It's such a cliche. However I try to make it a general rule. Because sure as anything the moment you say "I will never...." you end up doing it.
And sometimes you don't even have to say it, or even think it for that matter, and before you know it, you end up doing it.
One thing that I could easily have said "I will never" to in the past is delivering the eulogy at funeral. And more specifically my mother's funeral. Not in my wildest nightmares could I have ever imagined that situation coming to pass. But as the day approached with obvious inevitability and incredible speed, I found myself more and more confident that I would never forgive myself if I didn't.
It's not like I had some profound speech that needed to be said, but I could not leave the task in the hands of just anyone. Okay, okay, I may have a few control issues. I did try to offer the experience to my siblings and children. No one else was chomping at the bit to participate. So I did it.
I didn't exactly sign up to "do the eulogy". When Mom's pastor was making arrangements I said, "I think I'd like to say something." He slotted me in for the eulogy.
I wish I'd known beforehand that I was going to do it. I would have liked to talk to Mom about it. Y'know, get her approval.
There wasn't a lot of planning necessary for her funeral. She had it all decided. Even though she didn't have a lot of time to organize, she dictated exactly what was going to happen. I will cherish the conversation forever... (Notice I didn't say "I will never forget")
We laid on her bed, me crying like a baby while she talked - taking micro naps between sentences.
"There will be three songs. The service will be no more than half an hour." She wagged her finger at me.
"Forty five minutes, tops."
I kissed her hand and held it to my lips.
"Your breath is too hot." She pulled our hands, still clasped, away from my mouth.
"There'll be a song. Then Don will speak. (nap) There'll be another song. Then the eulogy. (nap) Then. Then if you do one of those picture things..." (nap)
"Yes Mom," I think, "I will be doing a slideshow." But I don't correct her wording.
"If you do one of those picture things - keep it short." She opened her eyes, which had been closed during most of the rest of the conversation. "I don't want anyone zoning out."
"And don't get carried away decorating." (nap)
I asked, "What about your 'quilt that you are taking with you'? Can we display that?"
Days earlier, while we were sorting through and designating her quilts, she had pulled one from the stack and snuggled it close to herself and exclaimed, "This one I am taking with me!"
"Well, yes," she responded, "maybe you could drape it on the steps or something. But there's no need for a bunch of fuss. No flowers. (nap) No flowers by request."
She was fading, but added, "Well maybe some roses. Some dark red-burgundy roses would match the quilt." (nap)
It was amazing to witness how weak her body was yet how sharp her mind remained.
She woke from her momentary nap and stated, "I guess that was only two songs. I guess there'll only be two songs."
She continued, "Sing No One Cared For Me Like Jesus. And Safe in the Arms of Jesus." And she succumbed to sleep.
I knew a slideshow was impending during her last few weeks, but I just couldn't bring myself to get it started until after she drew her final breath. I clung to my hope for a miracle. I wish now that I had it finished so I could have shared it with her. I think she would have approved, even though I probably stretched what she would have considered "keeping it short."
They say the two things people fear most in life are death and public speaking. A number of times in the last few years, my mom and I have told each other that we are not afraid to die.
The same cannot be said for public speaking.
The reason my mom was not afraid to die, is because many years ago she put her trust in Jesus. And that trust remained unwavering until her final breath. It’s incredible to witness the peace that comes along with an unwavering faith in Jesus.
Anyway, I think I sorta signed up to “do the eulogy.” For some reason I’ve always understood that “eulogy” meant giving a chronological point-form listing of the major events and places one lived.
But just to be sure, I Googled it. Dictionary dot com says it’s “a speech or writing in praise of a person.”
Well, that should be easy. Because one cannot speak of my mother without speaking praise.
Oh, I could just give you the facts and stand up here and share that my mom, Jean Cutting, was born in Regina Saskatchewan in 1943, married Ed deBalinhard in Nanaimo in 1962 and lived in 14 different places by 1972. They finally settled and grew roots in Prince George in 1976 and moved to Kelowna in 1990. Then in 2006 they moved to Kamloops to bless the lives of those here at Westsyde for her final 6 ½ years.
But what I really want to tell you about my mom could really be summed up in one word. Committed. Really committed.
Whether this meant saying “I do” and then following my father to live in the mountains with 3 toddlers and another on the way, or embracing her step grandchildren and cherishing them with 100% equality with her own flesh and blood.
Everything Mom put her mind to, she excelled in. Because she committed to it.
I remember her first wedding cake. She hadn’t previously been a cake decorator and I’m not sure of the circumstances that had her take on the challenge, but she produced an amazing wedding cake for Beth and Peter.
Who does that? – Just decide they are going to be a cake decorator and start churning out wedding cakes. It was an instant career and throughout my teens our home was filled with cakes – spectacular cakes.
