Eulogy for My Mother

by cindy

Delivered on April 23, 2010


Good morning,

On behalf of my father, my sisters and brothers, and my entire family, I would like to thank you for the respect you have shown my mother and the love you have shown us by your presence here today. We have been deeply touched by the outpouring of care, not just today, not just in the last week, but throughout this journey of Mom’s illness.

So many of you have lent us your support with offers of meals, offers of transportation, and offers of assistance in every way imaginable. We truly appreciate every visit, each call, and every card or email. This has been a difficult journey but we have never felt really alone. Though at this moment our spirits are sad and our boots are heavy, we are not without a deep appreciation for the blessings we have been given.

It is an honor to stand here today, to share with you some of the memories of the woman for whom we are gathered, my mother, Mary Kirk Randolph. I would like to share some stories with you but please understand that these stories do not come from me alone.

You see, we knew from the beginning how this journey was going to end. We didn’t know when, but we knew that this cancer, this insidious disease, was going to claim the person we loved so much.

As a family, we had already suffered years ago the sudden, unexpected loss of my older sister Pam. We knew from that tragedy how difficult it is to be left with words unspoken and feelings unshared.

With Mom, we realized that in the midst of impending grief we had been given a gift: we had the time and the opportunity to share not just with Mom but with Dad too so many things we had held in our heads and carried in our hearts.

What began as a series of email exchanges between my siblings and me soon grew to include our spouses, affectionately known as the outlaws, and the grandchildren as well.

It developed into a book, titled for lack of greater imagination, “The List”. This compilation began with a simple-but-significant series of thank-yous written in our individual manners and styles. As I share a few with you, please understand that the me’s and the my’s belong not just to me, but to all who contributed their thoughts. And as I share with you our images and our memories, I hope it will be easy for you to understand exactly how blessed we were to grow up in the arms of this woman.

“Thank you for always making cupcakes, tuna salad, Daniel Boone chicken, log cabin toast, and buttery Christmas cookies.”

“Thank you for instilling good manners in my husband; for hugging me so tight it felt like my rib cage was going to break; for picking up seashells for me on every trip to the beach; for sharing your love of classical music…and bacon.”

“Thank you for teaching me the game of bridge, for never turning down a game of Scrabble, for teaching me how to cross-stitch, for teaching me how to sew even though the Barbie doll patterns gave both of us headaches.”

“The List” continued with a collection of quotes:

“There’s no such thing as too much butter!”

“Bless your little pointed head!”


“Mom, how do you know you’re in love?” “You’ll just know.”

As we shared our thoughts, we realized the enormity of the lessons we had been taught over the years and our gratitude to both of our parents exploded over the internet and onto the pages of our computers.

“Swimming was important to me. We were not champions but we tried our best. I remember Mom sitting on the deck with other parents. She was cheering us on but always maintained her composure. Other parents were badgering but I remember Mom’s ability to encourage and support but remain above the fray. True class. True Mom.”

“For my fifth grade Social Studies project, my topic was on my family tree. You and Poppy sat down with me and told me our whole family history, all the way from the Mayflower.”

“Mom trained for a period of time at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, a mental hospital in Baltimore. She told me the story of an elderly lady who was catatonic, unable to speak. Mom was assigned to her room as a nursing student. As she worked in the room, changing bed linens and attending to the patient’s needs, Mom would call this lady by name and talk to her about simple things—the weather or the birds outside or such. Mom didn’t know if the lady heard her or even understood her, but she continued to have conversations nonetheless. On her last day in that service, Mom told the lady that this was her last day, that she was leaving to get married and would eventually be moving away. As Mom turned to leave, she heard a voice—this patient’s voice—saying simply, “Be happy”. Stunned, Mom whirled around only to see the patient’s head droop back down. She realized that every word had been heard—and appreciated. It was a lesson about how to treat every person, regardless of circumstance. And it was an indication of Mom’s gift of kindness, a gift she shared everywhere she went.”

