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Ode to my mother

For posterity, what I said at my mother's memorial in November:

Hi Everyone,

Thank you for coming today to celebrate and remember my mother, a woman full of love, laughter, and Strong. Opinions!

Ok, no one's perfect, but truthfully, when I think of my mother, I think of love: love for me, our family and friends, and the world at large.  Allow me to give you some examples.

May of you know my dear friend, Christine.  You may or may not know she was an exceptionally picky eater as a kid (that's right, Christine, I'm throwing you under the bus ;)).  One of her foibles was that she did not like ham.  So every Easter, in addition to an entire holiday meal cooked from scratch, Mama would also get a turkey breast for Christine.  If you've ever been at our home for the holidays, you know that Mama went all out: beautiful linens, coordinated dishes, and a decorated home.  No small feat.

I would like to note, however, that while Christine got a turkey breast, I was not allowed to dislike onions; true story!  In the first grade, I told her that I didn't like onions (because all of the kids at school thought they were gross).  She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had been eating and enjoying onions my entire six-year-old life, and I wasn't about to stop now!  This seemed cruel at the time, but in truth it was as much love as Christine's turkey breast.  She raised me to be an adventurous and flexible eater, always welcome at friends homes for sleepovers and comfortable on school trips because I ate whatever was put in front of me.  And it worked, mostly.  But, I'll tell you a secret; I still don't like onions on my pizza.

My mother has a shoe box overflowing with note cards for all occasions.  Beautiful cards, seasonal cards, silly cards.  She was a writer and a reader, and had a great love for the written word.  One of the ways she expressed Love for those around her was to send things by mail: cards, letters, advent calendars for the kids.  And what's more, she treasured the cards she received and kept them in the panes of glass in her kitchen cabinet, where she could see them everyday.  To receive a card from her was to receive love from her, an exceedingly rare thing in a digital age.

Many people show disdain for Barbie dolls, but my mother loved them.  An expert sewer, my mother honed her skills by sewing Barbie clothes as a child.  She loved all the different roles Barbie could be: Pilot, Rock star, Astronaut, you name it.  But she especially celebrated the increasing diversity of Barbies available.  If Barbies reflected our standards of beauty, my mother went out of her way to seek out Barbies that weren't blonde-haired and blue-eyed.  In fact, my ken doll was black.  I had the United Nations of Barbies, with beautiful, colorful outfits to match.

My mother loved dolls, and I had lots.  In fact, I have been told I was spoiled because I had two American Girl dolls.  And maybe I was, but I'll also tell you this: I probably would have only had one if it weren't for the Addy doll.  My first American Girl doll was Felicity.  She had red hair, and pale skin, and reflected the history of my own family living here since the revolution.  By contrast, my Addy doll had beautiful black skin and wiry hair.  My mother saw dolls as a tool to send a message, not just to me, but to the toy companies and those around me, that these dolls were valuable, important and loved, just like the people they represent.

Just before my mother passed, she had ordered several CDs on various topics from our church's reading room, a kind of bookstore.  They arrived a few days after she passed.  One of them was on parenting.  I'm 32 years old, and to the very day she passed, my mother was still trying to improve as a parent.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

It always seems like there is a lack of love in the world, but my mother taught me that love is ever present.  In our church , Love is one of he seven synonyms for God, and it was her favorite one.  Love is always needed, and can always be expressed to everyone around us.  It is not diminished by sharing; it is enhanced.

We love you, Mama, and we thank you for your example of how to Love.