Positive Thinking

A Eulogy to My Mom on Mother's Day

I am alone. No one truly understands me.

I’ll return to these words in a bit.

We’ve had fun finding sharks teeth. Yesterday we learned these sharks teeth are fossilized, that’s why they’re black. It takes ten thousand years for a sharks tooth to fossilize. So these are at least that old, and could very well be millions of years old. When we hold one of these, it is hard not to try to mentally grasp the timescale. It is hard not to feel connected to a creature that swam the oceans long before humans tamed fire.

So this weekend we’ve gotten to think about those that came before us. Topsail beach is beautiful. We stand on this beach filled with the ground up corpses of creatures that came before us. 

I’m being morbid.

We’ve all heard the expression we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. That is figuratively true, and to some extent literally true. We breath an atmosphere that we owe to trillions of oxygen producing diatoms over billions of years. None of us would be here if we couldn’t eat other biological entities, be it meat or plant. So we give thanks to all biology that makes our biology possible.

You all see where I’m going with this.

We would not be here at this moment were it not for Faye. We are here now because she was then. We owe this weekend, and many of us owe our very existence, to her. So if you are glad to be here today, thank Faye. She even paid for this trip, so her contribution goes beyond the mere fact of some of our existences.

I am alone. No one truly understands me.

Me personally, I’ve always described myself as an introvert. I avert my eyes walking by strangers. The thought of saying a cheery hello to someone I didn’t know scared me. The last two weeks with mom, her health steadily declining, I felt the urgency of the situation. Out of necessity I had to set my fear of strangers aside. I spoke to nurses, doctors, administrators, physical therapists, financial advisors, the list goes on. What I noticed in that whole experience is every single person truly wanted the best for Mom in her final moments. Every single person brought their best possible self to help us. Every single person demonstrated love for she and I, two strangers to them.

All of the sons got to spend time with Mom in her final days. Being there when your parent is near death is a special thing. Being their as they draw their last breath sounds scary to those of us who have yet to experience it, but when it happens, if you have the privilege to be there, and if they have the privilege to die peacefully, it is a profound experience, a love filled experience, and a life changing experience.

Each of the sons got a chance to sift through her personal belongings at that time. Mom had a habit of writing down a thought, then squirreling it away somewhere. I learned something about Mom as I read her thoughts. In her nightstand were her most private thoughts. They painted a picture of a person who felt alone, misunderstood, unloved, and unappreciated. A person who felt beset and overwhelmed by the circumstances of her life. Who felt at times the burden was too much to bear. These notes helped me to piece together the puzzle of Faye. I found it sad that she felt that way at her core.


But to be honest, I could relate. I am alone. No one understands me. The circumstances of my life at times feel too much to bear.

At this point I’m making this talk about me; and at the same time I believe this is a universal note. I don’t believe her feelings were the exception. They were the rule. The joyous, successful life? That’s the exception. At the same time that it’s the exception, it is what we all want, we all yearn for, we all strive for. Yet the various circumstances of our lives create headwinds. Some gentle, some fierce. For those of us that feel those headwinds, it can feel unfair. Why me? It is at those times we discard the notion of God, because if God were, and if God loved me like all religions say, God would not have let this happen to me.

Let’s put a pin in that one.

Mom had a near death experience. I don’t recall the circumstances, but I do know she had more than one miscarriage, And even lost more than one child after they were born. Mona and Dean. Do we envy Mona and Dean? At least their suffering was short. But so was their opportunity to know love, to know beauty.

But I digress. I wanted to talk about Mom’s near death experience. She told me she went to a place of infinite beauty. She saw the color yellow as vivid as never before.  And she met beings there. Just like we always hear, beings of infinite compassion. In this place, her suffering, for the short time she was there, was gone. All she could feel was love. 

She told me what these beings told her. That the Earth is a classroom. That we are here to learn lessons. How lovely.

Her NDE may have been mere hallucinations, the emotionally protective neural firings of a brain shut down. May have been. But what if it wasn’t? What if she went to a place unlike this place, a place where the laws of time and space operate differently? What if she really did have a conversation with beings who’ve been around the block a few thousand times more than us? And what they told her is true? Earth is a classroom. 

I make every mistake at least once. I’m not too bright that way, but that’s how I learn. I screw up, I feel the consequences of my error. Sometimes I get the lesson after just one failure. Sometimes I don’t. So I repeat my error, and I feel the consequence again. In some ways I’m quite thick-headed. There are plenty of lessons I haven’t learned yet; so I just keep making the same mistakes over and over, and I keep suffering the same consequences over and over. And my self-comforting ego response is that it’s everyone else that’s screwing up, not me. And sometimes that’s true. But just sometimes.

A good friend of mine told me the story about his wife’s passing. She had terminal cancer, so they had time to prepare. They mused about what if she could grant one wish upon dying, what would it be? They agreed it would be to cure their 8 year old son’s vision. They kept this conversation a secret. The morning after she passed, Sonny (their son’s name, and an apt homonym), ran into dad’s room and said “Dad! I can see! I don’t need my glasses!” And he’s never needed glasses since. That was 20 years ago.

I told this story to Mom in her final days. So I gave her a wish. Some of us have a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, huge emotional burdens that feel at times too much to bear. So I gave her a list of names. A long list.

My name was on the list too, but last. She said, “Okay, so I’ll fix you first.” I said, “NO Mom! Fix me last.” If you think your name might have been on that list, you are probably right.

The visceral experience of having so many people bringing their best selves to Mom and I when we needed it the most made a lasting impression on me. It changed how I regard strangers. In the year and a half since she has passed, I’ve felt my anxiety lessen. I now say a cheery hello to strangers as we pass. 

I don’t know if there is a God, but I know there is Mom. And how appropriate on Monther’s Day. There is Faye. And there is every mom standing here right now. These mom’s want the best for their children and their children’s children. These moms love them all unconditionally. If moms gain superpowers when they leave their bodies, they are trying their best to help us down here. If you believe, or even if you are skeptical but willing to give it a chance, relax. Allow. Allow her do do her magic. Let yourself be the recipient of her superpower, the superpower of angelic loving presence.