I’ve been working on my mother’s eulogy.
She’s not dead. She wants to be, but the universe isn’t so merciful.
But I need to write the eulogy now. Mom deserves for someone to stand and speak for her. So I will. But if I am going to do it well, I have to write it now.
I am going to breach all etiquette and turn the eulogy toward those that attend the funeral. And to those that don’t.
And people are going to be angry. But if I do it right, they will take from my mother’s funeral the one thing she wished for all of them in life.
The intrinsic desire to be good. To be kind. To help people.
Mom was a giver. She still wants to be, even bound as she is in the ill-fitting wheelchair in the nursing home that stinks of illness, and bleach, and shit.
Over the course of my life, she took in over 30 kids – runaways, travelers from other countries, kids on the outs with their own parents. Some stayed only a few days, long enough to work out parental differences; others stayed months, even years.
When I was in high school and the local children’s home caught on fire, the staff brought ALL the kids to our house to stay safe and accounted for while the fire was addressed. She fed them all, let them call their families in all parts of the world.
She delivered countless Christmas gifts, all marked “From Santa” to homes that Santa himself was forced to pass by. She fed people, she gave them money, she gave them clothes, rides, a safe place to go when they were in trouble, a trustworthy person to talk to when they were scared or unsure.
She helped people escape abuse, addiction and homelessness.
She gave until she literally couldn’t.
Until, in the space of 4 years, she lost her mother, then her job, then her ability to walk. Then she lost her home, her possessions, and, for a while, her sanity. Then she lost her husband, then her brother, then her father, then her ability to feed herself, to write letters, to communicate fluidly.
Then she lost her hope.
Because, despite the number of people she reached down to lift up, she has sat day after day in that foul nursing home for 4 long years, alone.
Those 30 some odd people she took in when they needed help? Exactly one of them has gone to visit her. One.
And that one is from the other end of the country and made it a point to see Mom on a short 4 day trip.
The rest? Most of them are right here, 30 miles away or less.
Her friends, with one great exception, haven’t been to visit since my father died.
Her best friend of 35 years hasn’t bothered, no calls, no visits – she has a special, golden seat at the top of my shit list. She was a second mother to me, and she abandoned Mom, completely.
Family is hit or miss, they are better, some of them, at least. But those that live too far away to visit call me, if they call at all. SHE is the one that needs to know you care. SHE is the one that would love to hear a friendly, familiar voice. Call her.
People are too busy to be bothered with a visit. Fine, send a card. Call. Send a photo of your kids.
Or they don’t like nursing homes. What sort of dumb-assed, ignorant statement is that? NO ONE likes nursing homes. I think you can shelve your delicate sensibilities for an hour and go visit – she hates nursing homes too. And she has to LIVE there. You self-centered asshole.
You don’t know what to say? Say anything. Tell her about your kids, your job, your vacation, the movie you watched or the asshole that cut you off on the freeway. You say the same damn things you’d’ve said to her if she wasn’t in that chair.
Because she is still a person. She still likes to hear about the lives of the people she loves. And anything, anything at all that you can say to her would distract her, just for a moment, from the pain, from the heartache, from the loneliness that is her whole world now.
She is in over a million beds in 1000s of nursing homes, waiting.
So why don’t you shake off your myopic stupor and look beyond yourself? Take a moment to be a good person, to put someone else before your own selfish discomfort with a visit. Take 5 minutes from the hectic schedule that YOU built and send a card. Odds are, your cell phone is nearly melded to your ear anyway, why not call her?
Remember – right now you are living YOUR eulogy.