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A Pastor Searches for Words to Say at His Mother’s Funeral

After years of officiating at services for others, struggling to make sense of his own loss.

Mourning a mother
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As a pastor, I have officiated at many funeral and graveside services. I remember the service of a woman who had died from cancer in her early fifties. When it was time for her children to share a few words, her son glanced at the audience in loss and in disbelief. “You are never prepared to talk at your mother’s funeral,” he said. Those words have stayed with me. 

A few weeks ago, it was time for me talk at my mother’s funeral. I had to dig deep to find the words to describe the quiet, kind, graceful, loving woman who raised me and shaped who I am today. I was trying to make sense of the pain and the hole in my heart as thoughts crowded in, sometimes in slow motion. I remembered the last conversation we had two days before the stroke that ended her life. I had asked about her recent doctor’s appointment, and she was in good spirits, upbeat about the visit. She was about to start physical rehab at home to ease the muscle pain around her hip.  

What could I say in just a few minutes that conveyed the essence of her humanity, faith and love? One of my earliest memories is Mom caring for me when I had a bad case of chickenpox. She put my feet in a pail with cool water to relieve the itch and comfort me. She helped me and my siblings with our homework at the kitchen table and never missed a teacher-parent conference. Because of her, we all graduated from college as did her six grandkids. She was our first and lifetime cheerleader, inspiring us to succeed in life and live out our faith. 

What impressed me most was how Mom herself lived her faith. She was a woman of few words, letting her actions do the talking. She believed that God worked all things for good for those who loved Him. She knew firsthand what this meant in her life. When Mom was four, her mother died. At 11, she came to the United States from Puerto Rico with her grandmother to start a new life. At 16, she had rheumatic fever which put her in the hospital for a year and damaged her heart. Mom kept her wedding vows to my dad for 62 years, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”    

There is a proverb that sums up what I would say today about my mother, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” You are that, Mom, and more. Until we meet again, Mother dearest, rest in peace.

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