This is a meditation I wrote and read aloud at my mother's funeral service, August 12, 2012.
|Mom , Christmas 2011|
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, and have not love--I am nothing but a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal.
I wanted to share a few paraphrased passages from I Corinthians 13, also known as "The Love Chapter", today because even though it is often read at weddings, this beautiful piece of scripture is also fitting for funerals--and particularly in regards to celebrating the legacy of my mom, Ann J. Cooper.
Mom, as many of you know, was an excellent wordsmith. Without her expertise in grammar and spelling and her editorial input, I don't believe my father's publications would have been half as successful. Mom was even multilingual for a short period of her life as the young daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to Brazil during the 1930s. I can remember how she use to entertain us with a children's tune about a little birdy, all in fluent Portuguese. But I really feel Mom was the most fluent in the most important of all languages, the language of doing, of serving, the language of the heart, the language we call "love".
As her dear friends, we all saw her demonstrate this language frequently. She volunteered her love and service at Chopin Hall, Lutheran Social Services; at various other charities over the years; through service as a younger woman with both the Boy and Girl Scouts of America; through serving in various capacities at St. John's and other churches she attended;through befriending students at University of Findlay while working in the library--especially the foreign students; by her support of educational opportunities through the American Association of University Women and by supporting her grandchildren in their college careers.
Mom's grammar was the syntax of doing, of serving others selflessly, of encouragement and support without the need of words. Her actions were her words, and time and cancer could not rob her of the language of love.
She loved continually and showered it frequently on both close confidants and on perfect strangers alike. In the few short months she live at Primrose Retirement Center, she made friends with staff and residents alike. They loved her funny stories and comments--she made them smile and lightened their workload. When they told us, "We love your mother!" I believe it was heartfelt and not mere words. To the end, she was fluent in the language of the heart, this tongue we call "love".
Love is patient and kind; Love is not selfish, nor proud, not jealous or boastful. It doesn't rejoice in wrongs, but rejoices in the right. Perfect love casts out all fear.I will never claim that Mom was "perfect"--she struggled with sin just like the rest of us--but I will admit to you that to me she was a "saint". Now comes the good part of the talk: I'll admit to a dirty little secret that only me and mom shared. Not even my family members are fully aware of this: I am brain damaged. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but here I'm using the English term accurately. I suffered a brain injury probably during birth. I was born about three weeks early, and Mom said that she lost almost all her water by the time she arrived at the hospital. I seemed a normal enough baby with good lungs, and I was sent home in time for Easter, but Mom realized when I became a toddler I was not speaking or understanding words like my older siblings.
It was the early 1960s, and the testing we have today wasn't available. Mom told me she didn't know what to do but to love me as I was, and try and help me the best she could. Mom's treatment was through introducing me to the world of literature at a very young age. While my older siblings were at school, and Paul in his cradle, she would sit me on her lap near her heartbeat--my favorite sound!--and read picture books to me, pointing my fingers over the words and sounding them out while pointing to the objects in the illustrations as well.
One day it was as if a light bulb popped up in my mind--I could visually put those odd and confusing noises people made into a form my brain could digest and organize into coherent thought! At age two the world was a frightening cacophony of sounds and unintelligible garble, but by age four I came to understand that folks were speaking English--and I could too, but I needed a little more help. I was in speech and hearing classes from first through sixth grade--yes, that long. I loved my speech pathology teachers, but none came close to my mom. Like Helen Keller, one day a loving teacher brought me the gift of language to me and suddenly the world became a brighter, less frightening place that I could relate to and communicate with. Mom was my "Annie Sullivan", my savior from an existence that would have only been hell on earth. And the language she first taught me was the language of love.
For now we see through a mirror dimly; then we shall see Him face to face. We will come to understand all, even as we are now fully understood.
Mom was a "mirror"--not a perfect one, but a mirror of God's love in the world through her actions. Actions do speak louder than words! And here's one last example of her doing, her serving, her language of love: Mom would pray for all her family members and friends every night after she read her daily devotional. She would pray for each according to his/her need--and she loved each and every one uniquely and special she told me. She said her prayers right up to the end. I was tucking her in at Primrose one night and I asked if she wanted me to turn out her light and call the nurse for her pain medication, but she said, "No, not yet. I need to say my prayers first."
If there's one reason I wish Mom were here today it's this: I wish she were here so her grandchildren and others, whom she hadn't met yet, could get to know her better and experience her language of the heart. But she's gone to be with her Savior--and yours, too--Jesus Christ. Wednesday last week was a happy day for her. She departed a world filled with garbled noises and strange sounds called "sin" and went to a place where everyone speaks the same tongue--the language of love. You can see why I am particularly glad that she's there now with her Savior in heaven, as she helped to save me (and others) from hell and gave us a sweet foretaste of that world to come with our Lord.
As the apostle Paul summed it up at the end of his "Love Chapter":
Faith, hope, love--abide these three, but the greatest of these is love.
Continue Ann's legacy of love--do, serve, act, encourage, teach, and above all else know that our perfect Savior is watching over you every step along the way. Always.