First written for mom at her passing in August 2008. Miss you, you little minx. Happy Mother’s Day.

Marian “Mary” Josephine (Houghton) Griffith, 2/25/34 – 8/27/08

Mary and Gilbert, 1953

Mary and Gilbert, 1953

Mom asked me several years ago to write her eulogy. Being who I am and being who she was, I thought that was a bit maudlin, but I worked on it off and on. Not out of a death denial—my family has always had a realistic approach to the end of our lives—more from not really knowing where to start.

I couldn’t finish it for the longest time. I kept looking for a key, one singular thing, that I could say about Mom that would, perhaps, summarize her in the clearest way. The last ten days of her battle with lung cancer gave me that.

Mom was one of the most complex people I’ve ever known. There were times in our lives where her humor was so amazing that she floored you with it. Other times, her obstinance could be infuriating.

That final week as Mom had moments of lucidity and coherence, she found time to pa-ting Wojo (my younger brother) in the back of the head and tell him he was dumb, flip the opposite way to lay on the couch from what PKS (kid sister) was helping her to do and then say ha, ha ha, at Joanne’s shock, to answer, when Seester (older sister) asked if Mom knew who she was, with “Yes, you are a mother,” and to call Dad, “Honey,” and answer that she loved him every time he greeted her with, “Hi, Honey.”

And for me? Mom taught me how to be compassionate and caring in a way that I had only abstractly understood up until those days. It was in her responding to my voice when I would speak to her, in allowing me to ask forgiveness for not being a better daughter and telling me it’s okay, in hugging me so tightly the day before she died that I thought I was caught in a vice, and finally the day I had my head on her breast so that I could listen to her heart, saying very clearly to me: “Get off my chest!”

She taught me to keep laughing.

There were moments that last week when Dad would speak to her and she would instantly react to his voice when the rest of us couldn’t get through to her. They would have been married for 57 years just a few days later and with that kind of time put in, I guess even ALS couldn’t keep her from hearing the sounds of love and caring in Dad’s voice.

There is a poem I wrote for my mother when I was in college. For every one of you who saw mom laugh until she would fall into Silent-Laugh-Mode, I think this sums her up quite well:

When my mother laughs,
her face folds itself into a smile;
teeth are revealed,
lips curve upward,
cheeks expand,
eyes crinkle at their edges.
The laugh emerges from deep inside her throat,
full of heartiness.
Sometimes, if the tale told is extreme,
tears flow down her face and
anyone in her company cannot help but find her contagious.
My mother’s laugh soothed many fears in my childhood
and reassures me that life is to be taken lightly in my adulthood.

In making us smile with head pa-tings and other such things, Mom shared great laughter with us and allowed us to feel joy for her as she left us and joined God.

To close, this is a favorite Bible passage: John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Mom’s family truly believes that she flew into the light on angel’s wings.

Happy Mother’s Day, mumsey.