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‘Try to say something nice’
Growing up ain’t easy. Sometimes it downright stinks.
If we are fortunate, our parents live well into their later years so they can enjoy the blessings of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those parents have the opportunity to witness their offspring go from playing with wooden blocks on the floor as a toddler to adulthood where they lead construction crews who build city blocks.
My mother’s last chance to see any of her children or her husband of 53 years ended Oct. 2 in a long-term ICU unit in Rome, Ga., at 1:35 p.m. When mom took her final breath, my dad, two brothers, oldest nephew and I were present.
I’ll never forget that moment.
Back in July, my family of six visited with my parents at their home. As we were going to step out for a relaxing evening at a northern Georgia park, my mom pulled me off to the side.
“I want to ask you something,” I recall my mother saying so intently.
“OK mom,” I replied.
“I want you to speak at my funeral,” said the lady who celebrated her 80th birthday in February.
“Uh, OK mom,” I responded in my best positive tone.
“Oh, I’m not dying,” mom said in a reassuring tone. “Your brothers are going to be part of the service and I wanted to make sure I asked you.”
Mom then paused a moment and said: “The only thing I ask is that you try to say something nice about me.”
“I’ll try my best mom,” I said as I attempted to keep a smile on my face.
That short conversation would be one of the last I would ever have in person with mom.
A month after our visit mom would go in for a medical procedure she wanted done. She would never return home.
Mom remained hospitalized in a series of Rome locales until her death earlier this month. My mother had some growths removed from her lungs, but her lungs were not strong enough to work on their own after the surgery.
The doctors also located a “very aggressive” cancer in my mom’s stomach that was shortening her life with us.
She was removed from her ventilation system Sept. 28. She would die four days later.
Four days after that was mom’s funeral.
My mom’s “try to say something nice” request was a simple one to obey. Mothers, like mine, have a God-given ability to tolerate the moronic actions of their children. They have unconditional love.
As for my mom, she not only showed love to her immediate family. She also extended that love to her neighbors. Her neighbors, by the way, seem to have included everyone.
I had always known my mother was a person who cared for others, but it was amazing the countless people who sang mom’s praises as they visited with her in her hospital rooms and came to the viewing at the funeral home.
Mom had an effect on the youngsters and the adults. She taught Sunday School half of her life and she and my dad have been rock-solid in their devotion to the church.
It should be easy to speak about a person who was so wonderful – my word, but also the chosen word of many. However, it wasn’t. It most certainly wasn’t.
My mother has died.
With my job, I routinely speak to individuals and groups on a variety of topics – some by plan and some thrust upon me. I even do some color commentary during radio broadcasts of the Gamecocks’ Friday night football games.
Some of you might even say that I talk too much. Duly noted.
However, talking about your cherished mother days after her passing is not the same.
Just minutes before the Oct. 6 funeral service, I was shaking so badly that I could feel my large intestine quivering.
As my family consoled with others, I snuck outside a church side door. Under a cloud-less blue sky with a pleasurable temperature, I bowed my head and prayed for wisdom, understanding and comfort. I prayed that God would lie on my heart what I should say to eulogize my beloved mother.
After I finished with my little chat with my Heavenly Father, I exhaled and then it happened. A grasshopper hopped onto my pants leg. I looked down at him. As not to frighten him, I put my index finger by my side and he crawled on as if he were in search of an elevator ride.
I then lifted my finger up to head level with me. As if taken in a way from the Bible’s 19th chapter of 1 Kings about the Lord’s “still, small voice,” I made eye contact with the little guy. Feeling at ease, I simply said, “OK.”
With that, the green grasshopper went on his merry way just as quickly as he had arrived. As for me, I went back inside, still filled with emotion but much calmer.
More composed I spoke, reassuring dad that he has a family that he can lean on for support.
I know mom, already fitted with her wings, was looking down from above to witness that I indeed did say something nice.
I love you mom.
Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.