My mother sadly passed away August 23rd. Originally for her memorial service I wanted to just sit there and let it pass by. After a couple weeks though I had the feeling that I should be the one to give her eulogy. Below is that eulogy.
In all honesty I have no idea what to say. Well that’s not true because for the last two weeks it’s been hard to not think about my mother and what she has meant to me. Rather I don’t know how to say it in a way that won’t come across as rambling or go on for days. And I mean literal days, that isn’t figurative. How does one compartmentalize the life of 62 years into a ten minute talk and not leave out anything? It’s impossible, especially when the person you are talking about is your closest friend, greatest ally, and strongest support. But I am going to try and do my best.
Sandra was born in 1952 in Spokane, WA to Allen and Elaine Bushman. He was in the Air Force and moved around a lot so it’s really a good thing she had four brothers and a sister to keep her grounded. Her mother was sick a lot of the time and as such Sandy spent a lot of time taking care of her younger siblings, though she definitely favored her youngest brother Robert over Beverly who was just too cute and girly and pretty much everything my mom wasn’t.
She married my dad Ralph in 1970 when she was just 18 and while her mothering instincts were there I was stubborn and didn’t show up until 1980. Due to the many struggles with her pregnancy and her many medical ailments I was also the last of her children, but that never stopped her from spreading her love and care out to her many nieces and nephews or even my many friends growing up. She was always there with an ear to listen and as much support as she could give, usually far beyond her means to actually give.
Not to go off on a tangent but I’m absolutely going to go off on a tangent here, that’s the one thing she was ALWAYS doing – giving far beyond her means to give. Not even with just me or my relatives, but with EVERYONE. She bought winter coats for my friends who couldn’t afford them, she bought new shoes for my friends growing up when they couldn’t afford to buy new shoes. While living in a small two bedroom apartment my cousin Tenea came and lived with us for months because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. My mom quit her job and uprooted her entire life in Lewiston just because she felt that my cousin Rob would be a good influence on me. And that’s just a few things I could think of off the top of my head. In her years in various assisted living homes there was not a single Christmas that passed where she didn’t take the time to personally address a Christmas card to every single resident in the various facilities that she lived in, whether she knew them or not, just to make sure they got a Christmas card and knew that someone was thinking of them and knew they existed. If I were to leave you with one lesson to learn from my mother it would be to give always.
She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1983 and I’m really only saying that because it’s a fact that we have to talk about and it’s pertinent to the story of her life so leaving it out would be doing a disservice to the fact that they gave her 10 years to live from that point and if we are doing math she survived thirty two, but at the same time that disease wasn’t who she was just something that she had so this is also the last time I am going to talk about it.
My parents divorced in 1988 and while that’s another sad thing that I wish I didn’t have to include in this it’s is also part of what made my mom so amazing and helped us forge the relationship that we had, have - I honestly don’t know if I should use past tense there or not but you get the point. She was both mother and father to a little boy struggling to find his own place in this world dealing with her own struggles the disease that shall not be named, from here on out if I have to talk about it I will just call it Voldemort. Looking back at it, and If I were to risk two pop culture references that would have gone completely over my mom’s adorable head in a row, it’s like Tupac Shakur said “I finally understand for a woman it ain’t easy tryin to raise a man.” But she once again utilized strengths beyond her means and I can honestly tell you that if I were a child from a traditional family I would not be the man I am today and it is all thanks to her. If I were to leave you with a second lesson to learn from my mother it would be that we all have the ability inside of us to transform the lives of those around us no matter our weaknesses and struggles.
Not content with just taking care of an annoying brat of a kid, oh trust me if you knew me then you could testify to the accuracy of that sentiment, and fighting an endless battle with Voldemort, she also found time to get an education and keep her mind sharp. It may have taken her six years to get a two year degree in accounting from Lewis Clark State College, but the important thing isn’t how long it took, it was that she managed to do it and succeed. Her own desire to push through and achieve something has motivated me countless times to see things through to the end - like my own struggles with high school and the fact that I wanted to stop writing this eulogy five paragraphs ago. If I were to leave you with a third lesson to learn from my mother it would be to see things to the end and when things seem their darkest, keep going and the reward at the end will be worth all the scars and pain.
