My sisters put me in-charge of delivering mom's eulogy on behalf of the family. For the four days prior to the funeral mass, I had no idea what I was going to say -- no doubt jet lag and exhaustion had something to do with that mental lapse. I scribbled a few thoughts in the morning, but it wasn't until the mass was about to start that I started writing. I hid in one of the back pews, surrounded by friends, asked mom to guide my hand, and wrote furiously in my notebook. Fifteen minutes later, it was done. One day I'll write a more fitting eulogy and post it here, but I'd like to think mom was happy with what I shared with those who loved her most.
May 29, 2013 - These past few days I've been listening mostly. Listening to so many stories about mom, about things she said or did that, to this day, many of us can't forget.
I hear the same words used to describe mom, over and over again. I hear people describe mom as "strong," "independent," "brave," "outspoken," "funny." I hear the word "feisty" quite a bit. Mom said things that so many of us were thinking or only wished we could have said but didn't have the chutzpah or courage to say.
There are a few other things we all know about mom. That she loved to travel and that she enjoyed work. Mom's resume is impressive indeed; her list of accomplishments are extraordinary, considering she began to forge her career in the 60s and 70s, when women were still expected to stay at home or take backseats in the workplace.
But what I'm most proud about my mom is not which positions she held or which prestigious institutions she worked at, but rather the difference she made everywhere she was.
It may sound trite to say that mom loved to help people; after all, all of us here do, too. Mom wanted to change lives for the better. She wanted to see people reach for goals they never dreamed for themselves.
One thing I often hear people say about mom was that when you met her you felt like you had known her for years or even your entire life. She was approachable even when she appeared intimidating. This was her gift, which allowed her to reach out and pull others in.
I have a story that can best describe what I'm trying to say here. When mom and I lived together in LA in the late 80s we once found outselves lost in the skid row area of downtown LA -- an area you didn't want to be walking around whether it was night or day.
Then all of a sudden, we saw a man walking straight toward us -- fast. I tried to figure out which gang he belonged to and how I could get mom out of there. I held my house key in my hand like a weapon, ready to strike at his eyes if I had to.
Then right when he got a few feet away from us, he broke out into a wide smile. "Hey Mrs. S, how's it goin'?" he exclaimed.
I looked at mom after he left, at once relieved and confused. "How does he know you?" I asked her.
It turned out mom was his English teacher. At that time, mom worked all day at Salomon Brothers and taught adult school at night. Her students were those who desperately needed an extra hand to get back on their feet: the homeless, those who had just been released from prison, anyone who needed a bit of education to move on with their lives.
Some of you know mom was devoted to her students at Lyceum, where she headed the school of tourism and hospitality management. She was passionate about finding her best students internships abroad, so that they could earn dollars and get the necessary experience to move up in their chosen careers here and elsewhere. This made mom so happy and fulfilled.
I could tell you all so many amazing stories about mom, some of which I only came to know about these past few days. Well, perhaps someday. But for now I'd like to just say that mom's life here touched so many lives. She came and left, and the world was a little different.
As one of her four daughters I am proud of mom's most important lesson to us: that we can all do whatever we set out to do -- no matter what we're faced with and no matter when. As one of mom's colleagues from Lyceum told me, mom wanted her epitaph to read:
Here lies Ampy.
She did what she wanted.
She ate what she wanted.
And she died happy.
Mom, you sure did. And while we miss you so very much, we are comforted by the thought that you really did it your way. We could only be so lucky -- and so brave -- to do the same.
Thank you all for being here today.