Mom passed away a year ago, on June 18, 2013. While no testament to her life and heart ever seems adequate, I gave my best effort with this eulogy. Mom would’ve been proud; she was unconditional in that regard.
Thank you all for joining us today, to celebrate the life of Mary Beth Keane, my mom.
Thanks also for your support and concern during every step of Mom’s journey.
The other night I asked my brother Justin “how could I possibly deliver a proper testament to Mom’s life?”
He reminded me that the best testament for anyone is the living testament: the people around her, the family and friends who shared her days, her work, and her dreams.
And this is particularly appropriate for Mom, because she loved people. She loved to get together, to talk and to share.
She loved to catch up with her sisters, Kathleen, Laurie, and Elaine. She loved to hear from you, and to try to solve all of your problems, even if that’s what you weren’t asking for.
She loved to play the card game Hand & Foot with her Aunt Doy and Uncle George — the perfect excuse to sit and talk for hours. It was even more fun if you could talk and count cards at the same time, one of Mom’s many talents.
She loved her daughters-in-law: Wendy and Shannon. She waited so long for daughters, and she had a lot of mother-daughter talk to catch up on.
And she loved her 4 grandsons: Tristan, who she is with now; Harper the miracle baby; and Winnie and Duncan Lancelot. She loved to talk to them and to talk about them.
She loved being a speaker with the Studer Group, traveling and meeting people all over the country. She loved sharing that work with every one of you.
And I think Mom’s favorite time to share was dinnertime. She liked big, warm, loud dinners — preferably with guests but even with Dad, Justin, Wil, Benjamin, and myself we had plenty to talk about.
And most dinners started with The Call, which my brothers can all recite too:
Christian, it’s your mother. I’m on my way home.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Get 6 potatoes and scrub them, then cut little X’s in them.
One of your brothers needs to make the salad.
And another one can set the table.
The Call was like our family litany, a kind of starting bell for the big dinner. There were small variations day-to-day, but it was pretty much the same, year after year.
And then Mom and Dad would come home from whatever errand or soccer pick-up, and we’d light the candles and she’d give Dad a kiss.
We’d say grace and pass the plates, and then we’d just talk and talk.
That was Mom’s 1st lesson: love is being together and sharing.
Love is the source of all good things.
Love & Fear
Mom’s 2nd lesson was about conflict.
Conflict resolution was a frequent topic of Mom’s presentations for Studer Group, so she spent a lot of time talking about conflict and trying to understand it.
About a year ago, she told me that she believed that all conflict — and bad behavior in general — was caused by fear. If you want to understand and resolve a conflict, you have to dig down and find and face the fear.
In Genesis chapter 3, after Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree of knowledge, God returns to the garden and calls out to them.
And Adam says
“I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
And God says some pretty angry things to Adam and Eve.
But when God casts them out of the garden, Adam and Eve cling to each other, and they begin a family that becomes the Tribes.
That admission, “I am naked and afraid,” was the first, distant, step towards redemption.
Clinging together was the second.
From a distance, Mom could seem fearless.
Last night Mom’s manager from Studer Group, Craig, reminded me that for Mom, a score of 97 out of 100 meant she had 3 points of fixing to do. And that attitude goes way back.
Her mother, Mary Louise, gave Mom the gifts of grace and faith. Her father, Wilson, gave her his wit and ambition.
And she just ran through life with those.
It seemed like there was just nothing she couldn’t do without turning it up to 11.
It was like the zucchini she planted in her garden in Oregon, which grew so abundant there was only one thing left to do: bake zucchini cookies and brainwash the kids into believing they were the tastiest treat on the planet.
She was supermom. Smart, talented, articulate. She threw a killer dinner party.
Until one day, Mom came to us and said, “I feel fat.”
And we paused. And looked at each other, and then we said “No, Mom! No you look great!”
Of course we denied it, because she was our mom. We loved her.
But we also denied it because it was scary.
But Mom didn’t let it go. She joined Weight Watchers and our dinners were still full of talk but the menu changed (still those 6 potatoes at 350, scrub ‘em and get ‘em in the oven!). Eventually, Mom hit her goal weight.
And then she became a Weight Watchers group leader, carrying her “Before” picture under her arm to each meeting.
At dinner she’d tell us about women who would strip down naked before stepping onto the scale — did you know a pair of blue jeans weighs 2 pounds? — and they’d hit their goal weight and cry, and the room would erupt with cheers.
And that unlikely beginning was Mom’s 1st step. It led to mom becoming a corporate trainer in Savannah, Georgia, which took her to Pensacola, and finally to her career at Studer Group.
And then Mom said to us, “I’m an alcoholic.”
And we paused. And looked at each other, and then we said “No mom! No, you’re not an alcoholic, you never even get drunk!”
Because we were scared and so was she.
But Mom joined AA and even NA and she was naked on a different kind of scale. It meant letting go of some of her old habits, some her dinner parties, some of her very good friends.
We had to learn how to have dinner yet again, but she kept at it: preheat the oven, scrub the potatoes, and gather together.
She was fortunate to have Dad on that journey with her.
41 years ago, after 4 months of dating, my Protestant mother convinced a Catholic priest to marry her and Dad.
Before he relented, the priest said “well, I think you two just have hot pants for each other, but the church needs more Catholic babies so I’ll do it.”
Turns out he was right on both counts.
But being a man of God, he underestimated just how far hot pants can take a couple. They clung together through all kinds of nakedness, better and worse.
That was Mom’s final lesson, which she applied to her family, her work, and her life: loving in the face of fear.
Mom had the perfect disguise: she was on top of the world.
And then she said, “Here I am. Here I really am. I’m naked and fat and drunk and afraid.”
It was terrifying and uneven, and an imperfect process.
It was often scary and uncomfortable for us. But it was also her greatest strength.
Acknowledging her nakedness — embracing it — freed her, to listen clearly, to speak earnestly, and to love fully.
It was that first, distant step to redemption.
So here we are, in the deafening silence after Mom.
We’re naked and afraid, with hearts full of love.
If we take a moment listen, we just might hear her Call:
I’m on my way home.
Prepare the meal.
Gather your brothers and sisters.
Thank you all so much.