So at this point I am going to take a moment to tell you a quick story about my mom. For the last few years she had been living in SeaTac and thanks to my latest job being at the Southcenter mall she finally had her wish of the two of us spending A LOT of time together. Being the thoughtful son I am I managed to combine my love of movies and getting my mom out of her apartment into almost weekly excursions to the movie theater. I would let her pick the movies from a list of either things I wanted to see or things I hadn’t seen yet depending on the week, but her picks were incredibly random and impossible for me to predict. Just to give you an idea - over the span of three weeks she picked “If I Stay”, a teen drama about a girl in a coma deciding if she should live or die, “What If”, a romantic comedy about two strangers that try to be friends instead of falling in love, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, a movie about teenage mutant ninja turtles. The movies did not really matter to her, it was the spending time out of the house and more importantly with me that mattered. And no matter how terrible the movie was, and if I am being completely honest a lot of the movies we saw together were terrible, walking out of the theater she would have a smile on her face and would tell me that she liked it. I don’t know if she ever actually did like these movies or if she was just saying she did because she didn’t want me to feel bad but it really doesn’t matter because those movies, good or bad, will forever be our movies and that makes them the best movies. I had to talk her into seeing Guardians of the Galaxy after the Turtles movie because I was curious what her opinion of it would be, she thought it was related to the Marvel tv show she didn’t watch so she was hesitant. After walking out of the theater I asked which movie she liked more Guardians or Turtles. After pausing for a bit to think she replied “I think Guardians, because it wasn’t based on earth.” I hadn’t even thought of that as a possible response. It wasn’t based on earth. The simplest things in life brought her happiness. If I were to leave you with a fourth lesson from my mother it would be not to let the bad overwhelm the good in life and to always remember that at the very least you have, it wasn’t based on earth.
Now that I have told you about the life of my mother I’d like to take some time and tell you about the person that she was. It was always hard to convince her that she was wrong. No matter what, what she wanted to do was the way things were going to go even if they weren’t feasible or practical. Every time daylight savings time would roll around, like clockwork, terrible pun intended, she would call and ask me to come over and set her clocks for her. I would try and convince her that it would be easier if someone from her facility did that for her, or that it was a bit of a drive, or that I didn’t have a car and not really something I was excited about spending two hours on the bus to do no matter how much I loved her but to no avail she would explain that no one there would do it and that maybe I could do it the next day I worked so it would be less of a drive, or that I could get a roommate to drive me. No matter the excuse she had a counter for it and every single time I would cave and switch her clocks. After a few times of playing this game I realized that it wasn’t really about the clocks but rather about spending time with me any chance she got and eventually I stopped trying to get out of it and let her have her way. This isn’t so much a life lesson I want you to take from my mom but still the lesson to be learned here is never take no for an answer, and just spend time with your mom you selfish jerk.
Four years ago in an effort to get my mom to ease back on her greeting card habit I tried to explain that to some people they are just cards and people don’t really keep them around unless they are for important events. “well why not? If you gave me a card I would keep it forever because it captures how you feel about me and shows that you took the time to find the right one for me.” I had honestly never thought of cards in that way before. To me they were fun to look at but never survived more than a couple weeks from when I got them. It was at that moment I had an idea that would become a tradition and would easily be the best Christmas gift I’d ever given my mom. I asked all my friends to send her cards from all around the world. That first year she received well over a hundred cards. It was a lot of fun every time I came over there were new cards for me to hang on her door and I got to tell her where they were from and how I knew the person. At first though the plan was to not tell her about the idea. I wanted her to have these special moments all to herself. I wanted her to see how much her love as a mother had reached. I wanted her to realize that she really was the best mother I could ask for. That plan naturally was ruined when the first card came. “Allen who is Emily Brunson? She sent me a Christmas card and said she was your friend.” “oh she’s just a friend of mine. I wonder how she got your address.” “well I’m gonna send her a card. That’s the rule if I get a card from you, you get a card back.” “Mom…. You can’t do that. I don’t want to explain but you just can’t do that.” “But that’s the rule.” “Okay look mom I did this thing and you’re going to be getting cards from all over the place so you can’t do that. We will find another way to tell everyone thank you.” “Okay but if I know them and they send a card I’m sending them a card” “that will work mom”. And those cards stayed up for an entire year until the next batch came and we started all over again. If I were to leave you with a sixth life lesson from my mom it would be this, pick the right greeting cards, they are more than just empty sentiment. Also I am going to need everyone to send me cards this year because I’m not ready to let go of this yet.
Honestly I probably should have ended this a while ago but I want to leave you with one last life lesson. This time from my life. Hug your mother. Every chance you get. Tell them you love them. Every chance you get. Even if they are far away, reach out and let them know just how much they mean to you. And do all the little things they ask, because it’s important to them. One last story. I forget how old I was when my mom got rebaptized into the church. I was probably in my teens at this point and way into my rebellious phase. She had asked me and my cousins to sing “I am a child of God” as a part of the program. At first I had told her I would but the closer the time came to sing the more I didn’t want to and so I backed out and made the moment about me instead of her. So my cousin Rob sang all by himself. It sounds weird but for the last two weeks I’ve thought about that moment and just how selfish I had been. It was forever ago and I had done countless things for her but I never sang that song. I should have sung that song. Fast forward to a few years ago and my mom had just gotten back from a friend’s funeral in Prosser where she sang like she always loved to do. “Allen you may not like it but you’re going to sing at my funeral”. Well you’re right mom I don’t like it, and truth be told I don’t remember what song it was you had told me I was going to sing. But I am going to sing today. Because no matter how much I don’t want to do it, it means that much more to you.
(Sing I Am A Child Of God)
I love you mom.