ONE THOUSAND WORDS FOR MARGARET
Age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
When she came into my life,
She was already 42 years old, at least.
Just after my mother died, when our
Family was in shambles:
My sisters were devastated,
My father was broken hearted and
The house was a mess,
And so were we all.
Our church became concerned, and like
Angels from heaven, they discussed this
Situation with Margaret, and talked her
Into meeting Dad and us. She told me later,
"You kids were all dirty and things were
pretty bad. I had never seen anything like it.
It wasn't exactly an attractive prospect
For the rest of my life at the time."
Over the next 54 years, Margaret
Was the only mother I ever knew.
My sisters remember Ida, but I alone do not.
I've searched my memory, looking
In all the nooks and crannies,
But she's just not there.
Only Margaret. Only Mom.
She taught me to think of others first.
She taught me to love my sisters.
And, she taught me about my Father's
Love for us all, and about his struggles
To find happiness.
And, then, above all else, she
Gave me a family of my own.
From St. Paul, to Wichita, to Denver,
To Marblehead, and to Burtonsville,
She became the one constant friend,
The one constant conversation
Of my life.
When I was in combat in Vietnam,
Mom and Dad wrote to me every week, religiously.
But, I know it was Mom who insisted ...
I can almost hear her saying,
"It's Sunday night, Bill, let's write to Billy."
I was in Vietnam for almost two years, including training.
And she insisted on a lot of other things, too ...
She insisted that ... I "get off my duff" and get to work.
She insisted that ... I defeat the "Green Monster," as she called
jealousy and greed and envy.
She insisted that ... I be grateful for what I have ... and not
always want more and more.
She insisted that ... a chocolate milk shake went perfectly
with a cheeseburger with onions and ketchup.
She insisted that ... sausage and cabbage was a VERY healthy meal.
She insisted that ... the University of Maryland admit me after
they turned me down because I was a combat Vietnam veteran.
They actually wrote a letter saying that was the reason.
I went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude.
She insisted that ... God was in her garden and not in money and avarice.
She insisted that ... we are all responsible for our own actions no matter how loud
we protest and complain, "You make your bed, you have to sleep in it," she said.
She insisted that ... I needed to "thicken my skin," so that I could take criticism.
When I went into politics, she said I would not be any good at it because I didn’t
like to be criticized. Hey, Mom ... I've been releected six times for far.
She insisted that ... Holidays were for family and she always made them come true.
She insisted that ... forgiveness is something you earn by changing your ways and
apologizing. She could not abide with lies, or cruelty or anger. She was always
more than willing to let you know exactly what she thought. She was a Republican,
and a big fan of the death penalty.
She insisted that ... faith is not what you say, it's what you do.
"Actions speak louder than words, Billy." I've heard her say it a thousand times.
She insisted that ... I was a good son even though I didn’t call her enough and even
though I know I could have been a whole lot better. She said, "We always enjoy each
other's company and our conversations are always fun." She was convinced that
I am a good Father to my daughter, Blythe, and I always said it was Joy, my wife, not me,
who deserves the credit. I said, "If I am a good parent, I learned it from you." She said,
"No, you learned it from your father."
Which brings me to the last thing I want to say today:
Mom loved my father right up to the moment she died.
And, I believe that her last thoughts were of him.
And remember everything the two of them went through.
And remember, my Dad died 25 years ago in 1975.
"I loved your father, you know, Bill,"
She said a thousand times.
"I think I was a good mother,"
She also said that a thousand times,
Each time with feeling, believe me.
So, on behalf of my sisters, Marsha and Judy,
Who could not be here today in person,
But are certainly here in spirit,
And my brother Michael,
I want to say before you, that Margaret was a great friend,
And a wonderful example of what
A human being can be, and a very, very loving
And unselfish mother,
And a loving wife for my Father
Through all the years.
She was a non-self-referential person.
She gave her life to others and for others,
Right up to the end.
Fittingly, she will be buried beside
My Dad in Des Moines on Saturday,
And I will be there.
But, I believe they are now united in heaven.
I came here today to praise Mom not to bury her.
For her unselfish devotion to our family,
For her many years of wise counsel to me,
For her loving help for my sisters to return
To a normal life in those early days,
And for being herself, untainted and undiluted,
From start to finish.
She deserves her place in heaven, there is no doubt.
She was smart, beautiful, fair in every way.
And I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.
For me it's hard to believe that she is gone.
I will always love her and keep her alive
In my actions and in my life.
God bless you all and many, many thanks for coming today.