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Tuesday, November 2, 2010
It was a small, family funeral, and beforehand the minister was trying to arrange for us to participate. I had written a poem about Mom years before, and I was asked if I’d be willing to read it at the funeral. I told him that it would be hard, but I would try.
My growing family and I moved away several months before, to Missouri. Mom hugged me tight the night before, and said, “I love you, Dale.” It was the first time our children would be so separated from their Grandma. But after settling in the Ozarks, we learned that Mom wanted to follow us to this idyllic place full of stories that reminded her of her childhood, and of course be near us again, too. We were delighted! Right way we began looking for possible homes for her here. And in the middle of this excitement and hope, my wife Micki called me at work to tell me Mom had passed away.
And so my family members gathered in the funeral home, with Mom’s body lying in the open casket, the hands that gripped me in embrace the night we left her, when she told me she loved me, now folded in death. And the time came for me to stand and read my poem.
I stood, and began. “When a son is away and on his own, he begins to feel the love that has been shown by his precious mother in the past…” I read further, yet realized there was no way to get through it. My eyes welled up, my voice quivered, my legs grew weak; finally I cried, “I can’t do this,” and fell back into the chair.
But a miracle happened…a miracle called Terri. My beautiful niece had been sitting beside me. She must have known this would happen. She must have even been reading along. Because as I collapsed into the chair, Terri rose to her feet, taking the paper from me, and without skipping a beat she continued the poem, reading it to the end.
I appreciated Terri more than ever at that moment. I felt so weakened and she seemed so strong, and after that I affectionately called her my “superhero.”
Years later, I was sitting again with my family, and with Terri, at the funeral of her Mother, and listening to Terri’s sons saying wonderful things about their Grandma. And life goes on; families grow, bound together in love, supporting each other, and finishing each other’s poem.
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