My Mom was not a child of privilege. Her family was incredibly poor and she came from a family of twelve kids. Just try to imagine having twelve kids in a family. Her Mom, my grandmother, was a kind and loving woman who obviously just couldn’t say no to my grandfather.
My Mom was one of the oldest of those twelve kids and by the time she gave birth to Candy and I I’m guessing she already had some pretty great parenting skills in place as a result.
While being an all-around great homemaker as some of you may know her one area of weakness was her cooking. By looking at us it’s pretty obvious that none of us starved to death but the grim reality is that the best thing that Mom made for dinner were reservations!
Perhaps the greatest thing that I can say about the way that Mom raised Candy and I was that Mom made our childhoods remarkably uneventful. Like most families there were good times and bad but no matter what the circumstances were she always, always acted as a loving buffer for Candy and I. She allowed us to lead that which were probably sheltered and protected lives and for that we’re both grateful. For what child- or adult for that matter- doesn’t want to be sheltered and protected.
Don’t get me wrong- there were times that she was prone to error and times that she wasn’t always perfect. As example I cite my lifelong love of pet birds coming into conflict with her lifelong desire for efficient cleaning methods. You see she got into the habit of using the hose from the vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the bird cage- while simultaneously my birds got into the habit of getting too close to the aforementioned hose. On more than one occasion I caught her trying to revive my birds with the water from the faucet after them having ridden the Electrolux express.
And then there were the awkward moments that a son can have with his mom- like when I came home from school one day and Mom proudly displayed a new necklace she bought at the flea market. I’m not sure if it was more difficult for me to let her know that the pretty new necklace was actually a large marijuana leaf- or if it was more difficult for me to then explain upon cross examination how in fact I knew what a marijuana leaf looked like!
Any of us- including myself- are capable of being angry with the ones we love. I think that it is precisely because we love people so dearly that we tend to let our emotions and yes- sometimes even anger come in to play so easily.
It is to that point that I had my greatest revelation while contemplating the relationship I had with my Mom both as a child and as an adult. Despite my best efforts I cannot think of one single occasion when I was angry with my Mom. I literally do not a single memory of being mad at her.
How could this be I wondered? As it turns out upon reflection it was actually really easy to understand. All my Mom ever wanted to do was to love. All my Mom ever wanted to do was to be loved. With core attributes like that how then could I have ever be angry with her?
Mom was always willing to live in the background. She always preferred that the focus be on those around her and not upon herself. She allowed everyone in our family to succeed and to stand tall against the crowd because she allowed us to stand upon her shoulders.
Make no mistakes though for my Mom did indeed have flaws. I don’t want to paint her life as a picture of angelic perfection but look around this room- and more importantly look at yourself for who here is free of imperfections. My guess is that no windows in this room fear being broken due to errant stone being cast.
I think that the best way to judge Mom’s overall life is to examine the fruits of her labor for isn’t a craftsman judged by her work? Mom produced a God fearing daughter and son who after many, many years of marriage still love their spouses dearly. In a strange kind of way Candy’s path and my path have been very different yet also so much the same. God was kind enough to allow us to end up in close proximity to each other and thereby allowed our children to grow up knowing each other as friends and not simply as distant cousins.
I know that Mom was very proud of Candy and I because she always told us that that very fact. As an aside I think that she was slightly more proud of me than Candy. Of course she never said that or acted in that manner but to me logic dictates that it must have been true!
Mom’s joy didn’t end with Candy and I. Her joy was magnified through her love of her seven grandchildren, their wonderful spouses and now her great grandson Max. To our great sadness one grandson, Sam, passed before her but the others are all with us here in this room today. Each of you should be keenly aware of how much she loved you guys and how very, very proud she was of all of you. Each and every one of you brought great joy to her life!
To each of you I ask that you forever hold Grandma in your hearts and live lives that would continue to make her proud. Life has taught me that parenting is the hardest job that anyone can have. The best that you can do as a parent is to always do the best that you can do. My greatest dream as a Dad has always been that when I die that I have the respect of my kids. While I hope that they at least like me a little bit as well more important to me is that I gain their respect.
I want them to respect me as a Dad that always loved God, that always loved their Mother and that I was a Dad that always loved them. It is to those points that I wish to be judged and to those points that I hope to earn their final respect. I can tell you that using those same tools of measurement I stand here today to tell you that I respected my Mom more than any spoken words can describe.
Now for the final lesson that I hope we can all learn from Mom- because she was still enlightening me and teaching me to her final days…
This past Monday Candy and I came racing down to Connecticut from New Hampshire because Mom was taken to the emergency room and was not doing well. Mom was no stranger to being sick and no stranger to the hospital but this time seemed different. For the first time that I can remember there were no smiles on her face and no attempts to crack a joke to put us at ease. Mom was so, so tired. In seeing her and talking to her it became very evident that she was weary of this life and she was ready to end this race.
Candy and I thank God for giving us the opportunity to be with her on the day before she died. We talked openly about life, about death and about Heaven. I had the chance to remind her that this life and the world that we live in is extremely difficult but we also reminded her that heaven is eternal.
Candy reminded her that she would soon be in heaven with her Mom and her grandson Sam. In her classic understated way she calmly and peacefully whispered “that will be nice.”
Now my Mom has left all of us behind to finish our own races. I don’t pretend to know the will of God but I am pretty certain that Mom is in Heaven for if I can’t think of a single reason to be mad her then how much more infinitely kind and loving is our judging God?
So I present a question to all of you. Who is your Gram and who is your Sam? Who do you dream of seeing in heaven? Do you truly have the hope of seeing them again?
Getting to be reunited with them again won’t occur by chance. You must choose to love your God and live according to His will. A natural outflow of that love and obedience is that you will become a good person in an earthly sense. Please remember though that it won’t be your good deeds that will get you a ride on the up escalator… it will only be as a result of the love and mercy of our God.
Let me close with this…
On Monday when I kissed my Mom goodbye I knew that it could be the last time that I ever saw her alive- and indeed it was. As I was walking out of her little area in the emergency room I started to pull up short and almost turned around because I realized that I hadn’t looked back. I hadn’t stolen one more glance at her.
As I think back on that moment I’m glad that I didn’t do so. Our goodbye was as her life was- both loving and without great fanfare.
In thinking about it since then I’ve come to the conclusion that forgetting to look back can be a good thing. To those of us in this room let us vow to stop looking back. Don’t look back at our flaws and most especially let’s not look back on the flaws of others. Let us vow to forgive others and to forgive ourselves for our countless imperfections. Let us not focus on the spec in the eyes of others lest we miss the plank in our own.
Never ever stop talking to the ones you love for that is supreme silliness. When anger and stubbornness rise up between us let us agree to disagree and then turn our anger over to love. I hate to break it to you but none of us is getting out of this alive and while our days are numbered we never know what that number is. Never let bitterness and pride turn to lifelong regret.
Be like my mom. Be understated and simply love and care for one another. And most of all be like my mom by loving and trusting in God.
Imagine those that have gone before you whom you love and miss dearly. Imagine living the kind of life that will be pleasing to God. The kind of life that will allow you to be reunited in heaven with your equivalent of Gram, Sam and now my Mom.
Imagine that and then take great comfort and assurance in that which a great, great woman once told me when she said… “That will be nice.”
Chet DuPont (son)