Monday, August 30, 2021

My Funeral Speech For My Mother

 Susan Paula Larson 

09/22/43 - 07/12/21




There’s a quote that says “A reader lives a thousand lives before they die…someone who never reads lives only one.”


Mom loved to read.


She began at an early age, spreading the newspaper out on the floor when she was still too young to hold it open. For as long as I can remember, she would be up at the crack of dawn waiting for the thunk of the newspaper against the door. Heaven forbid there be inclement weather. She would be out in the driveway in a blizzard looking for the idiot delivery person or heading to the store in her robe to buy one because they’re taking too long.

This love of reading stayed with her throughout her life, and she instilled it in each of us as well.

She started by reading us things like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Little Golden Books, and Dr. Seuss. As we grew older, she moved on to longer stories. She liked silly ones the best. Some favorites were Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Amelia Bedelia, or the books of Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein.


When Melissa and Dave had Lucia, “Gramma Sue” of course gifted her numerous books. She loved seeing Melissa reading books to her child that she once read to HER like Betsy-Tacey and Little House on the Prairie. She was SO PROUD to see Lucia grow into an avid reader – always asking for books on birthdays and Christmas, sometimes diving into them before any other presents were unwrapped. 


All of us were reading before we started school and tested well above our grade levels. She continued encouraging us as we out-read what we owned by taking us to the library  frequently.  And she had a system. She would march us into the stacks where the paperback fiction opened into the children’s books, plunk down a doubled paper grocery bag (sometimes two or three) and tell us to “fill ‘er up!”  We would spend an hour picking out what interested us.


If we finished first, we could usually find mom over in the non-fiction stacks. For most of our youth, mom favored reading true stories – biographies and autobiographies, medical dramas, or other tales of survival. She would say, “I don’t need to read fiction, people have already lived such interesting lives!” Her preference would eventually change, but it took a couple of years for her to exhaust the Hennepin County Library System of their entire non-fiction section. 


Back at home, the bags of library books would go in the hallway at the top of the stairs next to a box. Anything we finished went into the book box so they wouldn’t get mixed up with our own or lost under a bed. We were encouraged to read at the dinner table as long as it wasn’t something RED like spaghetti. And we could often stay up past our bedtime by saying “I’m almost done with this book. I just have a few more pages” which usually meant we had 10 chapters to go. 


At any given time, at least one of us would be absorbed in a book. Even when watching TV. We would usually have one nearby for commercial breaks. We all read fast and it wouldn’t be long before she would be loading everything back into bags to return them and get more. 


Our personal collections of owned books grew through the years.  Mine includes some favorites that I re-read often. Others I keep for reference or to occasionally loan to friends.  And there’s always a stack of ones I intend to read that I haven’t gotten around to and probably will someday. During one of my moves, I laid out all the books that I owned and realized I had a six-foot cube.


But that was nothing compared to mom’s collection. In the last decade or so she had moved on to women’s romance novels. Authors like: Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Robyn Carr, and Nancy Thayer. In case you aren’t familiar, these are very prolific writers that put out 8 to 10 novels a year.

Mom had a computer…
And an Amazon account…

You can guess where this story is going. 


In the last few years, we started going through her books. There were bags and stacks everywhere and it was time to reduce trip hazards. We went through them one by one to decide which to pass along and which to keep on display. Some sailed straight into the donation pile without a pause. “I don’t really like that author” or “the main character was a bimbo.” 


But then sometimes she would stop and read the first page with a far-away look and a wistful smile. Those she would lay gently in the keep pile. She said “Some of these are like special friends. It’s so hard to let them go.” 


At any rate, she ended up cutting her collection in half and gave away around 30 bags of books. We had to make …multiple… car trips to the donation center. 


If you hadn’t seen her in a few years, that’s why. 

She was reading.


There’s just a little more left of this service and afterwards there will be a reception across the hall.  On the tables and shelves, you’ll see some of her remaining books, some bookmarks she made, and several grocery bags. We ask that you take what you can. Read what you want and please think of her while you do. Then pass them along. Put them in little free libraries or donate them to shelters or your local thrift stores. 


Share her love of reading with others.


There is a short poem called The Reading Mother that’s a fitting conclusion to our tributes:


“You may have tangible wealth untold.
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I
you will never be.
I had a mother who read to me.”

2 comments:

  1. Mike, I appreciate every day of my life the way your mother taught you to love reading. Your sisters seem okay, too ;)

    ReplyDelete