The following is what I shared at my mother’s funeral service on March 25, 2016.
Sharing a tribute for someone who means so much to me is a daunting task. How can I do justice to briefly honor my mom when I could speak for hours?
…I could share about how much I enjoyed great meals when I came home from college—meals that always carried a message with them for me not to forget where home is. (I never did.)
…I could share about how hospitable my mom was to our friends as they passed through town, opening up “Mom Halloran’s Bed and Breakfast” to any weary traveler or person who needed a place to crash who gave her at least five minutes notice.
…I could share of how my mom treated us like royalty when we were sick, cleaning up our vomit, and cleaning up our siblings after they were vomited upon. (Only Kenny knows the pain behind this.)
…I could share how great of a listener my mom always was, and how available she was to listen to any life situation troubling her children, making us feel like all of the world’s problems can be solved with one conversation on our big blue leather couch.
…I could share how she lovingly gave herself to so many and modeled for us how it is better to give than receive.
…I could share just how much my mom and wife loved spending time together, whether it be painting furniture or enjoying a good laugh together, usually at my expense. (One time I walked in on the two of them laughing hysterically before finding out that they were laughing at me and my idiosyncrasies!)
…I could also share about all that my mom loved, like our family, crafts, her church, Charles Spurgeon, crafts (did I say it yet? ;)), and most of all her Savior.
But I think there’s a much wiser place to start, and that is with my mom’s wishes; because momma knows best. She had the privilege of designing much of this service and shared with me that she wanted this time to be more about what God has done in and through her than about how great she is. (But that will inevitably come out!)
Coming to a fork in the road
My mom was always a special person. If you’ve known her for more than five minutes, you’d know that. Three and a half years ago, she came to a fork in the road when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Moments like that can bring the best out of people or the worst. She could have done what Job’s wife in the Bible suggested: “Curse God and die”—grow bitter, spiteful, and only think about herself.
But she chose a different path.
A few weeks ago as I was reading the Bible, I came across a verse that described how my mom faced cancer. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:19:
“…Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
By God’s grace, my mom was able to entrust her soul to her faithful Creator while doing good. She chose to surrender to the loving Father who knows and controls everything.
There are many ways she entrusted her soul to God. Here are six:
1. She gave up on some of her dreams for her future. Instead of becoming bitter about never being able to hold a future grandchild, she gave her future grandchildren something they could hold to know her by—gifts and a special handmade quilt as a part of the “Grandma Shower” (instead of Baby Shower) that she celebrated with each child and their spouse.
2. She had a thankful heart amidst the suffering. From the start, my mom chose to be thankful. She kept a thankfulness journal for her time with cancer and would record everything from a good conversation at the doctor’s office to big life events like being able to attend both my wedding and my brother’s wedding, when in February 2015, we weren’t sure if she would survive for either.
3. She did not letting her sufferings hinder her relationship with God, but rather let them fuel a deepened relationship with Him, tightening her grasp of the riches that she is now enjoying in Christ. It’s fitting here to quote my mom’s favorite writer, Charles Spurgeon, who, with my dad’s permission, was the “other man in her life” (don’t worry, he died in 1892 😉 ):
Let affliction come—God has chosen me. Poverty, thou may stride in at my door, but God is in the house already, and he has chosen me. Sickness, thou may intrude, but I have a balsam ready—God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that he has “chosen” me. If, believer, thou require still greater comfort, remember that you have Jesus with you in the furnace of affliction.1
During her suffering, she so drew near to God, that often times I thought our roles were reversed: My mom, the one suffering with cancer, would be the one greatly encouraging me—when I thought I should be the one encouraging her! What a testimony to Jesus’ presence with her in the furnace of affliction.
4. She rarely complained (and I mean rarely). She made suffering with cancer look easy—when it surely wasn’t. A few times she broke down in tears while I talked with her, giving me a special peek behind the curtain to see the true battle she faced. And it was my delight to encourage her a small fraction of how she had always encouraged me.
5. She always thought of how she can bless others. If you knew my mom, you won’t need an explanation! She loved to give “gifties” to people in her life to be a blessing, from bus drivers on a city tour of Washington D.C. to special snacks for our dorm rooms at college to making curtains for a new house of a friend or giving her old banjo to a new friend who loved instruments.
6. She loved her family. This has already been amply illustrated, so I will leave you with one quick story. In her gift box for her future grandchildren was a children’s Bible with a special prayer for her grandkids. That prayer ended, “You have been loved and prayed for long before you were even born!”
Through it all, my mom was able to say in her last days that her life feels complete and that these past three and a half years with cancer were the best in her life—even amidst the difficulty.
I’m really going to miss my mom. The grieving will get easier, but I will always miss her when I eat pancakes, sing “Be Thou My Vision”, see lily of the valley, laugh until I cry watching America’s Funniest Videos, or am reminded of her a thousand other ways.
Her life and death leaves me challenged—challenged to love others more and challenged to let adversity in life draw me closer to my faithful Creator.
I encourage you to think through my mother’s example and see how you may be challenged. Maybe you feel the call to respond differently to a situation you are facing. Maybe you, like me, are challenged to bless others more with your life. Or maybe you have never put your trust in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to do so today, it just might be the best thing you’ve ever done.
1 I modernized Spurgeon’s language, changed “Son of Man” to Jesus, and added emphasis with italics.
Watch my mom’s memorial slideshow:
The first song we chose was “Across the Lands” by Keith and Kristyn Getty. My mom always said Kristyn sang “like an angel”—which is fitting, because now my mom is the one singing like an angel, worshipping the risen Christ (Revelation 5:9-14).
The Second song is called “That Home” by The Newsboys. This song couldn’t more PERFECTLY express what my brother, sister, and I feel for my mom—down to every last detail—it’s almost as if we wrote it ourselves.
The song mentions a mom who loved the Psalms and the experience of holding her hand by her bedside as she was dying, something we all took turns doing. You can read the lyrics here.