Today I finally return to my blog after an absence of more than two years. I never quite got back on track with my writing since I wrote about missing my meds (see Of Pills and Chips) . The reasons why I haven’t been writing are difficult for me to understand and write about right now but I will get to that another time. Back to this entry...
I write this on Mother’s Day with some sadness and grief because my Mother died in March of this year. This is the first Mother’s Day without her so I feel that it is fitting for me to pay tribute to her. I could say much, but I’ve decided to include my eulogy from her funeral instead. Read on...
Eulogy For Mom
March 10, 2018
October 16, 1936 – March 3, 2018
I could say much about sweet childhood memories of Mom. I’ve gained much and learned much from her. She taught me caring and compassion and acceptance. She gave me a lifelong love of music by her diverse tastes (and the wonderful sound system that Dad built for her). She encouraged a love of learning and reading in all of us.
She made bread and filled the house with heavenly bliss. She even once made me my very own pie that I could eat as fast or as slow as I wanted. Of course I went for the fast option. As a teen, Mom helped me get the hippie look I wanted by embroidering my jean jacket and sewing inserts into my bellbottoms to make them massively wide.
I wandered away a lot when I was a young boy and caused Mom much grief on many occasions. Then I did the same thing again in my teens, but I remember how she didn’t get angry, but loved and accepted me through those difficult years. I have much to celebrate for having such a wonderful mother.
However, besides our familial bond, Mom and I shared another connection. We shared the experience of having a mental illness. When I was about 10, Mom had her first bipolar episode and ended up hospitalized. Some thirty years later, I had the same experience.
She had always been open about her illness and her struggles because she wanted others like her to know that they were not alone. She was an advocate when she had the chance. In 1994, she wrote a piece to be shared with her church family and her closing words were:
“We don’t ask you to understand us, because we don’t understand ourselves. We do ask that you allow us to be open with you without fearing your withdrawal or pulling away from us. Please, we ask you – please accept us as we are.”
Mom was always open about having bipolar disorder so that helped me feel less shame and less of the stigma when I went for help and was diagnosed as bipolar as well. Over the years I felt her support and understanding in ways that others couldn’t get across. She was living with it and surviving so I could too.
Many years ago, I was going through a particularly long and rough time of depression and was plagued by suicidal thoughts. In the recent past, those intense urges had led me to a suicide attempt, so I was very anxious and afraid of falling into a repeat attempt. At one point during that time, I went to visit my parents.
When my Dad was out in the workshop, Mom told me a very short but powerful story. She told me of a time in the mid-90s when she was deep in the excruciating pain of intense depression. She didn’t want to die but she needed the pain to stop and she got to the place where suicide seemed the only choice.
Details aren’t appropriate now, but suffice to say, she gave me a very vivid picture of the plan she had made and how the scene would look afterwards. She told me of how she had waited for the right chance. When the day came, she was executing her plan to kill herself, when at the final moment, just as she was about to make the final plunge, she suddenly thought of me. She thought, “If I do this, Terry will think it’s okay to do it to himself. And that’s not okay.” That thought stopped her from taking the last step.
As she finished her story, she stopped and leaned in a little closer to me in a very uncharacteristic way – getting in my face a bit, and she said, “It’s never okay, you know.” I don’t remember if she said anymore at the time and she never mentioned it to me again. She didn’t need to. The vivid details of the story and the picture I had in my head of the scene afterwards - well those had their effect. I made a silent pact then and there, that I would never disrespect her choice to stay alive; that I would never again attempt to take my own life.
My part of that pact was put to the test more than I care to think, and sometimes I was convinced everyone would be better off without me. I would think about my suicide and even plan, but never again went any further because my Mom’s words stuck with me: “It’s never okay, you know.” Mom taught me a lot about accepting myself and carrying on even with the troubling thoughts and urges to suicide. She taught me by example, by her persistence and patience, that I would come through it.
Now she’s come through all that and Alzheimer’s Disease too. She’s left a legacy behind her that might not be all that visible. She’s left others with a little less fear and more understanding of bipolar disorder by her openness. She’s left encouragement by her example of persistence and making it through. She’s left behind a legacy of caring and compassion.
One last fond memory: A couple years ago, walking up to the bus depot where I was off on a trip back home I had an impulse that I hesitated to act on. Now especially, I’m so glad I acted and took her hand as we walked, even swinging our arms a bit and exchanging a look of “this is funny, but it’s nice”. We got there too soon and the moment was over.
Now that momentary thing called life that we all have is over for Mom. It’s all those moments that add up to her presence as we carry on without her, but with all those moments and memories intact. I think of her now as we let go of each others hands. Goodbye Mom.
Thanks for reading. In the meantime, until next time, I wish you wellness.