Today we celebrated my mom's life.
I had the great honor of giving my mom's eulogy at her memorial service. My mom was good at so many things, but the thing she was great at is loving people.
Gayle Kelley Lewis
April 15, 1947-October 2, 2010
When my brother Raymond and I were sitting in the hospital with Mom, we spent time filling out the paperwork for her funeral. We were asked for a favorite scripture. We really didn't have one. We thought about Psalm 23, but it didn't seem right. We tossed out a few others, but they didn't really work. Finally, I looked at Raymond and said, "I know which one."
1 Corinthians 13
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
When Raymond and I were looking for clothes for Mom, I ran across a small jewelry box tucked in the back of one of her drawers. In the box was a jewelry set—a necklace, earrings, and ring. The necklace and earrings were heart shaped filled with small rubies and diamonds. The ring was a simple row of rubies and diamonds alternated. I smiled. So appropriate.
Proverbs 31 tells us a woman of noble character is hard to find, the she is more precious than rubies. My mom is a woman of great value.
Often when people think of a Proverbs 31 woman, they think of a perfected to do list, but if you look closer, she isn’t driven by a list. She’s driven by a love.
A love for her family,
A love for those who depend on her,
A love for those with whom she works,
A love for friends,
A love for people she never met
A love to make a difference
Mom was a love-oriented woman.
When Mom first became sick, her greatest concern was missing church. She wanted to be where she loved. She loved leading the singing. She loved hearing the preaching. She loved the family she had there, and to her that is what church was. It wasn’t a building with four walls where someone talked about God. It was a home with the family God made, and she loved it.
After the diagnosis of cancer, Mom had a simple question: When can I go back to work?
She wasn’t worried about missing a paycheck, but was really worried about missing her friends.
When she found out she wasn’t going back to work, she started making phone calls—not to hospitals, oncologists, or treatment centers, but to people she loved. She wanted their prayers, but she wanted more than that. She wanted them to know she loved them, so she told them in her words and in her actions because they were too valuable to be left out of her life…even the painful parts so many of us try to hide.
Next, she planned a camping trip. She loved camping. She loved playing 42, but mostly, she loved being with her family. As many of you know, her grandchildren were the light of her life. The talking seemed endless. The children would draw pictures and tell her all about them. She listened with complete attention. The first weekend she was in the hospital, the children brought the game In a Pickle. Mom had no idea how to play it, but she knew how to enjoy her grandkids. She loved her family deeply.
She loved camping with family, playing 42 with her grandkids, and making impromptu Christmas desserts. She loved having being a surrogate mom and grandma. Her heart was full of her many daughters. She loved having her nails done by friends, training new tax preparers, seeing old friends, and H&R Block parties. She loved giving an encouraging word, a supportive hug, and a smile to carry into the day.
She loved all of you.
When Mom went into the hospital last week, phone calls were made. Tears fell…because we all knew what we were losing.
Some folks called. They couldn’t come. They wanted to remember better times.
Sometimes love finds it hard to say goodbye. Sometimes love finds it easier to remember better times and whisper, “I’ll see you later,” in the assurance of Someday, as we breathe deep, swallow hard, and put one foot in front of the other. There is nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes love’s need to be expressed is greater than the need for what is easy. Sometimes the agony of saying goodbye is more healing than the peace of speaking into Someday, and sometimes putting one foot in front of the other takes you to the side of the one your heart clings to, the one you have to touch in order to let go of.
And love brought people to Mom’s bedside. Not because it was easy. The large tears said it wasn’t. Not because she would remember…but because they would…because they did…they remembered the love in her hugs, in her laughter, in her kindness. They remembered the love she deposited in their lives.
And they came to give the one thing that makes all the difference. They came to love back in touch, kind words, deep gratitude, and precious memories. They came as a testimony to Mom’s love, to Mom’s great value.
Yes, Mom is a woman of great value—value exceeding rubies because her value is measured in the lives she touched, by the love she gave.
Yes, we have lost my mom’s physical presence, but we have not lost the most valuable part of Mom. The most valuable part of Mom does not lie in the casket. The most valuable part of Mom was her ability to love so deeply and so freely. The most valuable part of Mom is still alive and well. the most valuable part of my mom is her love, and she has left that with us.