A Function of Memory

What follows is the eulogy I wrote for my mother, Jacyne Woodcox. She passed on to whatever is next on February 9th, 2022. I love you mom.


If there’s one oddity about the way my brain works, it’s the function of memory. I know it’s all in there, a lifetime of experiences, impressions, thoughts, and moments all added together to become the story of who I am. But I can’t pick out the individual pieces from decades past and tell you, here is what happened. I can’t say, “here’s a part of the story”.

After 48 years, I can tell you, I don’t need to. I can’t tell you what my earliest memories of my mother are. Nor can I tell you what my favorite memory of her is. That’s not the way it works for me.

What I can tell you is that she has always been there. More than just a presence. More than just a feeling, or a knowing. I can’t give you a precise word for it, but terms like throughline, foundation, or bedrock don’t begin to do it justice. It’s patience, openness, acceptance, beauty, and grace. It’s love. That’s Jacyne. That’s my mom.

It was there when I took my first breaths and my first steps. It was there when I first visited the Smoky Mountains. When I first saw the Yosemite Valley, Canyonlands, Zion, Glacier, and the Tetons. It was there across the ten moves we made in twenty years. It was there in the highlands of Scotland. It was there when my grandfather died. When my oldest son died. It was there when relationships began and when they ended. It was there when I was an angry teen-ager and when I matured into a slightly less angry adult. It was there during the best moments of my life and especially through the worst of them.

It was there through everything, because she was there through everything. Never judging, never selfish, never angry, only understanding and patient and loving. Whatever happened, whatever I did, I knew beyond doubt that there was a fierce, quiet, indomitable force in the universe that only wanted the best for us.

The remarkable thing is that it’s still there. All of that is still there.

Whatever happens, however life goes on without her in the world with us, I had the great good fortune to be the son of the most amazing woman that I have ever known. Every day, I am grateful for that gift of fate.

The best things in me came from my mom. She was capable, intelligent, driven, and compassionate. I inherited these traits in some measure along with her love of reading and being outside in the beautiful, wild places of the world. She embodied virtue, stoicism and resilience in a way that ancient philosophers would have admired. She had the heart of an explorer, the mind of a teacher, and the spirit of a fighter.

My mother lived a rich and full life on her own terms. In the end, that’s all she would want for anyone and all that we should want for ourselves. Her laughter echoes in our joy. Her fierceness aids in our striving. Her warmth gives solace in our struggles. Her love and spirit lives on in us and we are better for it.

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