Flirting with Faith

Flirting with Faith


A Tribute to My Mother on the Anniversary of Her Death

posted by Joan Ball

My mother passed away one year ago today at age 65 a short three weeks after the death of my father who was 67. The following is a version of their story that I read at my mother’s funeral. I pray it is a fitting tribute, offered in love, on a sad day…

In Memory of Joan and Warren Burger

           I opted for the beige suit because my mother always
thought I wore a little too much black. 

           I’d like to begin by
thanking you all for being with us today. 
I am sure I can speak for my brothers Dean, Danny and Warren and my
sister Jennifer when I say that your presence here is a fitting tribute to my
mother; a woman who touched many people in so many different ways.  Nana, I love you.

As I reflect on my mother’s life, I can’t help but
think that it would make a great movie. There are so many vivid scenes and
stories, I am sure it would win an Oscar. 

The only challenge would
be choosing a genre.

We could go the nostalgic
route.   The movie could open with a close up on an attached house on E35th
Street and Avenue S in Brooklyn.  Black
and white, of course–my mother was a sucker for a good black and white
movie.  Filled with wholesome
scenes of simpler times, our heroine would hang out at the corner luncheonette
or act up out on the beach in Rockaway, all the while being be pursued by the handsome young
rogue from around the corner.  Like
any good old movie, she and the leading man fall in love and get married at the
end.

Of course, this movie
could also be a drama.

Set in the early 1970s, a
couple in their late 20s with five children risk it all for a better life in “the
country.”  They leave the familiar
in Brooklyn and build a home from scratch on the side of a mountain in a rural
town where they know no one.  In
this take, our heroine embraces country life, involves herself in activities
like 4-H and PeeWee football for her kids and keeps the home fires burning
while her husband works two and three jobs to make ends meet. 

(Of course I’d leave out
the huge vegetable garden and all of that incessant weeding just because I can…) 

As in any drama, things get
tough.  When a serious injury
renders her husband unable to work, our leading lady manages to juggle the
demands of a young family and an injured husband while returning to college in
her 30s to become a nurse.

Never one to do things
half-way, she graduates, takes a job at Westchester Medical Center and moves
quickly through the ranks; eventually becoming a well-respected hospital
administrator whose keen mind for troubleshooting results in significant
improvements to processes and programs in many areas of the hospital.   

Then again, we could opt
for a family comedy, filled with scenes of laughter, dancing, singing and fun. Set
in a beautiful post-and-beam house with an indescribable view of the Warwick
Valley or the O’Neill House or Eddy Farm, the budget for this one would be
astronomical.  We’d need to hire dozens
of extras to play our heroine’s parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters,
brother, in-laws, children, grandchildren and family friends all of whom play key
roles in creating hilarious scenes and indelible memories over the years. 

We’d also need to invest
in a tennis racquet–my mother’s favorite musical instrument…       

And what about an epic
romance?  A touching love story of
a couple of young kids from Brooklyn whose commitment to one another
transcended challenges (and by challenges I mean home improvements) resulting
in a marriage that lasted for 46 wonderful years.

Unfortunately, this movie
could also be cast as a tragedy–the story of a couple whose lives were cut way too
short by an unrelenting string of devastating illnesses.

But in the end, I think I
would write this screenplay as a story of inspiration…

Our heroine–our mother–living
every day of her life to the fullest against the backdrop of illness and the
untimely death of her beloved Warren just three weeks ago.

Despite it all, she spent
the last months of her life overseeing the renovation of a bathroom, planning a
new garden, throwing a Texas Hold-Em game at the house and making time to
connect profoundly with her mother, her sisters, her brother, her children, her
grandchildren and her friends. 

A week ago yesterday she
was shopping for lamps, out to lunch eating enchiladas and making appointments
at the salon. 

No doubt about it, Joan
Burger is an inspiration.

So, whether we choose to
remember the nostalgia, the drama, the comedy, the romance, the tragedy or the
inspiring example of my mother’s life, every movie, like every life, eventually
comes to an end. 

And, as the credits roll on this one, I am sure
that there is only one song that fits. 
That is because, after all the years of singing it, it’s onIy now that I
know how very true it is…I wouldn’t trade the silver in my mother’s hair for
all the gold in the world.
   



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Comments read comments(11)
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andrea

posted April 22, 2009 at 12:47 pm


Dear Joan,
What a wonderful and touching way to pay tribute to the many facets of your mother’s life. While I don’t really remember her your stories paint a lovely picture that I’m sure the friends and family who knew and loved her were able to connect with.
I know what a hard month this has been for you and will be for the rest of your life. I hope that the returning spring will remind you of the cyclical nature of life and will help you to move past the greif into a place of joy and forgiveness and compassion. You are now the female head of your family and it’s up to you to carry your mother’s love in your heart and share it with your children, always trying to give even more love than your mother gave to you.
I’m sure she smiles down on the woman you’ve become every day along with your dad and that they are both extrememly proud of you.
With love and compassion,
Andi



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jestrfyl

posted April 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm


Joan,
Peace and joy to you. Your memories of your parents are the gretest treasure you will have. Let it be an inheritance as well. Sing their songs, tell their stories, and no amount of tangible wealth will ever hope to match. Though I am sad for your loss, I am moved by the way you offer your tribute.



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Existential Punk

posted April 22, 2009 at 2:59 pm


Joan,
What a moving and beautiful tribute and a glimpse for all of us to know a little bit about you dear parents! i am sorry for your loss and pray you find comfort and peace.
in March 1986 i lost my father after a 5 month battle with incurable cancer. Nearly 3 months to the day, in June, his parents and grandmother were killed in a fire in their home. i thought i would never finish grieving but i think i have. Hang in there, my friend.
Warmest Regards,
Adele



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Joan Ball

posted April 22, 2009 at 11:31 pm


Thanks for commenting Adele and for sharing your experience and your well wishes. It means a lot.



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Joan Ball

posted April 22, 2009 at 11:32 pm


Thanks Andi. Your insights are lovely and I will surely remember them each spring…



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Jim Kane

posted April 23, 2009 at 10:30 am


Joan,
This tribute leaves me both speechless at its depth and beauty but also grateful for the life of my mother, God willing soon to be 85, and not just the sacrifices she made for me, but her determination and faith to do something with what God had given to her. Thank you.



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Joan Ball

posted April 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm


Jim: Your comment makes me think what it might have been like to have my mother for 20 years more – until the age of 85. What a blessing for you and your mom. I hope you have many more years together.



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Pam Vetter

posted April 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm


Joan,
As a Funeral Celebrant, I’ve heard hundreds of tributes and eulogies. This one is tops! Your tribute is an absolutely beautiful, honest take on a lady who made a difference in the world. She sounds like a terrific mom. Now, I am so curious as to what music and songs you played in her farewell. You made her proud!



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Joan Ball

posted April 25, 2009 at 5:58 pm


Pam: Thanks for your words. There were a few songs that were suggested by the church that I cannot recall. My 18 year old daughter sang Amazing Grace.



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Pam Vetter

posted April 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm


Sounds beautiful and moving. This is a must read and I am completely touched by your tribute. Thanks for sharing it as I hope millions of readers find this tribute. All my best, Pam



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Stacey

posted April 26, 2009 at 9:44 pm


This was amazing Joanie! You have made your parents proud. This was well said.



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