Love, Wisdom and Values: A Eulogy
My mother was known by many names – Bubee, Aunt Edie, Edythe, or Mrs. Levinson. I knew her as Mom, which is the best way I can talk about her. My mom loved being a mom, and we all knew that growing up. Lucky us.
When I think of my mom, I think of Mark Twain, not because of the Hartford connection, but because of their shared wisdom. One of Mark Twain’s famous quotes was, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” I wasn’t as enlightened as Mark Twain because it took me longer than my 21st birthday, but I eventually came to realize just how smart my mother was in so many areas.
One such area was her mantra that all she ever wanted for her children was to be happy and healthy. The younger, more ambitious me found this annoying, and I would say to her, “Don’t you want more for us than that?” And she would say, “If you’re happy and healthy, you have everything.”
Then I became a mother, and now all I want for my children is for them to be happy and healthy, with an emphasis on healthy. I included my mother’s wisdom in a book I wrote a few years ago. The book is 101 life coaching tips in the form of haiku. One of those tips is the following:
Happy and healthy My mother’s wish for her kids I have become her.
At my book launch two years ago, I spoke to and answered questions from the people in attendance. One person asked me who was my greatest teacher. Without giving it a moment’s thought, I said, “My mother.” While explaining why, I amended my answer to include my father, too, because he was also a great role model in many ways, but my first instinct was to say “my mother.”
I’ll tell you what I told them, and a bit more.
1. My mother taught me to be grateful for my life. I never heard her wish for a bigger house or fancier clothes. She was grateful for what she had, and that genuine gratitude was clearly conveyed to and instilled in us.
2. My mother was always happy for other people. She never withheld her congratulations or mazel tovs to anyone.
3. She saw the world as a win-win, or wished it were so. I remember watching UConn basketball games with her when I was a young girl. She wanted UConn to win, but she felt sorry for whichever team lost. She would say “they’re just kids.” In her perfect world, everyone would shine and be victorious.
4. She loved animals. We know she loved cats and dogs, but she also loved other animals, too. As she aged, she discovered her love of horses, and would go to tag sales and come home with pictures of horses. For many years she had a bird feeder out back, and, like the good Jewish mother she was, loved watching the little fagelahs eat! She saw the humanity in these animals, and would always say she doesn’t understand how anyone could abuse an animal. She didn’t have a lot of money, but she always sent a few dollars to any animal organization that solicited from her. As many of you know, I am a devout animal rights activist, and it’s not a coincidence. I learned to see the humanity and dignity in all living beings from her.
5. She loved her children and, eventually, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, unconditionally. There wasn’t anything we could do that would change that. Our choices, even ones she didn’t understand or perhaps disagreed with, could never shake her love for us. Wow – what a gift.
My mother felt honored when I told her about my answer to this question at the book launch, but she said “How could I be your teacher when I didn’t go to college?” I told her the lessons she taught me can’t be found in books, yet they are the most important ones to learn. I know she didn’t remember our conversation five minutes later, but she knew for one brief moment the tremendous legacy she created.
I last saw my mother this past Monday afternoon. She was happy and joking with Miriam and me. She knew we were there and who we were. I got to hold her hand, give her one last hug and kiss, and tell her what I have told her for many years: I learned to be a loving mother because I had her as my mother. On the most important things in life, she was right all along.
Rest in peace, Mom. You’ve earned it. I’ll always love you.
And now, for one last time, “I love you more.”