Hundreds of people showed up to my mother’s funeral. We were lucky the room adjacent to ours wasn’t also booked for a funeral, because we filled the seats in that room in addition to ours. In addition to that, about 40 people had to stand, and that doesn’t count the 50 or so people who came to visitation but didn’t stay for the memorial. My mother was much loved, and we lost her too soon.
I wanted to share the eulogy I gave for my mother yesterday. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write and definitely not the most eloquent, and it was extra intimidating giving it in front of all my former English teachers (her colleagues), but it still means a lot to me.
“My mother was the kindest, most self-sacrificing person I knew. When she was going through chemo the first time, she came back to work early because she didn’t want to miss the joy of teaching her Honors Art students. Some of the students and teachers didn’t even realize she had cancer until months later, because she was always putting on a happy face because she didn’t want to make others worry. She even scheduled her chemotherapy around my senior year golf matches because it meant the world to her to see me play. Even when we were playing at Wicker Park, which wouldn’t allow any spectators to ride carts to follow matches, she would still walk around the perimeter of the park to watch every shot despite the chemo and her bad back. She loved every minute of golf she got to play with me, and we made quite the team when she would invite me for Guest Day. She always joked she brought me to be a ringer, but she really just wanted any excuse to be on the course with me.
My mother was also one of the most creative people I knew. She taught me how to paint before I could even write, and her art room always felt like my second home. I was lucky enough to have her as my art teacher for three years, even though at the time I always complained that she graded me extra hard compared to the other students. Some of my fondest memories are helping her in the art room before and after school, and helping her set up her art shows at the Performing Arts Center, and of course our traditional trips to Dairy Queen afterward. She took me to the Art Institute so many times that now I could give tours, and once she even scheduled a field trip on Take Your Daughter to Work Day just so I could come with a class I wasn’t even in. I loved playing Pictionary with her, even though no one ever let us be us on the same team because they wanted to split up the artists.
Related to her creativity, I always loved her willingness to be a little silly and dance to the beat of her own drummer. Sometimes it was literal dancing, like when every Christmas we would dance around the house with our very confused cat to Nutcracker music, or when I was little and she would chase me around the house humming the Illini fight song faster and faster as I screamed and laughed. She also had a unique vocabulary that I could never tell was Greek or made up gibberish – saklamathes, stadabamba, ohmanoshevitz – which I’m pretty sure is a Jewish wine – hazi, hazos, hazenglitha, hachimanga, yaxamou. Regardless if any of these words are “real,” they’ll always be real to me.
But most of all, my mom knew how to appreciate the little things, even if she had already experienced them a thousand times before. She was always captivated by every firework and plane taking off that she saw. She never got sick of going to a Huey Lewis concert despite effectively seeing him once a year. He was actually the first concert I had ever been to, which isn’t exactly typical for a 13 year old girl. But we listened to him in the car every day when she drove me to and from school, and I’ll always associate him with those happy memories.
It’s difficult to summarize all of the wonderful memories I have of my mom in a small amount of time. But I know her kindness, her creativity, her silliness and her joy will live on in me and everyone else whose lives she touched. And I know I’ll think of her every time I see a firework, hear a Huey Lewis song, hit a golf ball, create art, play pinball, eat Greek food, or drink a margarita. And that’s why she’ll never truly be gone.”