Gratitude is one thing for which you can never give too much.
Many of you have followed the story of my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease through Facebook and the Alzheimer’s Music Connect blog. In so many ways, we have shared her journey together. I am grateful for the many personal stories, the messages of compassion and support you’ve sent to me. You became an extension of my family.
It is only fitting that I share with you the eulogy that I read in front of friends and family at her funeral. When I began to write her story, I thought this would be the hardest thing I will ever write. The reality is that knowing she was no longer suffering somehow allowed the words to start rolling out of me.
My mother, Elaine was the impetus behind the creation of Alzheimer’s Music Connect. If you like what I am doing, it is because of her. Below you will find the result of my passage from a deep sense of loss to a greater appreciation for the person she was and the days we had together.
Eulogy for Elaine Marion Gregory
I would like to begin by saying on behalf of my father and our entire family, thank you for being here with us to celebrate, remember, and honor, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a friend; Elaine Gregory.
Abraham Lincoln, once said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my Mother.” Whether you are a man or a woman those are very powerful words.
I am certain my mother was not nor would she want to be another Mrs. Lincoln. At the very least, she would have hated the clothes. She did however have an extraordinary ability to make her children feel stronger and more confident in our own identities, giving us a sense of independence and mental toughness, which, speaking for myself, has been a huge asset throughout my life.
But, my mother was not perfect. Just like anyone else, she made mistakes; she had faults, and weaknesses. My sister, Carol Anne summed it up best the other day, “Mom could see clearly into your backyard, but never looked too deeply into her own.”
Many of you here today know this; some of you do not—my mother was my greatest admirer—no one ever had a bigger fan—but for twelve years she was also my strongest adversary.
She was her father’s daughter, and God knows, there is nothing like good old-fashioned German stubbornness for solving differences of opinion.
Through it all, I knew deep down she loved me and that I loved her. I feel it was that deeper love that allowed us to reconcile with each other and become a complete family again.
She taught us strong values and the importance of family, hard work, respect and generosity. She even tried to teach me patience, but that did not work out so well. She exposed us to countless and diverse experiences; we learned to appreciate the arts and the importance of reading, all of which opened a world of possibilities to us.
Don’t you know—that four kids were never born that were any brighter, stronger or good looking than we were. There was only one exception to that fact, which was what she felt for her grandchildren. Even while Alzheimer’s was robbing her memory, she always wanted to know what Lauren, Sheldon, Kyle and Kassidy were up to. In their last conversation, Mom talked at length with Ardie about what our daughter, Dani was doing. She was interested and concerned. And, I fully believe she held on to those memoires until the final moment of her life.
Did you ever notice that my mother liked to talk? – She had the gift of gab and somehow was able to have complete strangers share their entire life story with her within the first five minutes of a conversation. The only problem was that many times they were not prepared to spend the next 30 or 40 minutes receiving a hearty helping of Gregory family history in return.
You had to have stamina to hang with my mother. I know that many of you experienced the bottomless cup of coffee, the back-to-back cigarettes and the conversations that lasted into all hours of the morning. It is impossible to say how many times friends of my brother, sisters, and mine stayed to talk with Mom while we caved and went up to bed. She could pull an all-nighter better than anyone I ever knew. Forget a second wind; you had to have three or four winds just to keep pace with her.
For those of you that knew my mom, she was not only the life of the party but often the reason for the party. The door was open and the welcome light on. People came and went from our home at any time of the day or night. She had a great sense of humor and was always young at heart. So, it is no wonder our friends all gravitated to our house. Although, I also think the things she let us get away with had something to do with it. By today’s standards, a few of them would very likely land her in jail.
My mother and father had a 65-year love affair. Their longevity was in great part a result of their not only being committed to each other as husband and wife, but their friendship as well. Simply put, they liked being with each other. It was nothing for my parents to jump in the car on a Saturday or Sunday and sightsee together for hours and hours. It always ended at some little restaurant that they’d discovered. Of course, they always had the best meal ever even if it was at an iHop. The home fries were great!
Was their life together always a Hallmark moment? No, but what marriage is without problems. It’s what they did to get through the tough times that made them stronger together.
Alzheimer’s disease took her away from us. The irony of this disease is that while my mother lost her memory all that remains of her for my family, you her friends and for me is the memory.
I will end by sharing the last words my mother ever spoke to me. As I was leaving her room, I touched her hair, told her she looked pretty and she said, “I love you.”
While I did not know it at the time, “Mom, I love you, too” would be my final goodbye to her.
Again, you have my sincere gratitude for sharing your personal experiences. You will never know how your kind words and messages helped me endure the long Alzheimer’s journey with Mom.
Finally, I’d like you to know that Mom’s funeral Mass was so full that my dad said, “It looks like it’s Sunday.”
You are never alone,