These are the words I shared at the celebration of my mother’s life this weekend. It was a beautiful occasion. Everything she would have wanted.
For the past two months, I’ve envisioned this moment and what I might want to share or say about my mother to all of you.
I knew you would all be here. I knew that I would be surrounded by the faces of all who loved her throughout her life. She meant so much, to so many, in so many capacities. She was to her core a people person, and she championed and cheerleaded and made people feel loved in a way that drew them to her. I knew that in this moment, I would be looking into that living embodiment of who she was.
In knowing that, I couldn’t help but think back on my wedding day. Those of you that were there can attest to the rather soggy conditions of the day. What was supposed to have been an outdoor September wedding among the Berkshire mountains was disrupted by a tropical storm that hit Williamstown shortly before the scheduled ceremony. My mother, adamant that we did not need a wedding planner, because, let’s be honest, who better to plan a memorable fete than Allison, found herself in the position of trying to troubleshoot the incoming storm. I’ll never forget the image of her running around in a pair of khaki shorts, tennis shoes, and a bra, her hair frizzed out to oblivion from the heat and humidity, directing anyone in her path to clear furniture to make room for the over 200 guests that would need reprieve from the elements.
I remember trying to gently suggest that she stop playing wedding planner and delegate that out to someone else so that she, mother of the bride, could, ya know, put on her dress and maybe get her hair done. But she would have none of it. And we all know that Allison Ulmer did exactly what Allison Ulmer was going to do.
Miraculously, she was indeed dressed and coiffed and walked me down the aisle alongside my father shortly thereafter. While the ceremony may have been slightly delayed, it wouldn’t have been an event run by Allison if it had started promptly on time. She was ever a believer in the art of being fashionably late – even if it was to her own party.
As I stood at the top of that make shift aisle – the end of an oriental runner she’d scrounged up for the occasion – I remember taking in that room filled with faces – packed like sardines, shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, dripping with sweat from the heat of the day and all of our bodies crammed together, and feeling surrounded. Surrounded by the people who represented the course of my life and James’ life. That had loved us and each been so integral in who we were in that moment. Those people were representations of our lives to date and it was a powerful thing to take that in and have my life reflected back to me in that way.
After the wedding, as I thought back on that moment and that feeling, I realized that the only other time people come together in that way are when the person is no longer here to experience it. When the person is already gone. And so as I stand here, and look out at this sea of faces, I am seeing my mother’s life reflected back to me. And how she would have just delighted in all of you coming together, and an excuse to entertain you all. But since she cannot be here to enjoy it, I want to take it in on her behalf. To absorb the power and comfort that comes from being surrounded by all who loved and cared about her. Thank you for being here today and for reflecting back to me the love and joy that she brought to all of you over the course of her life.