It all started with a eulogy. When my mom passed away, in spite of the fact that she was so well loved (and by so many) I knew that it was that very love, which would prevent anyone from being able to publicly speak about her, for fear of breaking down. If my wonderful mother was going to be eulogized as she deserved, than that task was going to fall on me.
Make no mistake, I feared an emotional melt-down just as much as everyone else, but I was also well aware that this was the last thing I was going to be able to do on my mother’s behalf. I had two goals. I had to be strong and I had to be sure that what I said (and how I said it) would make my mother proud.
Believe it or not Cher, of all the people in the world was instrumental in keeping me composed. You see, I had remembered that when Sonny Bono passed away, Cher got up to deliver his eulogy. This “international superstar” started by saying, “This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.” Those were powerful words, because nothing puts things into perspective more than death. It is through the passing of those we hold so dear that we truly realize nothing we do, nothing we have, nothing at all… is more important than those we cherish. I too knew, that this eulogy would be the most important thing I would ever do in my life.
So I sat down at my computer keyboard and started to think about all that my mother had gone through and how she overcame incredible odds that left doctors proclaiming that they had witnessed the miracles of God!
There was so much I could talk about. My poor mother had been riddled by endless diseases and illnesses that she triumphed over time and time again, simply because she loved her family too much to allow any illness to take her from us. I could talk about her determination, her strength and her faith. Then it dawned on me. If I were to do that, I would be reducing my mom… Trudy, to little more than a bunch of symptoms and diagnosis’ and as she would have said herself, ” that would not do darling.”
As it were, there was going to be far too many people who never knew my mother as much more than a sick old woman. They would only know two things about her, that she was beautiful (as she was to her dying day) and that she was chronically ill. This could not be her legacy.
I deleted everything I had started and began to write about who Trudy really was, the woman who was beautiful sure, but who was also funny, intelligent, wacky and full of life.
I told stories about some of the crazy things she had done and explained how everyone who truly knew her, compared my mom to “I Love Lucy” because through no fault of her own, she somehow managed to get into situations that couldn’t possibly happen to anyone else but her.
I told the story about my dad giving her a driving lesson and how, upon seeing my kid sister and her girlfriends on a front lawn, she beeped the car horn and waved at the group. At first the children were delighted, yelling “look at Mrs. Abate, she’s driving.” Their cheer quite suddenly turned to fear, as my mom watched them all quickly scatter in various directions. It seemed that in her overzealousness to get them to see her driving, she didn’t realize that she had started aiming the auto straight for them! Before my dad knew what was happening, the car had jumped the curb and came to rest on our neighbor’s front lawn as he screamed, “BREAK!!!”
In my mind’s eye, I can still see them coming through the front door of our little house, my dad’s face a bright red, veins popping out of his head with my mom behind him saying, “I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss. What’s the big deal? I stopped the car.”
My dad exclaiming, “Yeah you did… in our neighbor’s front yard!”
There was the time when we were driving along in our car, when it was suddenly sprayed by a lawn sprinkler. My mom swore that we had just driven through the world shortest rain cloud!
These stories and hundreds like them, was who my mother really was. I wanted everyone in that church to know that Trudy was not just a sick old lady. I wanted them to know that in her lifetime, my mother was a girl, a new wife, a young mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend and a character. She had dreams, hopes, talent, a sense of humor and most of all, she had love.
I was able to get through the eulogy composed (for the most part. I did almost lose it towards the end). People came up to me after the funeral and told me how much they enjoyed the tribute and how wonderful it was to learn so much about my mom. That was when I decided to write a book.
When I first started writing, my plan was to simply self-publish and get a couple of dozen copies printed to hand out to family members for posterity. Wouldn’t writing a biographical novel about my mother’s life be a fantastic way to ensure that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren knew where they came from?
However as I put it together, I realized what an incredible story I had on my hands. I began to wonder if the general public might also find her story to be inspirational and interesting.
And so, a simple eulogy had somehow along the way, made the metamorphosis from family keepsake to what I hope will be, a wonderful and well received novel.
When I was seventeen years old, I promised my mother that I would one day write her story. It took me 37 years, but “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” is the second most important thing I will ever do in my life.
Until next time,