My sister Barbie recently wrote this,

“We are the luckiest kids alive to have had her as our mother. We have been wrapped completely in her love, her warmth, good nature and always positive attitude. She embraced youth and youthful things and a lifestyle that belied her age. She had never-ending patience. She always demonstrated the right balance of discipline, support, respect, positive reinforcement and encouragement without fail. I think that Mom held very intensely the relationship with her parents due to their premature deaths. Those values and virtues have formed and shaped each one of us, particularly the way we raise our kids and in the manner with which we treat others. Mom was very proud of that. This was her very personal legacy.”

A very important part of this legacy was her ability to command respect. My favorite story of my childhood and my mother is this:

At the end of a day of swimming, be it at the pool or the lake, Mom would approach the edge of the water and call to us—always in order of birth ‘Pam! Cindy! Eddie! Barbie Becky David!’—and tell us it was time to get out and go home.

Invariably, our chorus of whining would begin and she would agree to “ten more minutes and not one minute more!”. Some fifteen or twenty minutes later, she would come to the edge of the water and, again, in order of birth, call for us to come out and dry off. Naturally the chorus of whining and begging would begin anew. At this point, Mom would begin to don her rubber swim cap, deftly tucking her hair up and under it, and saying firmly “It’s time to go RIGHT NOW. DON’T MAKE ME COME IN THERE AND GET YOU!” Those words, with all their implied threat, sent six children scrambling for shore.

Fact was—and this was something we learned only after we had all reached adulthood—Mom could never swim. Not one stroke. She had never lied, really. We just failed to call her bluff.

My mother gifted us in many ways. Even in her final days she continued to show us the power of her strength of will. It appalled her toward the end to be so weakened, unable to perform the simplest, most basic tasks. Yes, in spite of what must have been extraordinary frustration, she never let her anger show. She was positive in her thoughts, gracious in her manner, appreciative in her actions. She was forever A LADY.

Over these last few months, we were given one more gift from our parents. It is not something they planned to give us as, in truth, the gift was from each to the other. Often, the most significant gifts are those we learn from observation alone.

You see, as Mom’s illness progressed, we had the opportunity to observe their deep and abiding love for each other. Particularly when faced with the inevitability of this disease, their concerns for the well-being of the other were demonstrated daily. Dad would spend hours, whether in the hospital or at their home, simply sitting and holding her hand. His touch comforted her more than anything else.

“She like me to hold her hand,” he told me. “We don’t need to share words. We just need to be near each other.”

For over sixty-five years they have been each other’s rock. They have been partners in raising six children. They have been partners in their commitment to family, to this community, to the world at large. Have they disagreed on things? Oh yes, I am quite certain they have. But they never failed to reconnect, to regroup, to compromise, and to continue their commitment to each other and their life together.

Theirs has been an amazing love story. From the very first date to the very last breath, through moments of despair to times of exhilaration, it has been their love for each other that made US strong.

It is the blessing of a long life to be present for many magnificent moments—witnessing the graduations of children, attending their weddings, celebrating the births of grandchildren, sharing those weddings, rejoicing in the birth of a great-grandchild.

It is the blessing of a long life to observe the ones you love overcome hurdles or work to achieve goals, sometimes in the face of great adversity.

It is the blessing of a long life to know that those you love more than anything will continue to work to make you proud.

I think my mother knew that in all of our efforts, more than anything else, we wanted to make her proud.

That will not ever change.

I would like to believe that at this moment, my mother has glanced at our gathering and smiled.

I believe, however, that she hasn’t really lingered here, allowing us to remember her on our own.

I believe that she trusts us to live the lessons she shared.

I believe that she is, at this moment, embraced within the arms of that one whom she lost so many years ago, one whose turn it now is to hold her and laugh with her.

It is their turn and I believe that they are both very, very happy.

We will forever miss her presence at milestones yet to come. We have weddings yet to plan, babies yet to be born, and children yet to be named. We have goals yet to be achieved, honors yet to be bestowed, stories yet to be written and yet to be shared.

And we have laughter yet to be used to heal our souls.

To quote a favorite author:

“…Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark…not a scar, no visible sign…To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in our very skin.”

Some may say that at times such as this that memories are all we have.

Memories are huge. Memories are to be cherished…and valued…and loved…and shared.

Memories and the love which gave them life are indeed in our very skin.


Cynthia R. Owens