Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Eulogy: Words Spoken About My Mom, Patsy Lemmons

Five years ago, when I wrote this to read at my dad's funeral, I could never have imagined that so soon afterwards I would be doing something similar for my mom's funeral. For those who have asked, here is the original text as I wrote it, as it was read, minus any last-minute ad libs, stops to drink coffee, or pauses to catch my breath before I broke down in tears or threw up.

As we gather here today to celebrate the life and legacy of someone we knew as a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a childhood friend, a fellow dancer - no matter how long you may have known my mom - Patsy - or in what capacity you may have known her, there is one thing about her we can all agree on:

She was short. It's true. You may not have noticed it, but it's true.

It was especially obvious when she and my dad would be seen side by side. Sometimes you just had to look at them and wonder "How did THOSE two ever work?"

My mom was short.

When my sister and I each hit puberty, it probably bugged her, because she no longer could claim to be the second tallest person in our house. Maybe this partially explains her love of the pets she chose: squirrels, rabbits, shitzus - to their perspective, she was kind of a giant.

My mom was short.

It was comedic to see her driving, given how disproportionately large the cars always were they we're the right size for my dad, but not so much for her. When she would get out of bed in the morning, she had to kind of do this hop down motion to get out of the king-sized bed she and dad shared. And why on earth we had cabinets above the fridge or stove remains a mystery to me to this day.

My mom was short.

One of my favorite memories of my mom in the last five years was one time when she came to visit us in Columbia. Kai was maybe two years old, and he wanted to play with CiCi - in a bounce house. So picture if you will: my mom, crawling on an inflatable bounce house, while this hyper energetic toddler runs around her, shaking the inflatable house so much, it made it impossible for her to stand up. The most humorous part was that this was a bounce house with proportionate inflatables for kids under three - and yet she looked like it was made for her as well.

My mom was short.

But her stature did not define her.

My mom may have been short, but she was not small.

She was not small in her love to others, nor in how she expressed it. GIFTING was her love language. There were always mountains of presents under the tree at Christmas for people who weren't family members. It's taken me a lifetime to try and understand that this was how she showed love. The gesture of gifting itself was not small, but the love she had behind every gift she bestowed dwarfed what the actual gift was. Her love was not small.

She was not small in her devotion to the aforementioned pets. Unless it happened to be a bird. She was not a "crazy cat lady;" instead she was a "crazy dog lady." Moreso in that her dogs were always a little crazy, but they only reflected the level of love and devotion she showed to them. Protective. Loyal. Forgiving. These words describe both my mom and the legion of furry companions she had. Her devotion was not small.

She was not small in her faith. Literally nothing more needs to be said there. As a kid, I came to hold a disdain for Wednesday mornings, autoharps, and televangelists back when they were not creepy. But this petite woman drove a stake that was larger than life itself into the ground, claiming her faith as a fulcrum that everything else would swing on. Her faith was never a mustard seed.

She was not small in the love shown to her. Especially from my sister. When my dad passed away, if we can be perfectly honest with each other, I think many of us in this room may have held out fear, anxiety, and dread anticipation that my mom would not be far behind. But the little woman who taught my little sister how to love passed her dogged determination to her, and Lea Anne day in and day out did for her in person what none of us could have done. If anything, WE were gifted with an extra five years of my mom's presence simply because my sister never showed her small love.

A friend of mine, in response to hearing of my mom's death, posted on my wall on Facebook a bible verse I'd never read before. It's not a passage we usually hear tossed out when a loved one dies, so that's why it stuck with me.

Deuteronomy 33:25 - "May the bolts of your gates be iron and bronze, and may you have the strength you need for every day."

May you have the strength you need for every day.

Day in this verse translates in Hebrew to YOWM - meaning "now."

May you have the strength you need for every now. Every moment.

It refers to a period, a time of light - the day - in which no darkness is found.

May you have the strength you need for this time of light and not shadows.

YOWM means to be connected with the sovereignty of God.

May you have the strength you need, for God is with you.

My mom was small.

The promise of this verse - only ten words long - is not small.

I personally imagine an explosion of light and laughter took place as my dad, her parents, her grandparents, and various pets throughout the decades greeted her in Paradise only a few days ago. I imagine a banquet table laden with coffee, canned Coca Cola (to be drunk with a straw), and pimento cheese sandwiches as she shared stories with them of being there to watch her grandsons be born, of watching her family - once distant and spread apart - being brought together, and how we never, ever have been able once to get the washing machine in the laundry room to drain properly.

And in this and in other heart-deep memories, I will have the strength I need for these coming days.

And in your memories of my mom, may you find you have the strength you need for these days.

And may none of our memories be small.


Renee Fisher said...


Bethany Suckrow said...

So beautiful, friend. Thank you for sharing this with us. She's proud of you, you know. Don't forget that. Much love. <3

libertybain said...

wish I could have met the giant you called mamma on this side!

aaannnddd I LOVE and needed this:: May you have the strength you need for this time of light and not shadows. - weaving my way through lots of shadows these days. writing this verse down...