My Speech for my Mom's Celebration of Life

Welcome, and thank you all for being here this evening. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Anupama. I am ***** and *****'s eldest daughter.

A couple of general announcements: restrooms are that way, In the event of an emergency, please follow the exit signs. In recognition of Covid-19, which has taken the lives of over 700K US citizens and 4.5 million global citizens, we ask that you keep your masks on unless you’re eating or drinking. And get vaccinated. Other than that, please help yourself with some food, and as my mom would insist, please make yourself comfortable.

We are here together this evening to celebrate the life of my mom, *****. I’d like to start us off with a poem.

Weep Not for Me

Weep not for me though I have gone
Into that gentle night
Grieve if you will, but not for long
Upon my soul’s sweet flight

I am at peace, my soul’s at rest
There is no need for tears
For with your love I was so blessed
For all those many years

There is no pain, I suffer not
The fear is now all gone
Put now these things out of your thoughts
In your memory I live on

Remember not my fight for breath
Remember not the strife
Please do not dwell upon my death
But celebrate my life

by Unknown Author

I have faith that my family will share many giggle-worthy stories about my mom. She was unconventional and boisterous, often referring to us as “The Louds” and the memories where we deserved this nickname are endless. When I was younger, I was too full of insecurity to realize that my mother’s raw authenticity is what made space for others to be themselves, too.

Mom provided others comfort because in her early life, she was given none. Her warmth, kindness, and love is what she shared with the world, but her very human strength through adversity and unrelenting conviction to her truth, her integrity, is what I admired most about my mom. You may be unfamiliar with her work ethic, unaware of the sheer number of proverbial mountains she summited, and truly how strong she was. Being a positive and radiant force wasn’t easy for my mom, but that’s what she chose and wanted to be. She spent her early life being handed ugly things and had to learn how to make them beautiful. If she couldn’t make them beautiful, she steeled herself from them, for better or for worse. For other people, she did the same. She loved, she comforted, and she protected people. Despite being taken advantage of for this on more than one occasion, she chose to never let it deter her from finding the best in people.

Growing up, Mom and I often came down on opposite sides of things, and for years I never understood why. In 2013, I moved across the country, to a state where I didn’t know a single person. Our relationship was tenuous at best, but my mom still drove with me for 16 hours to make sure I wasn’t alone. It shortly after that move that I chose my mother. I chose her with all of her faults and all of her gifts. It was a conscious decision. It was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. We spent the next several years working on our relationship. It was not easy, but it was fruitful. I’m so thankful for that choice. My husband and I have been able to spend time with my parents that I will never forget. We played games (often losing to my mom), we ate really good food, spent time in the mountains at the cabin and did yard work, we went to art and holiday shows and talked every week. There are so many other things we had planned, moments I was looking forward to sharing… but I can hear her telling me, “Gratitude Attitude,” so I will try to avoid self-pity for a while longer.

My mom’s biggest criticism of me, as of late, is that I overthink and don’t dream enough. “I do dream, Mom,” I would tell her, “My dreams just include a step-by-step process through which I will follow exactly, and that will land me where I want to go.”

If my mom has taught me anything, it is the agency we have to choose. We choose who our doctor is, we choose who and what we surround ourselves with. We choose who and how we love. People are not things to which we are forever bound. As we were going through my mom’s things, we found this handwritten note from the book she was reading. She writes, “The more you focus on the positive, the more energy you’ll have to help and the more light you’ll bring to situations that sorely need it. Breathe deep! Stop and smell the roses. What am I bringing to the party of my one and only life?” Even in her final notes, she reminds me how much agency we have to choose how we live our precious life.

At this point, we’d like to welcome anyone who wishes to share something to the podium. My mom and I didn’t see eye to eye on poetry but this one speaks to me and I’d like to use it to invite others to share.

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just

pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

By Mary Oliver

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