Six months ago today, we lost Mom. It hit me out of nowhere, literally a tidal wave of grief. It was like I had been run over by a truck carrying a spaceship while walking through a tornado holding an elephant. It was rough.
And while most days I feel like I'm still in the thick of it, I want to both mourn her and celebrate her on this day. For my friends and family that could not make it to Mississippi in April, her eulogy is below. Although it is the hardest thing I've ever written, is it also the most meaningful. I share it here in honor of her.
Help me remember her on this day, in your hearts.
Dear friends and family, for those who I have not met yet, I am Pablo, Randi’s fiancé and Glenda’s son-in-law to be. Today, Randi and Bobby have asked me to read a few words they have prepared to honor Glenda, and so, I share these thoughts with you:
We are so thankful for all of you here today to help celebrate our mother’s life and mourn her death. Mom would have been truly in awe at the pouring out of support and condolences we have received over the last few days from those who knew both her and the Ellison family well. It is through your memories and ours that she will be remembered.
Glenda began her life in Austin, Texas, the first born to John Rayford and Bonnie Ellison. She was followed by her little brother, Mike Ellison, her sister, Gaye Ellison Joiner, and as a teenager, her baby sister, Dawn Ellison Allen, who deemed her “Nana” – a nickname each of her nieces and nephew came to call her by, and what she would have been known as had she lived to see us have children of our own. Mom loved her siblings fiercely and wholly, and we know she would have truly enjoyed growing old with them. We find comfort in knowing that our Aunt Dawn, who Mom missed so much here on Earth, was there to greet her in Heaven when she arrived. In addition to her siblings, Mom had such fond childhood memories of her many cousins – the Higdons, Wrights, Coons and Ellisons. To each of you – Mom was so honored to call you not only her companions as children, but her friends as adults.
Mom was truly one of the most determined, strong-willed and focused people there was. She did not lose an argument. And if that argument was with John Rayford, well, heaven help everyone else in the room. Beyond his debate skills, she also inherited John’s love of learning, his ears, and his love of his family. Da, Mom would want us to tell you how much she loved you, how much she was looking forward to being here with you in the twilight of your life, and how much she wants you to get out of that dang chair and go for a walk.
As for our Ganny, what greater role model for Mom to have for being a mother than that of her own. Bonnie was truly her hero, and we simply do not have words to describe the grace and the strength that serve as a beacon for the rest of our family to gravitate towards in our time of grief. The loss of the child is not an emotion you are wired for, much less the loss of two, yet our Ganny stands strong for each of us. Ganny, we know that Mom would do anything to be able to walk across the street one more time for lunch, or pop up in her makeshift room at your house and say “Good Morning, Mama.” If there’s any peace to be had in Mom’s death, it is in knowing that she has left us in your very strong hands. Mom loved you so very much, and our love for you is only strengthened by the loss of hers.
To our Uncle Mike and Aunt Gaye and to their spouses Julie and Tim – we know how much each of you meant to Mom. The five of you together were a force to be reckoned with. Honor Mom in your lives through the love of your own children, our cousins Taylor, Nicole, Robert and Elizabeth, who she truly loved being Aunt Nana to. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention how much Mom loved Bridgett Chisolm, her surrogate sister, and Bridgett’s family Richard, Conner, Morgan and Matthew. Bridgett’s presence in the Ellison family over the past 15 years has helped fill a void in a manner hard to articulate and to us, Bridgett, you are more a part of us than you’ll ever know and we are blessed to have you. Aunt Gaye, we know how humbled Mom would have been at the strength, dedication and devotion you showed to her in her final months, even if she did not have the words to tell you herself. You selflessly put your life on hold for her, day in and day out, and I know she was honored to call you not only her baby sister, but her very best friend. She would not want you to be sad for her, but instead to help everyone else remember the person that she was.
Finally, beyond being an amazing daughter, sister, aunt and friend, Glenda was simply “Mom” to us. Without hesitation, she would tell you that her greatest life achievement, her grandest adventure, and her proudest role was that of our mother. In fact, when meeting any of our friends for the first time, she rarely introduced herself as Glenda, but instead as “Randi’s Mom” or “Bob’s Mom” – and for the past 27 years, that was her identity. We were getting to the stage in our lives where our relationships were transitioning from that of our mother to that of our friend, and we will fiercely miss that friendship more than words can say.
Mom didn’t have many clear moments at the end, but by the grace of God, the morning of her death was one of them. She told Randi she was looking forward to her bridal shower in two weeks and asked about Bob’s new puppy, Chance. She told us that she missed us and loved us and we got to tell her the same in return.
We are burying Mom today in the dress she was to wear at Randi’s wedding 39 days from today. Although she won’t be in New Orleans with us, we know she will be wearing that dress in Heaven, beaming down on us from above (and probably crying, as she did at the drop of a dime when it came to being the mother-of-the-bride). One of the last gifts she gave to Randi was her wedding dress, something she was so proud to be able to do. We selfishly grieve for ourselves that she won’t be with us, but more than that, we grieve for her, because we know how much that day would have meant to her. Beyond that, we know that Mom would have loved to be a grandmother. We were blessed with a glimpse of her in that role in how she loved her great niece, Kaylee, and we mourn that our children will never know how much she anxiously awaited them.
During the last month of her life, Mom didn’t talk much. However, on Easter Sunday, Mom had a good day, and was able to tape a video message to us. Her words of advice are great ones to share here. If you know Randi and Bobby, you’ll understand these next words well: “I’m the Mom. Randi, plan your life well. And Bob, just do good work.” So to our Mom, how lucky we were to have you, how heartbroken we are to lose you, and how deeply we will miss you. We love you, we’ll plan accordingly, and we’ll try our best to do good work. Thank you, Randi and Bobby