Who remembers the knitting machine? Oh. My. Goodness. The sweaters that thing produced under my mother’s guidance! Hundreds and hundreds of sweaters in the 90’s.
My heart was blessed when my Grandpa came for his final visit with Mom wearing one of her famous sweaters.
When Mom moved on to her next venture, she offered the knitting machine to anyone in the family. I will admit, it crossed my mind to take it. I knew the great masterpieces that machine could turn out. But… I also knew my mother and the level of commitment it took to gain the knowledge to turn out such masterpieces.
My daughter, Brandi, just entering adulthood, was a little more naïve. She said “Yes” to the knitting machine, somehow thinking you sit in front of this contraption and a few hours later were wearing a beautiful sweater.
The machine arrived at our house. Boxes and boxes of machine and attachments and books and thing-a-ma-bobs and wool.
They sat piled up on our basement for a long time.
And we bought our sweaters from Sears.
Who remembers going to church with “Aunt Jean” before she became “Grandma Jean”? Children could hardly wait for the last amen so they could race to gather ‘round Aunt Jean’s chair with their hands outstretched to receive whatever treat she’d stashed in her pockets. Chiclets, licorice, peppermints. There was always something stashed in those pockets, along with a balled up Kleenex.
All of her 51 years of married life, my Mom was teased for her dedication to serving my Dad. Whether it was a buffet dinner or simply a cup of coffee, Mom could be counted on to dish up his plate or fix his coffee and serve it to him.
While I know I don’t quite measure up, I do know my own marriage has been positively impacted by her evident commitment to my Dad.
A few years ago, she was getting my dad a coffee and someone remarked, “He’s perfectly capable of getting his own coffee.”
And she replied, “Yes. I know. But I like doing it. And y’know, I am in my 60’s and I could count on one hand the number of times I have ever had to put fuel in my car.”
51 years ago, my parents committed to love and respect each other. And they remained committed. Really committed.
When my mom committed, it wasn’t always serious and somber. She could be crazy fun when the occasion called for it.
When they lived in Prince George, there was always a lot of weddings and babies being born. Lots and lots of weddings and babies.
It never failed, when there was a shower for the bride or new mom and it was time for eating, the women would all remain polite and resist getting in the line-up for food.
My mom took it upon herself to prove this polite restraint was ridiculous.
It soon became customary to let the bride or new mom go first and then the two women sitting on either side of Mom would get a friendly slap on the thigh and she’s say “Mark, Set, Go!” And the race was on as the 3 of them would scramble across the room to be next in line at the food table. That would always break the ice for the rest of the room to follow suit.
The women all secretly hoped they’d get to sit next to mom at those showers. They said it was so they could cheat off her during those silly little shower games. But I knew. They just wanted to scramble first for the food line.
I could write a book (and one day I might) about my “fun mom”. Fifty year old women, to this day, still speak of our childhood games of hide ‘n seek in the dark house, while Mom chased us around with a giant wooden spoon. (I think that spoon started out as Daniel’s spankin’ spoon)
During her years working at Value Village, she put enormous effort into her dress-up days. There’s an entire photo album back there dedicated to it.
Mom always had a predominant hobby that seemed to cycle through stages. There was a time between the knitting machine years and the quilting era when craft production took a break.
And Gameboy was discovered. Yes, Grandma Jean was a Gamer for a couple of years. Betcha didn’t know that about my mom, did ya.
I remember being at Dad & Mom’s in Kelowna in 2002 – just 11 years ago. She had just painted and was in the process of decorating their spare room. She was on the hunt for “the perfect quilt” to finish it off. We searched every store in town – even Value Village.
She finally settled on a comforter she found at Saan Store. And that comforter became known as “the perfect quilt”. Even the room was often referred to as “the perfect quilt” room.
However, my mom, being my mom, knew in her heart that a mass produced comforter churned out in China really couldn't justifiably remain “the perfect quilt” for long. And so began her quest for quilting knowledge.
I’m sure if you know anything at all about my mom you know she committed to quilting. Just look around the room and you’ll see samples of it. She committed to quilting. Really committed. And excelled.
My mom took pictures of every quilt she made.
Connie, Jennifer and I made copies of those pictures to share with you today. Back on that table are albums containing quilts, wall hangings and table covers. We quit filling albums when we got to 200 photos. Yes, my mom committed to quilting. Really committed.
Whenever my parents moved to a new town or would start to get settled into a new church, my mom would always say, “Oh, I think I’ll just sit back and not get so involved.” And we would snicker silently.
And anyone who belongs to one of these churches will have to agree with me, if my mom committed to the church, she committed to the church.
It was never long before she was organizing the kitchen and decorating the sanctuary.
Those of you who have attended Alpha here at Westsyde know that when my Mom “set up for Alpha” she didn’t just arrange tables and chairs. She committed to the program with incredible creativity.
That’s just who she was. My committed Mom. My really, really committed Mom.
And she will be terribly missed.