the news but, sometimes I think there should have been more.
But there wasn’t. Because I think that’s how she wanted it.
After she passed, my mom was moved by a relative while we waited for the funeral home. Her face, slack with the lack of life was frozen in one of her funny face. Though I was mad that she was moved at the time, I can’t help but think this was one of her many pranks, her many jokes.
If I’d eulogized her, I wouldn’t have spoken of the pain or the sorrow. I would’ve spoken of the laughter. The sense of humor that she instilled in her kids. The pranks. I would’ve told everyone how one of my brother’s favorite things to do was call her and change his voice to sound like my dad. And what a kick she used to get out of that. I would’ve spoken of the fact that my sweet mami used to go to the park for lunch when she worked at a convent and play pranks on people. Strangers who she’d never laid eyes on would be greeted by this pretty young woman and asked a thousand questions as if they were old friends. The poor people never had a clue. She would leave them wondering where they knew her from. Yeah, she was funny.
Perhaps I would remind everyone of how when she was telling a joke, Mami would sometimes laugh so hard she would start crying and the words would come in fits and spurts. That her laughter was contagious. As was her love.
So many people loved her. At times that was a source of strife for us. We never felt like we had her to ourselves. The kids, I mean. There was a little resentment there. But now it just means that there are more people for us to share her memory with. More people that understand what we mean when we say we miss her. When we reminisce on her life, her legacy.
Mami leaves behind nothing but love. Love that ties us all to her and that by extension ties us all to one another. She left this world a better place because she taught us to give, she showed us the meaning of sacrifice and she reminded us of what’s important.
If she was here right now she would tell me she didn’t need a eulogy. But she would advise me that the best way to eulogize her is through my life. Living the way I was made to live. Doing the things that are deep needs of my heart. Loving the child that she waited so long for and never allowing myself to stop reaching for my bliss.
Mami passed away on 2/2/11 at 11:11 a.m. but every day, there are glimpses of her and for that, I am grateful. We will celebrate her homegoing by gathering together in her name and sharing some of the stories of our hearts. Do you do something special to honor a loved one?