A Eulogy for Claire Ellen (Jourdan) Green

August 9, 1943-February 20, 2011

Many of our friends and family know that my mom, Claire, died in February after six years of living with metastatic breast cancer. Her funeral was March 5, 2011, and I wanted to share the eulogy I gave (below) for those who could not be there to grieve with us. You can learn more about her life from her obituary, published in the Indianapolis Star on February 27 and March 4.My mom’s brother, Bill Jourdan, also shared a poem that had been read at his father’s funeral in 1977 and his mother’s funeral in 1981 called Gone from My Sight that I found very beautiful, especially after spending so much time on a ship last year. Yesterday was a lovely tribute to my mom, and I thank everyone who was there with us literally and also those who were there with us in their hearts. I already miss her so much! Now, my eulogy to her:

I’m sure those of you who have written a eulogy before know how difficult it is. How do you sum up the things you want people to remember about someone who was so close to you, and so important in your life? What about someone who gave you life? Of course we all have good and bad qualities—she knew mine and I knew hers. I’m not here to say that my mom didn’t frustrate me at times when it came to choices she made about her health, or that our relationship was always perfect. What I am here to say is that she was a beautiful person who made a positive impact on me and on this world.

I’m very thankful that Claire and Larry Green were determined to have a baby. They married in 1971 wanting lots of children, but it didn’t work out that way. Maybe going through so many miscarriages was one reason my mom disliked visiting the doctor so much. When they wrote “involuntary abortion” on her medical records, she demanded that they change the word to “miscarriage” even though it wasn’t the proper medical terminology for what had happened. But her sixth pregnancy was different: I was born one day before her due date and came out screaming and healthy. She would often tell me I haven’t changed a bit since then. Growing up, the number one item on my Christmas and birthday present lists was always “a baby brother or sister.” I wasn’t picky. Deemed “too old” to adopt in their mid-thirties, I had no way of understanding it was the one gift my parents wanted to give me most and never could.

Instead of a sibling, my parents gave me the best childhood a kid could ask for. We read tons of great books together, visited the local library twice a week, went to the zoo and the bowling alley, had breakfast for dinner quite a lot, and played all kinds of games: UNO, Sorry!, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Operation…and tons of card games. To fulfill my sibling envy, I watched a lot of Brady Bunch episodes. Mom even tolerated the addition of two imaginary siblings, Cindy and Bobby, when I was seven. They only existed for a few months, but she never complained, disciplined them when they misbehaved, and even set a place at the table for them whenever I remembered they were hungry, too.

She was also a behind the scenes person–always looking for ways to help and carefully avoiding the spotlight. She volunteered at church doing small but important things that she was never recognized for and that very few people even knew about: putting together church bulletins or organizing a Christmas gift giving tree for a local charity. She always volunteered for my teachers and made herself available to babysit when other moms and dads were in a pinch. She loved working at a local Montessori preschool and also supported my dad’s business by doing all the bookkeeping for free. She volunteered for the PTA throughout my K-12 years and was the first to buy the $20 in cookies I was required to sell for fundraisers so I wouldn’t have to go door to door to ask people for money, which she knew I hated. She made sure I had plenty of nice clothes, a clean and lovely home to bring friends to visit, and all the cereal and milk I needed, for there was a time when I would eat nothing else. She was the consummate nurturer, born to be the great, fabulous mommy she was.

My mom was not a helicopter parent–she let me choose my own friends, my own course schedules throughout my school years, and my own activities. She and my dad made it easy for me to own up to a mistake. She encouraged me to solve my own problems and was on my side when I didn’t know if I could do it alone. She believed in me and taught me that I have all the potential I need to do whatever I want in life. She was an excellent writer and had a way with words. If I ever write something I’m proud of, it’s not because of my teachers. It’s because of her.

And what a fabulous mother-in-law she was! Sam was dear to her heart–the son she never had. She often told him that if she could have had a son, she would have wanted him to be just like Sam. He called her mom. This thrilled her. I would like to publicly thank Sam now for all that he did to make my mom’s life better. Try as my dad and I might, there were many times when only his touch or his words could coax her out of bed, get her to take her medicine or do her physical therapy, or help her to see the need for a treatment. She absolutely adored him, and more importantly, she felt adored by him. Thanks, Sam. I love you.

But if I had to sum up my mom’s best quality in two words, they would be excellent listener. Desmond Tutu calls it “the gift of presence.” She always said that I am her legacy, but I think that’s only part of the truth. Her legacy includes the people here and many people who preceded her in death, all of whom at one time or another used her as a sounding board and got through whatever problem they were dealing with thanks to her quiet understanding. She also gave sound advice, but only when asked. Always the loyal and true friend, she kept her word and was there for people when they needed her most. She loved all of us, she loved life, and she loved God. Of all the women in the world, I’m so glad she was my mom. I’m only sorry that I am the only one who knows the exquisite privilege of growing up as her child.

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