Below is the eulogy I wrote for my mom, who passed away on May 25, 2022. I did not expect to lose her and had not considered what I might say to honor her until her death necessitated it. I wrote this quickly and if I could do it over again, I would edit liberally. My sister also delivered a eulogy, and between the two of us, I expect Mom would have been pleased, and probably would have suggested some judicious edits.
When my parents got married, Dad was in medical school and that left Mom pretty much on her own. Susan and I have two of the world’s most fabulous husbands so it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like raising three little girls virtually single-handed, and away from her New York family, first in California and then in Massachusetts. But she managed, the way she always did, and we glommed onto her like little barnacles.
She adored her own mother, our Grandma Hannah, and worried constantly about whether or not Grandma would approve of how she was managing her girls, and what she was doing. Her faith in her own mom was so unshakable that the message was clear: your mom is the most important person in your life, and I happily bought into that.
And she was a wonderful mom. But she was a horrible reacher-outer. When I was in my 20s, we could go through long stretches without speaking. I was busy living my young adult life, and if I wasn’t calling her, she assumed I was fine. Really, she didn’t want to “bother me.” Despite her big, close, extended family of origin, she never felt secure in her place in it as an adult. After her mom died, I encouraged her to reach out to her aunts more. She said, “Oh, I was just Hannah’s daughter, they don’t want to hear from me.” I knew my great-aunts and I’m telling you, they loved her. They would have loved to have heard from her more, but she never believed that in her heart.
It’s vitally important to me that any of you who ever thought, why the heck hasn’t Barbara called, know that it wasn’t because she didn’t love you, need you, want your friendship (I’m looking at you Aunt Marge) she just didn’t want to “bother” anyone.
She did, however, want to help everyone. Mom worked for years as a volunteer for the Attorney General’s office, fielding consumer complaints. Her job was to resolve issues so they didn’t rise to the level of needing legal intervention. She was a rabid consumer advocate and she could follow a trail to the truth like a bloodhound. She did the same thing for WBZ’s consumer hotline, Call for Action. There’s a world of people out there who owe Mom a debt of gratitude for making their consumer problems go away.
There are so many things I want to share about Mom. She was a serial hobbyist. Everything she did she did well, because she studied and studied and studied until she understood how things worked. She had a silver-making phase when I was a teenager, and made several of the bracelets I have been wearing for over 45 years.
She was an avid reader and I used to go through the book shelf where she kept books that were on their way back to the library to find things to read. She was my own personal librarian. At one point, I was struggling through Dr. Zhivago and told her that I wasn’t enjoying it and felt like it must be because I wasn’t smart enough to appreciate it. She said it wasn’t my fault, it just wasn’t a very good book. “But hey,” she said, “you know what you’d like? War and Peace. Now that’s a good book.” And of course, she was right.
In her later years, when she wasn’t pursuing her hobbies, she was working with Lexington at Home, the social group that sustained her for the last chapter of her life. She was on the steering committee, in the thick of managing and trouble-shooting and taking care of business. She could be stubborn, but the fact that she was usually right made that a more palatable trait.
For a time, Mom was also in charge of their web site, a comfortable place for a nerd of long standing. She had been fascinated with computers since I gave her a Commodore 64 computer in the early 80s. Immediately hooked, she began teaching herself how to program. She became so involved with the Boston Computer Society that she was soon running the Commodore User’s Group. She also wrote articles for the Commodore magazine, Run. And then she made a business out of the Commodore. That early machine had no persistent memory. As soon as you turned it off it forgot what you’d been doing, so she teamed up with her hardware engineer friend, Brown Pulliam, and wrote software that would retain memory in the external box he designed. With their fledgling business, Brown Boxes, they traveled to local computer shows, selling their wares. The popularity of the IBM PC made the Commodore obsolete and she moved on to become a PC expert, building machines for her children and grandchildren and happily supplying IT services when required.
When I was a younger, self-satisfied, cocky thing, I said to Mom, “I like the way I turned out and if I ever have a kid, I want them to be just like me, so I’ll have to be sure to do everything the way you did.” In hindsight, I know that was naïve, but I still thank my lucky stars that she was my mom.