Stompin' on the Terra

"And he said, 'Stomp upon the Terra.'" – Lord Buckley (via Hunter Thompson)

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Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts

11 October 2012

Eulogy For My Mother

NOTE: Please keep in mind that this was written to be spoken, so there are constructs and punctuation that aren't exactly legit (not that I could see the punctuation through my tears).

I've been struggling with what to say today. When I did this 27 years ago following my brother's passing, it was clear what to do: tell a few funny Scott stories and try to lessen the pain of the moment. But I couldn't decide what approach to take for Mom. Did I want to recall humorous episodes or muse on how much Mom meant to me?

I was so torn that at first I thought I'd simply be a spectator today. But the outpouring of love for Mom, and the love and support shown to me by my friends these past few days has been so amazing that I realized I had to say something. But what?

And then I realized: the outpouring of love and support that I've witnessed this week was a reflection of the love and support and joy that Mom had been giving out her whole life. To EVERYONE in her life. What she'd put out into the universe was now coming back ten-fold to her family and friends. And to me.

Mom's greatest attribute was her unbounded capacity to embody love and joy. As I've spent the past few evenings scanning photos of Mom, the one thing that struck me is how happy she is in every single photo. Her loving kindness JUMPS out of the photos.

We all have memories of Mom's joyous energy and how with that energy she enabled us to surpass even our own expectations. It was the love and joy that she brought to her career that made her so beloved in what can be a pretty tough industry. It was that love and joy that prompted her to support and encourage so many people in whatever endeavor they might undertake. And it was with the love and joy that she lived and embodied that she showed me how to be a better, happier person.

Mom never lectured. She didn't preach. She didn't mandate. That wasn't her style. Instead, she'd share her thoughts and let me sort things out for myself. She led by quiet example, living a life full of optimism. Optimism. How many people remember her phone-call sign-offs? Do you remember? "Onwards and upwards!"

So I was going to say that that joy, that optimism, is what I'm going to miss about Mom. But upon seeing friends last night I realized that I'm not going to miss those things at all because I'm going to inculcate that joy into MY life. To BE the person that Mom modeled for me every day of my life. The ease with which she loved, the joy she embodied…these are traits that I'm going to make core to MY life going forward. Not necessarily as a tribute to Mom, but rather because I believe that all along she was trying to show me how to live a happier, better, more fulfilling life. Always giving…that was Mom. She spent her entire life showing me, and everyone else, a better way to live.

One anecdote:
It's that joy and optimism and love, clearly, that prompted Mom to leave her engagement ring…to me. I love that. Think about that for just a second and you'll see the humor -- but also, again, the love and hope and optimism -- in her act.

It's that love and hope and joy and optimism that I'm going to seek to make the key part of the rest of my life. Being a happier, better person is the least this unapologetic mama's boy can do to say "thank you" and "I love you" to his mother.

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09 October 2012

An Open Thank-You Letter

I'm back now. At least for the time being. And to be honest: it feels good. I know there are a couple of hectic days to come, and a lot of real work in the weeks and months ahead, but it's good to be back home again after a long, draining few days.

By home I mean: my desk in my apartment. At the keyboard. Writing.

And my first writing task is to craft this thank-you letter to all my friends, old and recent, who have reached out so kindly and lovingly in the past couple of days. The outpouring of love and support has been truly overwhelming. Truly overwhelming. I fancy myself a wordsmith, but words cannot convey how grateful I am to you all. You've comforted and warmed me so much, and the feeling of love and caring has helped soften the heart of even this grizzled curmudgeon. Thank you all so, so much. I will be in touch with you all in the near future. Until then...

One of my personal goals that's grown out of the spiritual path I've tried to cultivate in recent years has been a desire to live more in my heart, in my emotions. That goal came as a result of what I felt was a hardening of the heart that occurred over the years since my brother's death in 1985. In that time, I'd become inured to grief and heartache -- I'd become the image that many have of me: the macho loner surfer/sailor/outdoorsman -- or so I thought. But that's not who I was or am, really, and it's that approach to life and its eventual end that stunted my emotional growth for the 27 years since. I mean, for cryin' out loud: I'm 46 and single, never married and no kids, and I've lived in NINE(!) different states and a couple of foreign countries (when I wasn't out vagabonding around) since college. Talk about an emotional cripple! Crikey! Never any roots, any connections, for this guy!

But I've been trying to grow out of that (what I feel is a) childish, immature approach to life. It's been a slow, laborious and not-yet-successful process. And it's not to say the process is going to cease my wanderlust and travel.

But I am going to work to ensure the passing of my mother on Sunday proves to be the bursting dam to make true spiritual growth happen. It's what she would have wanted.

Following my brother's death, a lot of things that should have happened didn't. This then-19-year-old, and all of the rest of his family, should have gone into therapy…lots and lots of therapy. That didn't happen because that's not how we did things. We were tougher than that. We persevered, we got back to work, we moved on. Yeah, right.

That's NOT going to happen now. I've given a lot of thought to this (while spending all day yesterday driving my car back from Baltimore, which is where I'd left it when my father called me Saturday with the news of my mother's accident) and I plan to write my way through this time. It starts with this letter and will continue for I don't know how long. I'm going to chronicle the events and thoughts -- and most importantly, the emotions -- of the coming days, weeks and months, and I'm going to be completely open. And a lot of that openness is going to find its way here, to this blog. You've been warned.

We'll see how open that which I publish really is; after all, I'm an editor: cutting things out is what I do. But I will be writing it all, and I'm hopeful a lot of good -- writing, spiritual progress, psychological therapy -- will come from it.

So to start the process off I say again: thank you. To all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and support. These past three days have been brutal and I'm pretty cried out for the time being, but I am coping. There's still a lot of work still to be done, and I'm hopeful I can help my family, and my mother's friends, as we all seek to move forward in my mother's absence.

And I hope to finally become the better person my mother made clear she believed I was all along.

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