We had Mom’s services today in Barnsdall, Oklahoma. It’s the town where she grew up and a place that she dearly loved. About 30 of us gathered together under a small awning at the new cemetery. That’s a real small-town direction, isn’t it? “It’s not at the OLD cemetery, it’s at the NEW cemetery!”
Most of the guests wore masks, as we requested. Samantha did a wonderful job converting the utilitarian space into a loving tribute with hanging flowers, curtains, and small items people could take home and remember Mom. A bookmark, wildflower seeds, and pink ribbons with small violets.
What follows is a transcript of my speech. At the very end, there is a link to a video of the entire service that also includes my brother’s speech and a photo slideshow. Be at peace, my sweet mother. Your boys will never forget you.
Thank you all so much for being here. It’s hard to believe it’s been three months since my phone call went unanswered, my worry turned to dread, and that dread turned into reality. To those of you that helped us get through those early days, I cannot thank you enough.
My mother was a special woman. Most sons say that, sure, but talk to anyone that knew her and they would say the same thing. She was the one that taught me compassion and kindness. She asked difficult questions and encouraged me to grow in my understanding of the world. She showed me what it was to love someone unconditionally and with their entire soul. She was my first valentine.
When Mom and I visited Washington DC in 2013, the monument that stood out to her wasn’t the iconic spire of Washington or the solemn contemplation of Lincoln…it was a simple statue of John Paul Jones. She told me that it was a book about Jones, a naval officer during the Revolutionary War, that sparked her love of reading. That love persisted throughout her life, as you well know if you ever helped her move. I cannot tell you how immensely proud I was when her love of reading transitioned into writing novels of her own. It takes tremendous courage to put yourself out there like that – and courage is an attribute that Mom never lacked.
Pride in her sons is another thing that defined Lory. Tyler and I never had to question how proud she was of whatever we were doing. She came out and supported me at every book signing, photo exhibition, and public speech. When I left the country, she was simultaneously encouraging and hesitant to let me that far out of her reach. I can still see her after I got home, ten months later. That hug was the best hug of my life.
Lory Martin’s family extended beyond us in this regard, though. The family of her best friend, Leslie, was just as strong of a bond. She went to school events, baseball games, family get-togethers. She found out what you liked and embraced it whole-heartedly. Mom loved and was loved by so many people.
Mom and I took a road trip last fall; she had never seen the Grand Canyon and I told her that was unacceptable. We spent a week driving out on Route 66, visiting several national parks and through the Rocky Mountains on the way home. One night, we stayed at a small hotel in Bluff, Utah: population 320. The clear night sky held more stars than a city boy could ever imagine. I helped Mom outside so she could see it. She stood there next to me for a long moment, looking up with me. She sighed in awe and remarked that she hadn’t seen a sky so full of brilliance since she was a little girl. She paused another moment and said, simply, “Thank You,” with such weight and sincerity that it shook me. She was a person that never took the wonder of God’s creation for granted.
Outside of the people she loved, perhaps her favorite of God’s creations were the ones that bloomed. Mom had a deep love of plants and flowers, as anybody who ever visited her home can attest. The house where Tyler and I grew up had tiered flower gardens, elephant ears the size of movie posters, and crepe myrtles that defy description. When she moved to her little apartment near 81st and Memorial, I didn’t know how Mom would survive in such a clustered environment. I shouldn’t have been concerned; her neighbors knew her as the Flower Lady due to the amount of hanging plants and concrete planters around her front door and back patio. It was like entering a jungle –one built with intention and love.
She loved thrill rides. I have many memories of warming a bench with Dad as her and Tyler trotted off to a roller-coaster or a ridiculously high drop ride. Over the years, the family went to Disney World seven times, the last time in 1997. I didn’t get up the courage to ride Space Mountain until I went on my honeymoon in 2015. I had really hoped to experience that thrill with Mom, finally, on our trip to Florida April…but alas it was not meant to be. I do take a small comfort in the knowledge that she was so, so excited to be planning for that trip. It gave her something to look forward to.
When Mom went into the hospital last November, the back surgery had a greater impact on her health than anyone expected. She contracted pneumonia and ended up in medical care from early November, through her birthday, Thanksgiving, and most of December. There were a few scary moments during that time where I thought we were going to lose her. I saw her every day. As weak as she was, she smiled brightly and said she felt fine…but when she held my hand, I could feel that she was scared. I was so thankful that she finally recovered enough to go home. I thought we were out of the woods.
Of course, Mom did not want anyone to worry. In the week after her passing, I learned that everyone had a different piece of the puzzle that was the true picture of how she was feeling. I wish she had been more open and allowed more people to help. Despite all of this, I take comfort in the fact that she passed peacefully, in her sleep, at home in her own bed. She never wanted to be a burden to anyone, and she is finally at peace. And of course, Mom would not want anyone to blame themselves for something that was in God’s hands.
Before I close, I’m going to list a few things that come to mind when I think of her. Some of you may feel the same way:
Pink nail polish. Zany leggings. Diet Mountain Dew. Pink Sweet ‘n Low packets. Spanish Fries at Ron’s Hamburgers. Led Zeppelin. Sneezing more than ten times in a row. Using your little finger to flip someone off because “they don’t deserve the whole thing.” Juicy Fruit gum. Hamburger steak with cracker breading. Stephen King books. That particular way she’d say, “That’s so COOL!” Those Stacker B12 pills. And, of course, her laugh.
I love you bunches Mom, and I miss you more than words can express. Your love and faith will continue to guide me in this increasingly uncertain world.