Eulogy for my mom

Patsy Virginia (Thigpen) Namer
December 28, 1935 – November 30, 2009

When my grandmother died a lot of people came to her funeral in Franklinton, LA to mourn my beloved Mama Mae. However when the preacher got up to give her eulogy he spoke more about god than about Mama Mae and afterwards my mom and I lamented how at my grandmother’s own funeral she was given little air time even though she was the reason we were all there.

I vowed that I would get up and speak at my mother’s funeral and I’m sad to say here I am.

One of the many things that I would have said at my grandmother’s funeral is that my grandmother had come from 13 children, had had five of her own, and had many grandchildren and great grandchildren and even great great grandchildren but she never forgot to send me, one of her many grandchildren, a birthday card – with $5 in it. Every year no matter where I was living on or around my birthday, Mama Mae’s card would appear with another five dollar bill.

One time I was doing a phone interview with my grandmother asking her about her life. Most of you know that I’m an investigative reporter but the habit started earlier than my career. I called and asked my grandmother if she had been happy in her life. She said no. And I was floored. But then she added well I’d have to say that my children and their children have supplied me with a good deal of happiness.

It’s the same thing my mother would tell me many times during my life – that her children, all six of us, and their children and their children’s children were what had given her happiness.

I was thinking about how to sum up my mother’s life on this occasion. Most everyone here knew and loved my mother. But when I was young and compared her to other mothers I was always puzzled. Take for instance, the television mothers on Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver who were women in starched dresses with aprons holding a tray of homemade cookies while my mother was usually decked out in feathers wearing kitten heels.

While my grandmother remembered every single one of my birthdays, my mother sometimes did not or sometimes did not show up for the special events or the special occasions. Yet, in her own way, my mom was always there.

I used to be frustrated that my mom hadn’t done what she really wanted to in her life  – she always pined to go home to Franklinton and see her mother no matter where we were living but she didn’t, she always wanted to plant a garden but we moved around too much, she was always going to cook that special dish but most times it didn’t happen and yet my mom told me from the time I could crawl that I could be or do anything I wanted to with my life.

I often railed at my mother for the choices she made in her life – the weird people she would seem to befriend, the jobs with ridiculous hours or commutes, the fireplace she bought me when she had not a penny, yet my mom never judged me for the choices I made in my life, ever.

My mom was loathe to leave her house most of the time instead she preferred the security of her familiar space, yet she always encouraged me to see the world and couldn’t wait to hear about all the places I have been.

And though my mother had few friends and rarely saw other people with any regularity, turning down my, even my sister in law’s and other’s pleas for lunch dates, preferring to stay in her home than go out, still she never knew a stranger.

In sum, my mother was what we call an enigma, she didn’t suffer reality easily but she had a huge heart and loved even those who had forsaken her and through her lens I saw the world slightly different, slightly askew, but always interesting. Although she had her own demons she taught me to have self-confidence and then spent the rest of my life praising this quality in me.

There were many lessons my mother taught me – she taught me how to dance with abandon. She taught me how to blow huge bubble gum bubbles. She taught me how to love profoundly. And most of all she taught me unconditional love.

During the past months, in making decisions for how to honor my mother, whether in a Jewish cemetery in New Orleans, or in a non-Jewish cemetery in Franklinton, the question of religion came up several times since my mother was raised Baptist but converted to Judaism when she married my father,

I found myself looking at the larger picture of who my mother was, outside of one doctrine or another, outside of who she wasn’t to see who she was and I can remember in 2001 after a horrible surgery when we thought she wasn’t going to make it and she had a tube down her throat and she was trying to say something to me and I leaned in and she whispered feebly, “I thank god every day for you.”

And if I had the luxury of telling my mother one thing today, it would be that I thank god every day for her too.

Where my mother was just like my grandmother was that she abhorred confrontation, she hated to argue, she absolutely hated conflict. She preferred to see the world through rose-colored or rather chardonnay colored glasses.

But as to what religion my mother believed in, I think I can safely say that love was my mom’s religion.

Before we head across the lake to my mother’s family cemetery in Franklinton, I’d like to play this song in honor of my mother, in honor of the spirit in which she lived, in honor of the spirit of New Orleans, the city she loved.

Love is my Religion

4 Responses to “Eulogy for my mom”

  1. david Says:

    The biggest problem about blogs and the internet in general is that there is more misinformation than not. Sort of like “believe none of what you hear, some and none of what you see”, (Marvin Gaye). People can and do easily take on any persona they wish in order to be someone they usually are not. Just because someone says or in this case writes something does not mean it is true. Facts can and are easily distorted or omitted all together. Truth is, only the people that know the truth, know the truth. This has nothing to do with perspective either. Truth is absolute. Perspective can be manipulated. In the end, these non-truths are uncovered. They then reveal the true people behind the veils that they create on the internet. All is held up to the light and the truth comes shining through. What is pitiful and pathetic is that the people behind the veils feel so little of themselves that they have to use the veils in the first place. It’s dark and cold, out of the light, a very lonely place. Always having to remember what you’ve said in order to defend it at any moment. Ahh, but therein lies the beauty of the internet, from perspective, you really don’t have to defend yourself there, do you? Only in reality. But the internet isn’t real, is it?

  2. Rachel Says:

    I was listening to a philosopher discuss suicide the other day and there seemed to be a consensus in the philosophical world that we ascribe meaning to life’s events and that suicide comes from not being able to imbue our life with meaning.

    You wrote about the eulogy I gave for my mother – that’s my reality, not yours, nor will it ever be your or anyone else’s reality – it is only mine, no matter where it is conveyed.

  3. Dear Mom, I Miss You | Says:

    […] I stood to speak, and my sister shouted, “You killed our mother!” I wrote the eulogy here and her husband commented that I made it up. I can look back on it now and see the humor in the […]

  4. Mudd Says:

    No words.
    Just love.

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