(The following was the eulogy I delivered at my mother's funeral on April 4, 2012. I was fortunate enough to have said enough of this to her while she was still alive.)
My parents have always been my inspiration and my role models on how to live my life properly and how to treat people correctly. Even so, I was a little surprised to find my mother was still teaching me life lessons even in her last months. The most important thing I have learned in these recent days is that the only thing of value we have to give is Time. It is the most intangible thing we have. It has no substance. You can't hold it, or see it, or hoard it, or save it. You can only spend it, and once you do, it's gone and you can never get it back. And yet, although Time is entirely intangible, Time is also the most enduring thing we have. My mother and I gave each other many gifts over the years, but I don't remember all the birthday presents she got for me. I don't remember the amounts of the checks she wrote. And in 50 years, I won't remember the deadlines I missed at work in these past weeks. I won't remember the events I wasn't able to attend. I won't remember the things I did without for the sake of something that might ease my parents' burden.
But I will remember the way my mother spent her days working and cooking and cleaning for us. I will remember the time she spent helping my brother and me with our math and science homework. I will remember countless hours spent driving us all over New Jersey on her weekends and her free time so we could expand on our education. I will remember how she took my brother and me to Star Wars movies, even though she didn't really like them herself, but she knew they meant the world to us so she went anyway. I will remember our travels throughout the world by land, air, and sea. I will always remember the many times she played the gracious hostess, making it look so easy as she ensured that mountains of delicious food were on the table by dinner, while saving scraps and bones for herself. I will remember her pride and happiness as she saw us through graduations, professional promotions, and marriage. I will remember the pure, incandescent love she showed for her grandchildren.
I will remember the time I spent with her in these last few months of her life, and the way she faced her end with the same clear-eyed grace and gentleness that were her hallmarks throughout her life. And when her body finally betrayed her, when no more material things would help, I will remember that all the family had left to give her was our Time, so that she knew she did not stand alone.
When everything else has gone...when whatever financial means and worldly goods I have are of no more use to me, I will still have the Time I spent with my mother, kept in the corner of my heart reserved for her, that no one else will ever claim and that will never fade away.
Time is the only thing of value that we have to give. It is the most intangible, and yet it is the most enduring. Today, you have all marked your love for my mother and our family by giving us your Time to pay your last respects to her. You can only spend Time, and once you do, it is gone and you can never get it back. So let us choose now not to spend this time to mark my mother's passing, but to commemorate her life. Let us spend this time celebrating the fact that she lived rather than mourning the fact that she died. And let us thank her for the greatest gift she gave to us all, and to the many more who could not be here. She gave us all the gift of her Time in this world, so that she could be a mother and a grandmother, or a spouse, or a sibling, or an in-law, or a colleague, or a classmate. And our friend. It is a gift beyond value, and one that I will treasure, always and forever.