I have dedicated my journals to my incredible mom. I figure the best way to show you who my mother was is to let you read the words I spoke at her funeral.
How does someone so full of life die?
This question has been wracking my brain and haunting me since I first found out about my mother’s passing.
“This simply can’t be”, I would think to myself, she’s so fun, energetic, lively, spunky, bold, mischievous, outspoken, and the list goes on. Someone with those qualities does not simply leave our world whilst doing something they are so passionate about, traveling to new places with a multitude of friends.
Additionally, she just helped me bring our second daughter into the world, “how is it possible that one new life begins just as another ends?”
Over the past 3 weeks, so many people have shown up to extend their helping hand not only because they love our family, but because they loved my mother. Former students, coworkers, friends, and all of them have had kind words or stories about my mom that made me think, she’s not necessarily gone, just with us in a different capacity. My mom, who taught so many in her classroom, also taught all of the people she came into contact with, and along the way, left us with life lessons that will continue to impact me, and hopefully all of us forever.
With that being said, I’d like to offer you a cliff notes version of the Laura J way, and hopefully, everyone will realize she is still with us, reminding us how to live life to our fullest potential.
“It’s a character builder” is one of those one-liners my mom would frequently state after minor inconveniences in life or unfortunate scenarios.
Terrible haircut? That’s a character builder!
Knock out your front tooth after a night out with your friends wearing a ketchup costume? That’s a character builder (this is a true story, and I will own it here today)
Accidentally walk around all day with a pair of underwear static clinging to your pants, straight from the dryer? You guessed it-character building.
My mom had a funny way of not taking life too seriously, and trying to see the sarcasm or humor in any situation. Life keeps us in check, so, no matter how hairy or bald you are, how crooked or bulbous your nose, or goofy looking your feet might be, remember we all have things we are embarrassed or insecure about, and those things create character in our souls.
Another one-liner, my mom would constantly utter, (which I can’t say in its entirety since we are in the lord's house, and I shouldn’t swear- but I’m pretty sure most of you can fill in the blanks)
“The higher the monkey climbs, the more you see it’s… behind” That’s my mom’s not-so-gentle reminder to stay humble, those who crave and seek power for the wrong reasons will be exposed eventually, so remember to aim high and climb high, only to help others, and not yourself. We were put here not to see how important we can become, but how much of a difference we can make in the lives of others.
Thirdly, my mom had a passion for fashion, and I would hope so, considering she made a career out of it, first in fashion merchandising, and finally in her teaching career, offering it at the high school. She knew how to dress, and whenever complimented on a new frock, blouse, or outfit, she would comment, “it hides a multitude of sins”. Maybe this slice of advice or life lesson is more for the ladies but overall can still apply to all. I know I plan to instill this idea in my daughters. I think what my mom was trying to say was “although I am not perfect, I am confident”, and finding ways to express yourself authentically, while still being modest, is an art form. There is nothing wrong with keeping pieces of yourself private, as we all have insecurities, as long as you are still showing off the pieces you want to highlight.
Finally, this last lesson doesn’t come with a funny, witty phrase, but simply my mom's footprints etched in her history here on earth. It’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to begin again. My mom was nearly 30 when she decided her first career path wasn’t right for her. She certainly took the road less traveled to find a job she was truly passionate about. The obstacles of children, the commute, or money didn’t stand in her way, she knew she wanted to teach, and she found a way to do it, and worked hard to get to a spot that made her happy and fulfilled. A few years into her teaching career, she still thought about wanting more from life and for her students, and in comes Cary Grove’s international travel club, founded by my mother and her dear friend Kari. The second half of her teaching career was filled with her newfound passion for travel and experiences. She took a job that was already fulfilled, and still found a way to add to it. Fast forward to the start of COVID, and my mom found something that still made her heart happy and full of joy, in a time that was scary and lonely for many. She became a self-proclaimed “bird nerd”, and quickly developed a passion for nature, and photography, and now we forever have those pictures to cherish and remember her by. Even privately, all I can say is the last experience I had with my mom, a life event I will cherish forever, 5 days before her passing, she taught me it’s never too late to change what needs to be changed, say what needs to be said, incorporate things into your life, and find what truly makes you happy.
Let us remember these lessons, apply them to our life, share her stories, and create new bonds with each other, so that we can say although my mom has passed on, she truly never died.
I love you mom, always.