Mom was eternally beautiful, her life on earth a unique work of art never to be lived again—though it will always have been lived. A life worth living. A life worth remembering. A life worthy of song and dance, poetry and tears, struggle, solemnity, childlike laughter, and play.

And when I think of her life, when I think of her eternal beauty, the first thing that comes to my mind also inaugurates my brother’s memories of her. Will and I share the same undying image.

On the night that she passed, I looked at my brother and I asked him, “What is the first thing you remember about her?” And as though he had read my mind, Will said, “Her hair. Pulling on her hair.”

Not only was Mom’s hair luxurious and flowing (and somehow in possession of a miraculous ability to change color from month to month,) it was also a safe place, a reminder of her warmth and love for us, our tiny fingers intertwined in those strands of brown and gold as we laid next to her after good days and bad days. Her hair, it felt like an eternal place of comfort and understanding.

After she became sick, after a week where all her hair had fallen from her head, she nervously removed her wig in front of me for the first time. And though all her hair was gone, I looked at her and said, “You look absolutely beautiful.”

I said it not as a little white lie, not to make her feel better, not to play the part of the dutiful, consoling son, but to simply declare to her and myself a truth staring me in the face: she was absolutely, eternally beautiful, a unique work of art from beginning to end.

But mom was not only a work of art; she was also an artist. She did not create with brush strokes. She did not create with musical notes. She was not a poet or a novelist or an actor upon the stage.

No, mom’s medium as an artist was love. And her canvas was the collective hearts and minds of the people she crossed paths with during her time here on earth.

Since her passing, so many people have to come to me with stories of her love and warmth, her kindness towards people she barely even knew. She shaped all our worlds through her love and care whether she was playing the role of nurse, friend, sister, daughter, wife, or mother. Actually, strike that, she never played a role.

She was always simply and powerfully, Carole.


So Mom,

I am happy and gracious to say Will and I stand here today as your most intimate portraits of love.

We are molded by your same hands, out of your same clay. We look in the mirror and we see you. We speak our words and we hear your voice flowing from our lips. We think of what is good and true, what is right and proper, what is beautiful and transcendent and we see you. We once shared the same heartbeat. And in a way we still do, for our lives are so much the work of your love.

Our eternal lives together began long before your passing. They began the moment you first loved us. Eternity is here on earth, for we first found it in your loving arms, sealed by a kiss.

Your friend, Tracy, told me that she asked you of what it was like having and raising boys. You answered, “Like a romance that never ends.”

And you were right. Like you were about so many things, you were right. We were, still are, and always will be utterly in love with you, Mom.

Your time on earth may have come to end but our romance endures–through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, with no “untils,” beyond even the mystery and tragedy of death, our romance still endures.

Will and I are so profoundly happy to be your sons. To have learned at your feet. To have laid by your side and in your arms. To have listened to your voice sing us to sleep and chastise us to be better men. We relish the chance to continue to live up to your example and to be the best you saw in both of us.

But we are most grateful for those things you gave to us that we cannot even begin to know. How can a portrait ever know all the secrets of its creator?

All those years and months and nights and days, all those stories and values and acts of kindness, all the love you gave to us–it is all so deeply etched into our persons that it is impossible for us to know exactly how profound your influence has been.


 

You told me when I was young,

Something I can’t yet recall,

But I know by the way you cared

Nothing need be said at all.

Can you put in words your wide world,

Leaving no memory obscured?

Could you surmise your love for boy or girl,

And consider your insatiability cured?

You told me many stories;

You sang me the songs you were sung,

And so the melody lives within me,

Though, for now, the words escape my tongue

I can’t spell out the past,

My youth being lived, not read,

But just like an unsung memory

Our pasts live in every moment unsaid.

For the world is an unbroken thing,

Flowing through each to each

–persons, moments, and places unspoken–

A visceral knowledge we cannot teach.

And now, now, I slowly recall

The words you sang to me

They seem to denote something for us all:

Yahweh, I know you are near,

Standing always at my side.

You guard me from the foe,

And you lead me in ways everlasting.

Mom, I know you are near,

Standing always at my side.

You guard me from the foe,

And you lead me in ways everlasting.