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Monday, January 27, 2020

At My Mother's Funeral, 2017

At My Mother's Funeral 2017

When I was young my mother taught me the Lords Prayer.
 Everything I needed to know at the time was in the prayer and it perfectly framed our life at the time.
 My mother gave us the unconditional love that assured the happiness and stability of our family.
 She taught and cared and provided a safe wonderful world. She was the centerpiece, the world revolved around her.
 The life was beautiful. The property was wonderful -  the house was wonderful. We went to Nantucket in the summer, my mother with grace and love guided, nurtured, disciplined, and shepherded us through every aspect of our life.
I remember taking long walks in the woods with her, keeping to this day a love of the wonders of nature.
 It seemed a perfect world, and she made it that way.
When I was 9 my father died suddenly and my mother taught me the 23rd psalm.
She guided us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
She saved our childhood so we would not be destroyed by this momentous loss; we could be kids, happy and joyous. She protected us and gave us goodness and mercy. We experienced life in innocence and joy.
She also taught us the 121st psalm teaching not to fear the future: I will lift mine eyes unto the hills.
Two years later she married my stepfather Ben and from a family of four kids we grew to eleven. We left Bedford and moved to the Upper East Side, a center of art and culture and her childhood home.
 My mother had learned from her father the essence of music, literature and art.  She introduced us to the museums, took us to the opera and the Philharmonic.  She passed on to us her great love of Russian literature.
 Ben showed his love for my mother by throwing beautiful parties in her honor.  Orchestras played and the grown-ups in beautiful clothes danced the night away.
All eleven of us grew up and raised beautiful families, bringing pride to both my parents. 
I remember Ben assuring my mother that she would be a grandmother, and at the end of her life she became a great-grandmother.
My mother’s loyalty to her husbands was an outstanding badge of integrity and courage. She was fiercely loyal and protective to those she loved.
When Ben died, she grieved for him and it seemed to me that she grieved also for all the losses she had experienced in her life. She became lost.  In a short period of time she seemed to lose her bearings.
We rescued her, and using the strength, love and courage that she taught us through the psalms and prayers we have here today, we made her safe.
 In the last year of my mother’s life I would visit her and rather than talk to her I communicated through touch, gently massaging her shoulders, forehead and legs.  One day she was looking out the window directly into the light and she was talking to the light.
I said, are you talking to Dad?  She smiled; I said is Ben there too?  She nodded.  And Granny and Grandpa?  She smiled.  Helen, Ann and Jim?  I knew she was between worlds.

On the Thursday before she died, I visited her and as I kissed her good-bye she gave me this amazing smile, one I had not remembered seeing before.  It was almost a grin, yet totally serene -- like she knew something. The room was dark but in her left eye there was a white light.  The light was not a reflection but it came from within.
 On Monday I got the call to come.  The end was near.  I entered the room, where my family and her aides were standing around my mother lying on the bed.
 I smoothed her hair and gently massaged her head in what I hope was a soothing way.

She breathed in and out, she breathed in and out, in and out. And she gave God back the first breath he gave so many years ago.

link to portrait
Jean Ford Smith, New York City, 1974

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