Storytelling at Work
July 28, 2021
To My Mother on the Day of Her Funeral

Barney&Syl Wedding cropped 2 jpeg.jpg

NOTE: The following eulogy I read at my mother's funeral 18 years ago. Ten minutes ago I rediscovered it, quite by accident. I offer it to you now in honor of all our mothers.

What can I say about my mother -- the one I called "mom" and "mommy" and "ma" and "Sylvie" -- the one through whom I was born, who fed me with her own blood before I entered the world?

There is something about the mother/son relationship that can never be explained -- a relationship that is way more about feeling than thinking -- and I thank my mother for awakening feeling in me, even when she was unaware of it in her self.

I have very good memories of my mother -- the woman you came here to honor today -- not so much for the things she did, but for the being she was, an advocate for love, appreciation, and simplicity.

I remember her singing in the sisterhood. I remember being proud of her for having the courage to go out on stage in front of all those people and actually belt out a song she wrote herself -- a way to make people feel better about themselves even for just a moment. I remember her painting and playing the piano and waiting for me to come home from school and completing all those New York Times crossword puzzles on lazy Sunday afternoons as if she was somehow deciphering the secret of life right there on the couch in our den, the dog at her feet and me, quiet nearby, somehow able to dream big because of it all.

I remember her veal parmegiana and the one canasta night each week with her friends -- some of whom are here today -- the husbands at work, the women at play, all talking and smoking at once and me, the son somehow able to sleep more deeply in the next room, knowing all those Jewish mothers were in the house, enjoying each other, no men around to criticize them.

I learned a lot from my mother though she would never think of herself as a teacher. Her life has infused me -- and it's all about love... and the ability to be alone... and serve without thought of return. Oh yes, and words!

Sometimes, she would fall asleep with the light on, next to my father, crossword puzzle and pencil in hand, and I would walk the hallway from my room to hers, grab her ankles and pull her down just enough so she wouldn't get a crick in her neck. Then I'd turn out the light, a role reversal of sorts, me the father, her the child.

I loved helping her with her puzzles, filling in a word she didn't know as she grew older, never once giving up her weekly ritual of going to the beauty parlor and getting her hair done, enough hairspray in it to withstand a tornado or two.

And yes, despite her gift of intuitive knowing, there was a lot my mother did not know and never understood -- why I grew my hair long, why I lived in a tent in the forest, why I became a vegetarian, or married a shiksa, or followed that young boy Guru from India.

On and on and on it goes... one generation differentiating itself from the other. And yet, throughout it all, I felt her mother love, the oasis we all want to come home to and drink from -- that safe haven mothers find so easy to offer their children.

In the face of eternity my mother has gone just a little bit sooner than the rest of us. All of us will follow suit. It is the way of life. We are born. We live. We die. It can be no other way. We will all have our moment with our Maker, as my mother has just had hers.

My wish for all of us remaining here is that the moment with our Maker happens now -- while we are alive. We do not have to physically die to experience our Maker. That power is here with us in this room. Today. Always is. Always was. Always will be.

The details of my mother's life -- and ours -- are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't really matter what we accomplish, but how -- and where we are coming from when we do anything at all.

That's the message I get from my mother. That and the sacredness of breath. What came so hard for her in these last days, all of us in this room still have, as well as a chance to savor it.

What's a six letter word for love? How about "Sylvia" for starters?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 28, 2021 08:28 PM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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