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A Post for Mother’s Day – I CAN SEE IT NOW

Tony Young I spoke with my sister on the phone today. I called to ask her the date that our mother, Peggy, died.  I couldn’t remember.  I am horrible with remembering dates.  I admitted that to my sister and she said it’s not my fault.  She was quick to remind me that I am a man and that men forget things like dates, anniversaries, birthdays, and to never let the kids play with the ground hog in the backyard.  I was going to ask about the ground hog but she was on a roll.  So I let her roll.  In the last forty some odd years or so, I have learned that it is not possible to stop a woman on a roll. It is usually best to either roll with them or just step out of the way and catch back up to them after they are done rolling.  

     I stepped out of the way as she rolled by and started day dreaming until she slowed down a bit. When she stopped rolling she said, “December 18, 2003.  Peggy died December 18, 2003.” That was a difficult time in my life, as it is for most that lose a parent.  I prayed for God to help me through it all back then, but only halfheartedly.  At that point in my life, I had begun to think that there was either no God or that He no longer cared about me.  I was much more stupid then than I am these days.  That was the beginning of a dark time for me. God did help me through that time, of course, but I couldn’t see it then.  I can see it now.  

     The morning of her funeral, December 22, 2003 at 9:05 am, I dropped my wife and our girls, at the front door of the St Mark’s Chapel so they could go in before I pulled into the parking lot.  My youngest, who was three years old, said, “Don’t forget Grammy’s box, Daddyboy.”  I nodded and said, “Ok Sugar.”  My mother wanted to be cremated, so she was.  She was in a box on the front seat between my wife and me. “You Ok?” Trixie asked.  I nodded.   

     My wife had helped me to take care of my mother for years.  The same wife who had defended my mother’s right to be a mother when I did not think my mother was deserving of that.   She was the wife who held me in her arms the night before the funeral, when I cried like I had never cried before.  She shut the door to the car and I parked.  I sat there for a second, and then I started talking to the box that held my mother’s ashes.  “I wrote your eulogy, Peggy,” I said to the box. Then I told the box, “I don’t think I got it like you would have wanted it.  I tried my best though.” I had finished her eulogy, printed it out earlier that morning, and stuffed it into the pocket of my jacket.  My eyes started leaking a little, so I stopped talking to the box.   

I grabbed the box and stepped out of the car.  I stared at the Chapel.  There were the same steps where my mother fell down and broke her leg when I was 5 years old after Church one Sunday.  The same old Gothic styled Chapel that I loved to go to because it was so interesting inside.  It was the same Chapel where my youngest was baptized by Father Whatley.   It was Fr. Whatley who gave me my first communion. The same Fr. Whatley who saved me from certain suspension in elementary school, coached me in football in high school, and told me once that the best weddings and funerals are the ones that are the shortest. I saw him through the window of the sacristy from the parking lot, getting things ready for Peggy’s funeral. I hoped that this would be his shortest funeral yet.

     I knew I would fall to pieces as soon I walked into that Chapel. It would be decorated for Christmas and it would be beautiful and I would not have the slightest hope of being able to read her eulogy. I had no idea how I would ever be able to walk into that Chapel that morning.  I shut the car door and turned around and I saw a man standing next to a car across the parking lot.  He waved and called to me.  I walked in his direction and not until I was halfway there did I recognized him.  It was Fieds.  Fieds is an old friend from my days at Randolph Macon College.  “Fieds!” I said.  “What are you doing here?”  “This is what friends do.  How are you doing?” he said with a giant smile. And we talked for a few moments.  I had not seen Fieds in over twenty years. We started to walk toward the Chapel and we kept talking.  Maybe Fieds knew it then and maybe Fieds didn’t know it at all, but Fieds carried me into that Chapel that morning.  I couldn’t see it then, but I can see it now.

