On September 1st of this year, we lost my mother, Marg Stockill, unexpectedly.
Mum was the strongest, bravest, kindest, most forgiving, and loving person I will ever know.
She loved life and she loved me, absolutely and unconditionally. You can attribute most of the good in me to my mother’s influence.
Marg Stockill lived a tremendously full, vibrant, joyful life, and I want to inspire others to help me help her spirit live on.
But writing a eulogy is a difficult thing.
Any word I look to seems too meagre; any sentence I manage to string together doesn’t seem to go nearly far enough.
Mum’s spirit was so beautiful, her life so full, that no words can truly do her justice. I’ve never felt so unconfident as a writer as when I was putting together my remarks for her funeral.
What follows is the best that I could do.
Posted below is an amended version of the eulogy I delivered at my mother’s funeral:
I hate the fact that we are gathered here today.
Even though I am so grateful to meet so many of you, and to see so many friendly, familiar faces, and hear your stories about Mum, I hate that we are here.
I hate that such a beautiful, vibrant, joyous presence in the world was taken from us. I hate that we were robbed of many more years with Mum. Mum would have liked seeing so many of you here, sharing stories, sharing laughs. Mum loved life, and she loved all of us.
A lot of people talk about a parent being their best friend, but I couldn’t be more sincere.
Because I’ve never had a better friend, a more trusted confidante, a more forgiving teacher, and I’m not sure I ever will.
When people speak about “a mother’s love,” they’re talking about a special, very rare kind of love that came so effortless for my Mum: a truly unconditional, boundless love that my mother wrapped around me like a blanket for my entire life, wherever I traveled, however great the distance that separated us. I cannot begin to describe to you how fortunate I feel to have known that love, and I know that blanket will stay wrapped around me for the rest of my life.
Because my mother isn’t in photographs on the wall, or videos. She’s right here. My mother is in this room with us, right now. And she will be with me, always.
Because I believe when someone comes into our life, and impacts us, they become a part of us.
When someone teaches us a lesson, we change as individuals, and we carry a part of our teacher with us for the rest of our lives. And we teach others this lesson, this gift, and they teach other people, and in this way our teacher can live on forever.
So to honour my mother, and ensure that her spirit lives on, I would like to share with you some lessons my Mum taught me:
You either laugh or cry.
Throughout her life, my mother suffered a series of misfortunes, both big and small.
Mum had, without a doubt, the worst sense of direction on the planet. Getting lost down some country road, finding herself in the middle of nowhere, was a common occurrence. She could be clumsy, and forgetful, and extremely disorganized.
In later life, both of her children moved to the other side of the world. And then, suddenly, she found herself in hospitals, in cancer wards.
But through it all, my mother could always laugh.
Of course, there were many tears in between, but my mother’s smile and laugh was, and is, legendary.
Aside from Christmas, I think my mother’s favourite occasion was April Fool’s Day. More than once while I was growing up, Mum would wake my sister and I up on April 1st, telling us that there was a snowstorm last night, and school was closed. After five minutes of watching my sister and I celebrate, she’d drop the bombshell “April Fool’s!” and giggle like a crazy person. If anyone wonders where I get my sick sense of humour from, they don’t have to look far.
But aside from teaching me how to laugh, and take myself less seriously, Mum taught me that we have the power to choose our perspective; we can choose how to interpret misfortune, and see it not as a tragedy, but as a good story to tell in the future.
We can choose to see the beauty in almost anything. And when bad things happen to us, we can choose to laugh, or cry. And we always have the power to choose joy.
And treat others the way we would like to be treated.
My mother loved to laugh, but her humour was almost always at her own expense; she laughed at herself, never at others.
My mother realized that everyone has pain, everyone is going through their own private struggle. So treat people with kindness. Forgive those who deserve forgiveness. Don’t take everything so seriously, or personally.
Mum spent her professional life as a social worker, working with the most disadvantaged people in our society: mostly women and children who were abandoned, beaten, neglected, and abused. My mother witnessed firsthand the worst of what humans are capable of doing to each other. Yet still, her belief in the general goodness of people, and the kindness of the human heart, never wavered.
She loved children like no one else I’ve met. And they loved her.
Babies and infants simply gravitated toward her, as if she had an invisible aura they couldn’t help but be drawn to. She was similarly drawn to them, always eager to make them laugh, tell stories, sing them a song, or simply hold them. Her heart broke when she saw babies and infants battling the same disease she was. But she always believed in the children who came into her life, and they believed in her. And her kindness of spirit and generosity touched hundreds of families across this province.
As a cancer patient, she was saddened when people started treating her differently; when people looked at her and saw only the disease; when strangers on the street would avert their eyes, instead of smiling at her the way she smiled at them. Through the dignified way she lived her life to the very end, she taught me to be more conscious of the way I treat the people who come into my life, and to forever remember that a patient is a person, first and foremost, just like you and I.
Through her life and work, my mother taught me that everyone needs a friend, so be a friend to others. Don’t add to the pain and sorrow of the world; instead, do your best to alleviate it.
But don’t take in all of the pain and sorrow of the world, either.
Don’t be angry.
My father and I come from a long line of angry, bitter men. Men who decided to hate, men who decided to cling on to their pain, men who believed that pushing people away would protect them, make them stronger.
Through the way she lived her life, through the example she set, my mother proved to my father and I, over and over again, that these men were wrong.
My mother taught me that love, compassion, and forgiveness is the answer to most of the big questions in life. My mother understood this lesson, she lived this lesson.
And Mum had reason to be angry—through personal challenges, through workplace challenges, through cancer.
Even through the last year of her life, as her health faded, and she was no longer able to work, my mother remained an optimist; excited about the future, curious about the lives of the people close to her, and still eager to make a difference in the world. Even toward the very end, she was counselling co-workers on how best to care for the children they worked with.
My mother knew—she always knew—that life was too short for anger, pessimism, jealousy, and bitterness. Life is too beautiful to cling to pain, to cling to hurt, to isolate yourself from others. There’s simply no time to be angry.
This is the last, and most important lesson, my mother ever taught me:
There’s no time to waste.
Life is so fleeting, so precious, so precarious. At this very moment, as we are gathered here today, I was supposed to be having an afternoon cocktail with my Mum, sharing stories, listening to music, having a laugh. Instead, I’m here, speaking to you.
Mum taught me, in a way no one else ever has, that life is short—and so we have no other option but to love fearlessly, appreciate every moment, and be so enormously grateful for the gift that is life.
My mother would probably be embarrassed by the outpouring of admiration in the wake of her passing.
Anyone who knew her knows that she was extremely humble, and unpretentious. And my mother was an incredible teacher, but she didn’t think of herself that way.
She thought of herself simply as a mother, a wife, a friend, a woman doing her best to live a life true to herself, and her values. She didn’t realize the impact she had on the people around her; I pray she realized the impact she had on me. There’s a hole in my life now that I don’t know how I’m going to fill.
But I need to ensure that her legacy lives on.
So now I’m asking you to help me.
If my mother taught you something, or touched your life in some way, or if anything I wrote here resonates with you, hold on to that. Teach it to others. And help me help my beautiful mother live on.
To the best woman I’ve ever known, the best mother anyone could ask for: thank-you. I love you so much, Mum.