My eulogy for my Mother, as read at her funeral.
When Jesus was asked “What is the greatest commandment?”, He answered, “Love God with everything you’ve got and show that by doing likewise with your fellow man.” Of course, that is a paraphrase but my Mother took it literally and quite seriously. I think it’s fair to say that love was her life’s theme.
FROM BIRTHPLACE TO HOMETOWN
That was demonstrated from her beginning, in her birthplace, Greenville, IL. Her connection with family and friends that she knew prior to her family moving to Terre Haute, was something she always treasured. Of course, the most precious to her we’re those who went with her to Terre Haute; her Father E. K. Ray, her Mother Clara, her Sister Thelma and her Brother who died in infancy. Throughout her life, she looked forward to getting to know him in Heaven and now, she’s getting to do that.
The people I knew as Grandpa and Grandma Ray, Aunt Thelma and Mom started becoming part of their community through Grandpa’s job on the Pennsylvania Railroad, through neighborhood activities, through school activities, through service organizations and probably most important of all, through the Second Avenue Evangelical United Brethren Church. The relationships that were developed during that time are too numerous to mention but, as evidenced by some who are here even today, these were not passing acquaintances but loving relationships that Mom nurtured throughout her life.
MOST SIGNIFICANT NEW RELATIONSHIPS
I do want to mention two relationships that we’re of particular importance though. During that time, my Aunt Thelma met a handsome young man, named Bob McIndoo. For the sake of brevity, let me just say that I ended up knowing him as Uncle Bob. He was a man I truly admired and Mom loved him dearly, as she did Thelma’s and Bob’s children; my late Cousin Ron, my Cousin Janet Sue and my Cousin Jim. Since they have been a prolific bunch, that gave Mom In-laws, grandchildren and next generations of the same to love too.
The other particularly important relationship developed during that time involved another handsome young man named Chet Wiram. Although you won’t find his name in Mom’s obituary, he was of great importance in her life. His Dad worked on the Pennsy too, they lived in the same neighborhood, they went to the same schools and they were together in the youth group at Second Avenue EUB. There were 12 Wiram kids, 10 who survived childhood, so even if they had just become friends, that would have expanded Mom’s social circle exponentially. But, a romance blossomed and when he was 21 and she was 19, they married. Of course, that worked out to the benefit of many in this room today, including my Sister Nancy, our late Brother Dick and myself. Then, along with Mom, in addition to the Rays, the McIndoos and all those Wirams, there was us to love. Added to that we’re the Franzwas, the Sagraves, the D’Amicos and the Dillers, through a Son-in-law and three Daughters-in-law, who she loved as her own children. Since we have been a rather prolific bunch too, grandchildren and next generations were added to Mom’s circle of love through this too.
In my view, Mom’s love was most vividly demonstrated in her dedication to her Husband and her children. Shortly after Nancy was born, Dad joined the Navy and went off to WWII. About nine months after Mom visited Dad in his Southern California port, Dick came along. And, not long after the war ended, their baby boomer showed up … that’s me. All during that time, Mom’s love was the driving force, holding that young little family together. At the start of the next decade, though, Chet and Gerry’s marriage ended. Mom responded by pouring her life and love into her children. In the process, she found the job that would provide her living for the rest of her life. She became a Long Distance Telephone Operator. In the beginning, that meant working a split shift and riding the bus two round trips per day, so that she could see her kids off to school in the morning and be there when they came home in the afternoon. She recruited my Aunt Carolyn and several neighborhood ladies to stand in the gap for the times she couldn’t be there. My Sister joined in with that more and more, as she got older. I don’t think its an exaggeration to sum up this season of Mom’s life by saying, “No greater love has a woman than this, than to lay down her life for her family.”
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Of course, during her working life, Mom added many coworkers to her circle of love. The same was true of her move to Southside Church of Christ, after the EUB ceased to exist and when she moved from the Avenues to Marywood. Those relationships continued to grow as she became an empty nester, when she retired and even when she moved to her final home, Bethesda Gardens. As you might expect, during this time, all three of her children thought it might be best for Mom to come live with one of us. But Terre Haute had been her home since she was nine years old and she was determined not to leave. Terre Haute’s allure generally escaped her children when they thought of a place commonly known as Sin City, that you could smell before you could see it, if the wind was just right from the direction of what once was Commercial Solvents. Although there were things about the place that she was fond of, like fish sandwiches at the Bramble Bush, it wasn’t the place she clung to, it was her loved ones she wouldn’t let go of … Daphne and Jan from Bethesda, Dorothy from Southside, Glenda from Marywood, Effie from the phone company and all those relationships that had begun before. These were everything to her.
A LOVING FAREWELL
In Mom’s obituary, it’s noted that her last words were, “Tell her I love her.” Although she knew Nancy was on her way to be there and it’s logical to assume that the “her” mentioned was Nancy, you have to keep in mind that she spoke these words to Daphne, whose hearing isn’t what it used to be. So, Daphne easily could have misheard Mom saying, “Tell him I love him.” I don’t know, you decide.
Seriously, I have no doubt that Mom said “her” and that she meant Nancy. The thorough and loving care my Sister gave our Mom, including being there to hold her hand when she took her final breath, was a wonderful blessing and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is her Mother’s Daughter. And, it was the perfect way for Mom’s life here to conclude … expressing her love.
A PLACE LOVINGLY PREPARED FOR US
Finally, I want to assure you that you were included in Mom’s last earthly expression of love. When folks ask me about how I came to know the Lord, I tell them that I’m sure, the first Sunday after I was born and brought home from the hospital, my Mom and my Grandma Ray took me to church at the Second Avenue EUB. In other words, from my beginning, Mom pointed me to Christ and through Him, the boundless love God wants to pour out on us. That is where the incredible love that my Mom shared with so many came from. That is why her life’s theme was love. Through that she showed what she wants for you, through Jesus Christ, to receive all the love that God has for you and for you to freely share it with everyone.
Thank you for being here with us today to honor this marvelous woman who I was blessed to have as my Mom for over 68 years and to celebrate her life. And thank you for sharing your love with her.