     The Mass went as most do.  I paid little attention to what was said.  After years of going to Church, I knew when to sit and stand, and that is what I did.  I was most concerned with being able to read the eulogy for my mother. Fr. Whatley gave an amazing sermon. It was not about dying; it was about living a full life and then going home. I listened to every word.  I did not hear a single one.  Then he called me and my brother and sisters to the altar to say a few words to the people who had come to celebrate the life of my mother.  He quietly told us that I would read her eulogy last.  And as we all turned around, standing up on the altar, behind my brother and sisters, all I could see were the faces.  There was my wife and our kids right up front. There was Fieds in the back under the balcony that held the old pipe organ, and next to him was TheOldMan, my best friend in high school and college and his wife.  TheOldMan was the same guy that told me to take the ball from the guy on the other team who actually recovered it, under the pile in a football game to save a win.  TheOldMan was the same guy that tried his hardest to point me in the right direction, but loved me enough to let me go ahead and find my own way. Next to them was Scotty, another high school friend. The same guy, who used to time weddings and funerals with me to prove that the best ones were the shortest.  Closer to the front was my Aunt, the nun.  The same Aunt that taught me if I sinned, God would send me to Hell in a hand basket.  The same Aunt who used to cheat at Monopoly. A row behind her was my Uncle.  The same Uncle, who taught me a trade and hired me when I did not have a job. I saw the faces of my cousins all over the place. The same cousins I grew up with and spent summers with. The same cousins who just understood everything somehow without words.  There were so many faces.  And I saw each one, a memory in my mind. My sister was finishing up.  It was my turn. There was more going on there then, I just could not see it. I can see it now.

     As I stepped to the microphone, I looked out at everyone.  I saw even more faces.  Some hurting, some crying, some peaceful, some only there because they felt some sort of social obligation to be there, some concerned, some angry, but I saw the faces.  I just stood there for a second. I didn’t say anything.  I reached into my pocket and pulled out Peggy’s eulogy.  I unfolded it and put it on the lectern.  I thanked everyone, on behalf of our family, for coming to celebrate Peggy’s life during this busy time, three days before Christmas.  I thanked Father Whatley for keeping the mass as short as possible.  He smiled and gave me thumbs up.  I saw Scotty smile in the back of the Chapel. I knew I would never get past the first few words. I folded the eulogy, held it up, and said, “I am supposed to read a eulogy that I have written for my mother.  She would have loved it too.  She would have loved it because it would have reduced some of you to tears.  A river of tears. She loved the drama after all.  But after hearing Fr. Whatley and my brother and sisters this morning, I don’t think that there is anything more I can say that hasn’t already been said.  Thank you all for coming today.  God Bless you and Merry Christmas.” I put the eulogy back in my pocket. As my brother and sisters and I walked back to our pew, Fr. Whatley asked me quietly, “You’re not going to read it?”  I replied, “I didn’t see any reason.” I can see it now.

     What I can see now is how important the people around us are in our lives.  The people that I saw so many times before, I never really saw at all.  It was not until I saw those people that day, and that way, that I realized how important each one of them is to me.  Every person I have ever met or will ever meet has been placed in my life for a reason. I can see it now.

     My wife put together a pile of clothes to send to a local homeless shelter yesterday.  In the inside pocket of a jacket that I would never wear again, I found that eulogy.  It was still folded the way that I had left it that day, so many years ago, December 22, 2003.  It was never read or even seen by anyone.  I just didn’t see the purpose of showing it to anyone then.  I can see it now.  

     That is all.

Peggy’s Eulogy

     Tony YoungI watched my mother die last Thursday.  I held her hand.  I was there with my brother and sisters.  There was a priest there that gave her Last Rites.  My mother was not in pain when she died. Everything was as I think most people want it to be when they die.  Nonetheless, I was still greatly saddened to know that I would never hold her hand again.  My sadness was overtaken rather quickly with the knowledge that her pain was gone. Her death was easy when you compared it to her life.   

     Peggy lived through a lot of pain, a lot of sadness.  She willed her small, frail, fragile body through medical procedures that should have left her dead long ago.  She fought demons that kill the strongest of men and she beat each demon into submission.  She recognized her wrongs and no matter how long it took, corrected each one of them though great effort and courage and never looked back.  

She did not want to die, so I take heart knowing that she did not have to wonder if this was the time when she would lose the battle.  She loved her children and grandchildren and all of her family.  That love is what drove her to fight so hard to live.  In the end when I looked at her body one last time I could only note that there was something missing.  It could only have been her soul.   

     A massive soul it was for such a small and crippled body.  Her soul I know is in a place where there is no pain.  Her skin is beautiful and her hair is always done.  Her fingers don’t crack and pop when she sews, and she can sleep as late as she would like to.  It is always spring there and anything she plants will grow.  It is never too cold or too hot and there is a wonderful view, a view that will allow her to always to watch over the grandchildren that completed her soul, a view I hope to share with her someday.



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