My mom passed away on October 20th, 2012, after fighting a vicious 11 month battle with Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Here is the tribute I wrote for her memorial service...
It is possible that many of you have heard this poem, but I want to share it with you anyway. I know my mom read it and believed it...
What Cancer Cannot Do
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the spirit.
You see, my mom fought cancer for 11 months. She fought it with grace and with courage and hope and faith. And, though we sit here today, I still think she won. Cancer did not take her love for us or our love for her. It did not take our memories or her friendships or courage or spirit. In fact, it did not even take her peace. In the end, my mom knew where she was going, and she wasn't worried about it. After all, cancer cannot reduce eternal life, either. Because it's eternal. This life here is a little drop in the bucket of Eternal. But what she taught me here matters a whole lot to eternity. This little drop in the bucket has changed many people for all eternity.
My mom taught me what it is to love because she loved me. How can I even begin to describe her? She is the one I still want when I'm sick. She's the one I want to call with all my news. She is the one, who, despite her smallness, was always ready to protect me. When she knew she was passing from this world she wasn't worried about herself, she was worried about me and my dad and her grandchildren...and the many others who have come to rely on her...for support, for encouragement, for a listening ear, for friendship, and for practical help. My mom knew how to get things done - to make lists, plan, and organize. She didn't spend a lot of time talking about how to do something. She just made it happen. My mom also knew how to make peace with people without being a pushover. She had a strength and confidence that was all her own, but she didn't use it to trample other people or even to outshine them. She used it to see past differences and make things happen.
My mom taught me courage, as I saw her suffer losses and tackle tough challenges (like caring for foster children and moving across the continent and learning Spanish). I am so proud of her for doing the hard things. Because I know they were hard for her, and she did them anyway.
My mom also taught me to value people and relationships over material things. A person doesn't need a big house or a lot of stuff to be happy and content. If you ever visited any of the small houses my parents lived in over the last 15 years or so - from the trailer in Mexicali to their little cottage in Isanti - you know what I mean. My mom knew that wherever the people you love are, that is where home is. My parents made a great team, making a home beautiful and functional, without being big or cluttered. Their little home in Isanti is full of creative small-house solutions. (Did you know that you can store coffee cups in a cake pan in the oven, making use of all that empty space in the oven AND keeping the cups warm?) In spite of the small space, my mom stashed away games and craft projects - things that connect people and build relationships. We have spent many Christmases, my family of 5 all piled into my parent's house, laughing, talking, and playing games. My mom and Aurora worked on notebooks full of magazine cut-out collages, and later she taught Aurora to make crafty clipboards. The time mattered more than the things.
One day my mom sent Aurora home with her shoes because she was decluttering...and I thought of how she used to let me dig through her closet when I still lived at home and I couldn't figure out what to wear. How frustrating that must have been for her some Junior High mornings. :) And I used to wear her shoes, too. I finally grew out of her shoes...and then one day Aurora grew out of her shoes, too!
She always had such tiny feet.
She was my little Mama.
My little Mama with a big, big smile and a spirit that could not be quenched.
Her love was not crippled.
Her hope was not shattered.
Her faith was not even a little bit corroded.
Her courage was not silenced...
even to the end of her days.