A Tribute to Mom on Her Birthday

Mom looked healthy in this photo taken less than a week before she unexpectedly died. (Photo taken by my brother Gary)


Today would have been Mom’s 81st birthday. Sadly, last week our family gathered to bury Mom who died suddenly from cardiac failure. At her funeral, I fought back tears to read a tribute I’d written in her honor. With only slight editing, here’s what I shared with family and friends who had gathered to honor the special lady we all loved.


Thank you for being here. Your presence means a lot to the family, especially to Dad, Gary and me.

Earlier this week we received ongoing updates on who was planning to be here. We learned that Mom’s brothers, nephews, nieces and grandchildren would be traveling from California, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.

As the list grew longer, I kept thinking, “This is great! Mom will be so happy to see everyone.”

Then I’d get choked up as my new reality quickly set in. This time we were not planning another family reunion. Nor a 50th anniversary celebration. Nor the wedding of one of Mom’s grandchildren.

Sadly, this is not one of those happy events. We have come here to mourn. We have suffered a big loss, and we are here to grieve.

But we have also gathered to celebrate the joy and the love and the happiness that Mom brought into each of our lives.

For as long as I can remember, wherever family has gathered Mom has been right in the middle of the activity.

Last night at the visitation my cousin Kathy said, “Your Mom was the glue that held the family together. She kept us all connected.” How true! Major family events had Mom’s fingerprints all over them. She was a planner. She was an organizer. Mostly, she was someone who loved being with family and friends, so she’d do whatever she could to make such events happy and memorable.

When you boil it all down, Mom loved three things with all of her heart:

  1. She loved Jesus.
  2. She loved family.
  3. She loved friends.

I want to talk about each of those briefly.

1. Mom loved Jesus with all of her heart.

Mom and Jesus talked a lot. That’s what good friends do.

Mom listened to what he had to say. For example, she read her Bible regularly.

On their 23rd wedding anniversary, Dad gave Mom a leather-bound Bible. Today, it is well-worn and quite fragile. Texts throughout have been underlined. In the margins are many handwritten notes. In the back are several blank pages where Mom wrote out quotations she found inspiring, verses important to her and notations from difficult periods in the lives of her family.

She eventually retired that Bible and replaced it with another. This past weekend when I took Dad to church, I asked, “If Mom were here, which Bible would she take with her?” Dad pointed to the one beside her favorite chair. It was right where she had left it, and inside there was even a pen marking the place where she had last been reading. Since Mom could not take her Bible to church, I picked it up and took it for her.

In addition to listening to Jesus, Mom talked to him. She had a lot to share with her friend. She prayed for Dad. She prayed for Gary and me and for our families. She prayed for each of her grandchildren every day.

2. Mom loved family with all of her heart.

She loved her husband. Even while hospitalized last week, Mom talked more about Dad’s health than she did her own.

Mom loved her two sons and their families. She expressed her love in so many ways. When I hurt, she hurt. When I was carrying a heavy burden, she was always with me helping me to carry it. Several years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Not only did Mom pray, she also fasted. When I would go to the oncologist, one of the first people I’d call was Mom. I’d give her the good news from my checkup and I’d also let her know she could satisfy the hunger incurred from her fasting.

Mom deeply loved each of her grandchildren and prayed for each daily. To Mom’s grandchildren, let me say this:  Those same prayers will be continued by your mothers and other family members who share the same commitment that your grandmother did.

Yes, Mom loved all of her family. Reunions, birthdays, Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning won’t be the same without Mom.

3. Mom loved friends with all of her heart.

She loved doing things for others.

Many of you have been guests in her home and have eaten the delicious meals she lovingly prepared. She enjoyed baking and sharing what she’d made.

Last weekend tears streamed down my face as a family friend recalled how—on the day after Mom died—he finished eating the last of the two loaves of banana nut bread Mom had given him just before she went into the hospital.

Mom loved each of us with all of her heart. A week ago today the very heart that she loved us with stopped beating.

Mom’s love continues to surround us, though. Her memory will forever remain in our hearts.

Family Farewells

Whenever Mom told any of us family members goodbye, she would always flash the sign language message for “I love you.”

It became her signature salute at any family farewell.

For years, whenever we would pull out of her driveway and head towards home, she would wave with that familiar gesture. Whenever she would leave our house after Thanksgiving, Christmas or other major events, she would always flash the “I love you” sign.

Because I know that someday we’ll be reunited, today I won’t say a final goodbye to Mom.

Rather than saying goodbye, I’ll simply close by saying, “I’ll miss you Mom. And I love you.”



8 Responses to A Tribute to Mom on Her Birthday

  1. Meggan Cowan says:

    What an amazing tribute, Duane. Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting your Mom, I can tell she was an amazing person. Your tribute was extremely touching and I am certain there could not have been a better way to honor her. Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.

  2. Almitra Buzan says:

    Duane, Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching tribute to your mother. You made me cry. The Bible says that we judge a tree by its fruit. It is through seeing you that we all know for certain your mother was a mighty and glorious tree full of blessings for others. May God continue to keep you and your family in His care.

  3. Bryan Hallock says:

    Very touching tribute to Grandma, both reading it now and when you read it at the funeral. Grandma lived a very wonderful life, she talked the talk, but more importantly walked the walk. Everyone in life at some point has two grandmas,some have the honor of knowing them for a long time, or even knowing them at all. I am thankful I have known all four of my grandparents and that one of them was her.

  4. Gary Hallock says:

    Happy Birthday, Mom! She would always call on our birthdays. She let us know we were loved. I believe she knew she was loved. It has been a little over two weeks since she died. I don’t know about you, Duane, but it is hard to realize we won’t be able to call and wish her a happy birthday today.

  5. Mel Campbell says:

    Duane you wrote a heartfelt tribute to Clara Mae. You indeed are a wordsmith!

    I was up early this morning as is my custom. At least by now I would have sent her a birthday card and called her, but all I could do was to send a thank you note to the Miami church for the excellent dinner they prepared.

    My heart still aches for the loss.

  6. Ron Cushing says:

    Very nice, Duane. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Like your mom, our family has been using the “I love you” hand sign since our first grandson was 1 year old and knew more signs that he did words.
    May you all have peace.

  7. Jennifer Rebarchek says:

    I still can’t believe it sometimes that she is gone. I am glad you shared this at the funeral and I think everyone can agree that Grandma was an amazing woman. Full of life, funny, loving and caring for her family. I miss her and think about her every day.

  8. DeneneWrites says:

    Duane, Thanks for sharing this. I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. God bless.

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