Today we said our formal goodbye to my mom. She lost her fight with cancer at the end of March. For those of you who do not know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer at the beginning of February. She had been having pain and losing weight for about a year, had gone to the doctor multiple times, and had multiple tests, but it was not found until February. They then figured out that it had metastasized from breast cancer, which was also not caught, even though she had had two mammograms in that time. The disease progressed very quickly. And after just 6 weeks, she passed away. She will be missed.
Even though at the end, we weren’t always close, she was still my mom. And I just guess I always expected her to be there. Living so far away (me in Texas, her in Tennessee) it is still kind of a shock to realize that she just isn’t there. I find myself occasionally seeing my kids do something, wonder if I did something like that when I was a kid, and think about calling her to ask…that is when I realize that she is no longer there. Or the other day, on my son’s 6th birthday, it hit me that she wouldn’t be calling to wish him a happy birthday. Times like that are when the reality sinks in a little deeper.
But today, a little over a month after she died, we all met in Michigan (my sister Dawn from California, me from Texas, and my sister Jaci who lives in Michigan) and we had her memorial service.
This was the first time I have ever had to plan a funeral or memorial service. The whole experience (from dealing with my mom’s affairs to planning this day) has been a very new one. But one that I have to say, from my perspective, I feel that my sisters and I made it through well. First and foremost, we pulled together well, and I feel actually became closer through it, rather then letting it split up our family. The last two funerals I have went to ended up being very divisive, and I am glad that we were all on the same page to not let it happen to us. Secondly, we were in a situation where my mother did not have any money at the end for funeral expenses. I feel that not only did we stay financially sound, but we found a way to honor my mom’s memory by helping others. We found a company (Medcure) that allowed us to donate my mom’s body for research purposes, to hopefully find out why doctors were not able to discover her cancer sooner, and they paid to have her body picked up, they paid for cremation, and they paid to ship her cremains back to us, all in just 3 weeks. And thirdly, I felt that we planned a memorial service that was very personal to her.
My mom’s was Catholic, but we didn’t want her memorial service to be just a generic service. We picked music that meant something for both her and for us. My mom’s favorite song was Amazing Grace and her favorite band was the Statler Brothers. So we started things off with Amazing Grace by the Statler Brothers. The second song we played was one that meant alot to my sister Jaci, and to her said very important things about dying and God, we played God Only Cries by Diamond Rio. My mom always loved when they played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, so during communion, we played a version of Amazing Grace by the Canadian Scottish Bagpipe Band, and we ended the service with a song that I love, which is the new Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin. For me, this symbolized her being free of the pain that really filled her last couple of weeks on the earth.
All in all, I really felt like we honored and said a farewell to my mom that she would have liked. Now of course, we start the process of actually living day to day knowing that she isn’t with us here any longer. The last month has been such a whirlwind of getting things taken care of and ready for today, but now, that will no longer be a focus. I am just hoping that the new closeness that my sisters and I have found will stay in place, so that we can do as the priest suggested today, be my mom’s arms for hugs for each other.
Thanks for listening.