Having just tried to practice my mother’s eulogy out loud in the quietness of my hotel room; and having dissolved into tears. Again. I’m giving myself pretty much a 100% chance of not being able to get through it tomorrow morning at her memorial service. So, of course, I just asked my sister to promise to NOT make fun of the “professional speaker” who falls apart … and I thought it might be a good idea to post the content here so one day I can look back on what I meant to say.
Tara Barthel’s Eulogy for her Mother
Kathryn Kroncke Ford
November 13, 1944 – December 18, 2012
My mother had many strengths. She was an artist. A poet. And a very good friend.
My mother taught my sister and me that people are people, no matter what they looked like or what their life circumstances were. Prejudice and bigotry had no place in my mother’s heart and I treasure that legacy in my own life and the lives of my children.
My mother valued reading and education. She never said, “IF you go to college …” She always said, “WHEN you go to college …” So even though my financial situation would have made it seem impossible, I have had the privilege of serving in a variety of ways in life because of my college and graduate education. And even beyond my formal degrees, I delight in seeing my young daughters devouring books and enjoying learning. This is also my mother’s legacy.
My mother was a stickler for proper manners and I am so grateful for the training I received at a young age. The only reason I instinctively stand when someone needs a seat; hold doors open for anyone in need; look people in the eye, give a firm handshake, and greet them by name … is because my mother taught me to do so. And I think she was channeling a bit of her own mother in this regard, because every time I am even tempted to not do the right thing in a social setting, I hear a quiet voice in my head saying:
“Grandma Pearl would rise up out of her grave if I ever spoke back to an adult or stayed seated on the “L” while an elderly person had to stand.”
So I guess that is both my mother’s and my grandmother’s legacy to me.
My mother tried hard in life, but like me, she often messed up. We both get socially anxious and talk too much to the checkout lady at Target. We have strong, powerful personalities. We come across as brave, but we’re easily scared and often want to hide away. We’re terrible with directions. And we spill things. A lot.
But all of that just meant we were human … And learning to give ourselves a break, and give each other a break was one of the ways that we began to move toward each other and love one another as adult friends.
My mother and I got to be friends because we forgave one another. We confessed past sins and offenses. We talked about hard memories. We recognized that neither one of us was an enemy to the other and we covered over our weaknesses and failures with accepting, gracious love.
I will miss my mother every day for the rest of my life. When good things happen, they won’t feel quite as real because I won’t be able to call her and tell her all about them.
When my daughters serve through music, I will remember that it was my mother—the woman who “couldn’t play a radio” who bought me my piano and paid for my lessons and gave me (and now my daughters) the life-changing gift of music.
This was one of my mother’s strongest gifts … the ability to help people to dream big dreams. Set goals. Work hard. And move beyond their present circumstances to achieve them.
I’ll close with just one more story (even though I could tell hundreds of stories about her kindness and care). It actually has to do with the most important thing in my life: my identity as an adopted, forgiven child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My mother was not a church-going woman. We never had discussions about God when I was a little girl. But when I asked if I could go to church with my friends in elementary school, she said, “Sure!” And when I was just out of junior high school and members of a cult were flattering me with attention and false promises, she wisely said, “Be careful!”
And then, when I began to read the Bible in high school and I returned to the Lutheran church of my infant baptism and learned of the great gift of salvation by grace, by faith, in Christ, my mom was supportive and quite long-suffering. Because I was actually a giant, judgmental, religious Pharisee JERK for the first few years of my Christian walk. (That was one of my many failures that my mother and my sister had to forgive in order for us to be true friends—and we are. True friends. They are my BEST friends.)
My mom was always respectful when we would talk about issues of faith and belief. And she even generously and bravely gave me permission to tell our story to now tens of thousands of women all around the world.
Our story of a wonderful, brilliant, flawed woman raising a wonderful, stubborn, flawed child in a difficult family setting with many aspects of suffering for everyone related to an unhappy first marriage, undiagnosed psychiatric challenges, and as-yet unaddressed addictions.
Yes. The first two decades of our life-story had much pain for both of us. But my mother said over and over again:
“If sharing our story can help even one other woman; one other family … then I give you permission to share anything with anyone at any time.”
And this I have done. In the quietness of my real life—in my community and church in Montana. And in my public service through my books, at conferences around the globe, and in my online writings.
Kathy Kroncke Ford helped me, helped her dear friends, and has also helped thousands of women to see that they are not alone. They are not crazy. They are not (to use AA’s term) “chronically unique” if they struggle with mental illness, addiction, or broken relationships that seem as though they could never possibly be healed.
They are just human beings like the rest of us. Created in the image of God. Walking through the brokenness of life in this fallen world.
Our life stories may vary. But there is a common theme which I can only describe as God’s magnificent grace at work taking the broken things of life and making beauty; beauty from ashes.
Thank you, Mom, for forgiving me and loving me and being such a good friend to me. I love you with all my heart and I wish you were still here with us today.