This is the talk I gave at Mom’s memorial.
This writing is to share my experience and celebrate the life of my mother, Becky Tallman, who loved God, and who loved us.
For me, my mom and dad came as a package deal. So it’s appropriate that though this day of her memorial is a celebration of mom’s life, it’s also my dad’s birthday.
My mom and dad were well matched. In describing them recently, I would say that mom moved through the world as a quiet extrovert, and dad as a gregarious introvert. My folks were quite a pair, and the overarching theme of their relationship was that they were best friends for life. We’ve found some of their notes passed in high school, notes written when they should have been studying, my dad always a flirt; my mom, always inquisitive. It appears that they were in the first blush of sweetheart love, and there was talk of what to do that summer. Mom asked: do you like this? Do you like that? My mom was all questions, and my dad was all flirty. He wanted her picture. He wanted to take a walk on Sunday. She wanted to know how the choir sounded. He wanted her locker number so he could drop a note in. Ever the one for details, she drew a map to her locker location.
But today is mom’s day most of all, and I’d like to share a few things my mother taught me. This list is by no means comprehensive or in order.
My mom taught me and at least one of my sisters to sew. There is a saying in quilting circles that “A fat quarter has less calories than a hot fudge sundae.” She did indulge both appetites, and spent lots of happy hours being creative in the sewing room, and a few with hot fudge sundaes too. She patiently taught me how to use a sewing machine, Not that many years after I made my first pillow and troll doll clothes, I built my first career on my ability to sew. I would credit my mom with launching me on that path.
Music was very important to mom, and she found comfort and solace as well as inspiration, particularly in classical music. Mom and dad were in choirs together throughout their school years and in churches where they worshiped. She also played violin though I’m not sure I ever heard her play. She and dad put together a wonderful collection of classical and folk recordings and played them often at home. If it wasn’t Brahms or Mozart, then it was Odetta and Peter Paul and Mary, and other artists from the Folk Scare years. Like so many other kids of my time, I learned to play guitar, which has given me a lifetime of joy and expression that now extends to my children and their children as well.
My mom was a bit of a quiet maverick if there can be such a thing. She was on the cutting edge in so many ways, quietly determined to move through the world with grace, trying new things, and making a difference. Her first three kids, Nancy, myself, our brother Leigh were all born in the 1950s. In those days it was most common to have a hospital birth, be fully medicated, and to feed your babies by bottle feeding. Over time, Mom felt that there was more to that experience that she had missed in the previous decade’s child bearing. I was 9 or 10 when my folks took us on a long drive one Saturday afternoon. When they told us we were going to have a new baby in the house I was sure they meant that our dog, Lady, was going to have puppies. But no, my youngest sister, Beth, was born in 1966. Natural childbirth was an unusual practice at the time, but was coming into acceptance. So she read books, took birthing classes and was an early member of La Leche League. When it was time for me to have my own babies, she was terrifically supportive and informative from her own experiences.
Mom graduated from college with a masters degree when she was about 50 years old. She then STARTED a career in occupational therapy after being a homemaker and mother for so many years. Remember those notes that my mom and dad traded in high school? She told him then that she wanted to be an occupational therapist. It only took 50 years, but she found the work that she knew early on that she was meant to do.
My mother knew how to talk. She had deep AND DETAILED interest in her chosen involvements: her writing classes, her social work, spiritual direction, the weather, her family. She actively listened to me, and when she talked I had a chance to actively listen to her. I learned that truly listening to someone, nodding, asking questions to further understand things that are important to them is to also actively love someone. It was not always easy to listen to ALL the details, but it was always rewarding.
My mother knew how to listen. One of the finest things a person can do for another is to witness their triumphs and tragedies, to listen to their concerns without judgment, to care deeply about someone else’s life and happiness. She did that for me, and modeled it throughout our lives. I’m sure many here experienced that with my mom. My mother knew how to support and encourage my efforts without being attached to the outcome. She was never overly enthusiastic, she was more quietly, mildly there for you. She would nod her understanding, and obviously enjoyed being a witness to growth and successes.
I could go on and on, with so many other aspects of this multi faceted human, mom, grandma, teacher, friend.