One task I continued to postpone as we approached my mom’s memorial was writing her eulogy.
Mom and dad’s grave marker
I’m probably not unique in such a procrastination; who wants to face up to writing something like this? There’s a lot to confront. I do wish I had reached out to my sister earlier to get her notes and thoughts. She had no interest in delivering her own in front of a group; way too emotionally challenging. I knew it would be for me too.
I used this article from Art of Manliness to help guide me. It helped to get permission to show some emotion and get choked up at times, without turning into a sob-fest. I think I pulled that off, but not without some pauses to drink some water and reclaim my voice. I didn’t follow the words below verbatim, but stuck pretty close to script. I did ad-hoc a few stories about family members in attendance to lighten things up a bit.
I want to start by saying that family was everything to Mom so having so many of you making the effort to join us to see our Cubbies WIN at Wrigley and then join us here in Burlington would have meant everything to her.
While we are on the subject of the Cubs, One of Jennifer’s favorite memories is when the Cubs won the World Series. She and the girls were with her every game and the joy that they experienced not only of the Cubs winning but seeing Mom so giddy with happiness because this was the moment she had been waiting for her entire life! There were tears of joy and tears of sadness for those that weren’t with us to witness that moment! Of course, as many of you are aware she lived up to her bargain with her granddaughters by getting a Cubs tattoo shortly after!
So, Barbara Lynne Brooks, my mom, was born on September 11, 1939 right here in Burlington Iowa. With big brother Larry and little brother Don in tow, they moved around a bit as kids but settled right back here in Burlington. Jennifer and I think of this place as our home town even though We’ve never lived here.
Jennifer and I had childhoods that involved just a wee bit of moving too. Mom and dad were deeply invested in family, so frequent returns to Burlington were the rule whether we were close by in Iowa or across the country in New Mexico. When we look at our individual pasts, we can only see things through our own eyes and perspective. Jennifer and I were both frustrated at times with our constant relocations, but it wasn’t until later in our lives that we started to think about how hard it must have been on mom and dad too.
Her role as the Matriarch being mom, grandma, Gigi, aunt, sister, sister-n-law, were so vitally important and I can assure you all that she loved watching you all grow and start your own families and continue our family tradition of love and bonding. This is where she drew her strength and left her legacy. Being with her family was what mom enjoyed most of all.
For Jennifer and I both, our very best childhood memories are times where all of us got together, especially here in Burlington. We didn’t appreciate the efforts that Mom and Dad made to make sure we spent time with family until we were much older, it was very much taken for granted. Now we can I see how lucky we were to have parents that made the effort to create memories and build family bonds.
I know that I grew up loving aunt, uncle, and cousin time. Looking back I’m sure the circumstances that led to Larry living us for a while must have been very difficult, probably a big setback for Larry. But as a nine or ten year old it just meant more time to hang out with one of my many fun uncles. Mom was always so caring towards others and kept our doors open to whoever needed a respite.
Speaking of fun uncles, playing host to Don Gardiner and family for multiple Indy 500s created some of my best childhood memories. Mom and Don both cared deeply about creating family experiences like that.
Mom and I didn’t always agree on things, and we went through some rough patches. I know Jennifer did as well. Mom was flawed in the same way most of us probably are: having a hard time talking straight and sharing her feelings directly. It could be hard to get inside her head, which naturally led to us making up our own narratives. She made up for that as she got older! To be honest over time, mom, Jennifer and I had to establish some ground rules for topics that WOULD NOT be discussed because she was not shy about talking straight.
It wasn’t until I was older that I was able to understand more clearly just how much mom did for me. Dad worked and traveled a lot during my early elementary school years and I had a deep passion for playing baseball at that time. It was mom that was out in the yard with me playing catch when I didn’t have a friend to throw with. And she was good and could throw hard. Some time in the late 70s mom took me to her office on a weekend to sit down with a mini mainframe and play a text-based game or two. I’m sure it won’t surprise you all to know that I was instantly hooked. From then on mom and dad kept a steady supply of personal computers in our household.
What wonderful lessons she gave us. Keep your priorities straight. Keep that which is most important in focus. Love and care for your family. Let them know in all the ways you can that you love them. Don’t let adversities or setbacks or any of the distractions of the world keep you from this most important aspect of life. We are all so fortunate to have each other, even though we are miles apart we can reunite and pick up right where we left off.
Speaking of family and friendships, I have to mention how important her companionship with Tammi and Andy were. Andy was always there for a cup of coffee or small home repair projects. And Tammi was like a bonus daughter to mom and she treasured being close by and spending so much time with Benjamin.
Jennifer lived much nearer to mom for the last 25 years, and with me being the “far away” child I know it must have been hard for her to listen to mom talking about me, my professional success, Jacob and Matthew, and so on. But as I’ve told Jennifer many times, in my weekly calls with mom she would so often steer the conversation to bragging about Jennifer and her family, and, especially over the past 10 years, her career success. Mom was no different from all of us that it was often much easier to praise her family to others than it was to do it directly in person.
Of course that all changed as mom’s health declined in 2020 and 2021. While nobody would wish for a parent to transition to hospice, Jennifer and I quickly learned how important this form of care is. With Julie and Gracie’s help, we were able to move mom out of The Fountains and into Jennifer’s home and establish a care routine for mom’s accelerating decline. Those weeks with her were priceless. Watching Schitts Creek, sometimes the same episode over and over again. Hearing mom rave about Jennifer’s career. Long conversations about her grandkids and great grandkids.
Julie and I had to return to El Paso, once again leaving Jennifer and her family to be present; this time for mom’s final chapter. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for the years, if not decades, of presence and care Jennifer had with mom and dad.
Jennifer and I love you all so very much and we have no doubt that Mom and Dad are with us here and are proud that their legacy continues.