Thursday, June 03, 2021

My Mother’s Funeral: The Speech I Gave For It

Stuart K. Hayashi


I did not give the eulogy for my mother’s funeral. My cousin Wayne Nishioka did. But I did give the speech directly preceding his. Below is that speech. I did not have a written transcript but went by an outline. I rehearsed so many times, though, that I did memorize many sentences. This is the speech to the best of my recollection. I delivered it wearing my face mask.

Screen shot over Zoom of my delivering the speech
Aloha. [Attendees saying “Aloha” back.] I want to thank all of you for being here. That includes those watching over Zoom.

Our mother rose from poverty and hardship, and became the first person in her family to attend university. She did it to become a teacher. She prided herself on being a teacher. And I think she became a teacher, in large part, because of her love for children. Before she raised my sister and me, she helped with our cousins Wayne, Mark, and April. And, years later, she helped with April’s daughter Arissa.

And she wasn’t a teacher just in the classroom. She taught important lessons through the example that she set. I want to talk about our mother, and how I think she exemplified supportiveness, strength, confidence, and wisdom.

About supportiveness . . . . Ever since I was little, I drew dragons and monsters. Many of my classmates and teachers thought that was weird. I was even bullied over it. I think many mothers would have tried to discourage it. “Why are you being so weird?” And our mother didn’t really understand it. But she didn’t try to discourage it. Often she encouraged it.

I remember open house night. Open house night is a school night when the students’ parents visit the teacher and talk about their child. On open house night, my first-grade teacher put a paper on each student’s desk saying “Please draw or write something to encourage your child.” And Mom wrote, “Stuart, I drew a monster for you.” And she did. [It turns out she wrote, “Here’s a monster for you.”] And it was well-done, too. That was the kind of person she was.

The actual drawing my mother did for me

And our mother was full of confidence. Whenever a business shortchanged us, Mom wouldn’t let it slide. She would call that business and address it. She was firm and she was polite.

Our mother’s confidence was not what people conventionally imagine. Mom often worried about our father, my sister, and me, and with good reason. And that worry was often very visible. You could see it on her face. You could hear it in her voice. But that worry and fear never froze into inaction. She was scared and worried and yet she took action.

To my knowledge, she didn’t put on some “brave face.” There was no pretense about it. I was impressed by how upfront she was about the situation. She was worried and she did what she needed to do. And I thought, “Wow, that’s REAL confidence.” [I wanted to mention this part, but forgot to do so: And Mom letting her worry show, showed a real trust. That she was worried and took action was exactly why I felt safer around her than anyone else, even when the situation seemed dire. I would be surprised if I found that with anyone else.]

[I point to the symbol of a ship’s helm on the lectern.] This symbol here is very fitting, because I think of our family as a ship. And our mother was the captain, making sure that the ship sailed as it should.

Yes, our mother was teacher. There were so many other lessons she wanted to instill in me, which I didn’t learn. I feel terrible about that. But what I have learned from her is a lot, and it is of great value. I think we could all apply the lessons from her example: her supportiveness, strength, confidence, and wisdom.

She was our mother. She was my best friend. She was my biggest fan. And now she is my conscience. Thank you very much.

The love of my mother will always matter