I Will Make You Proud: A Eulogy for My Mom

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My amazing mom, Sheri Rosser, took her own life and passed on my birthday. Below is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral to remember and celebrate the 25 years we spent together.


A Eulogy for My Mom

The Reality

I’d like to start with what I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for my family. We are a small, but tight group. They have been an incredible source of strength in the past few weeks and did the real work to make this service happen. Thank you.

I am also grateful that this room is filled with so many people that knew and cared for my mom. Seeing the tremendous love and support here for my mom and my family is humbling and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time today to be here. It means a lot.

Admittedly, this is a very emotional and challenging time for me. I’ve struggled to understand and accept this situation. Losing your mom is a deeply painful experience. It comes with a hurricane of emotions, processing, and reflection.

My mind wants to reject it all. But this is the reality. My mom is no longer with us in this world.

I don’t know how you can summarize or speak to an entire life. There are so many intricacies. People are dynamic and their relationship with the world is infinitely complex. My mom was a unique human who was more than any of us can fully comprehend or speak to.

So today I’m going to speak to my relationship with my mom. I hope you come away with a greater appreciation for what an incredible and inspiring woman she was.

Belief, Compassion, and Authenticity

When I reflect on my childhood, my mom’s presence was the only consistency. I don’t have any siblings. My biological father wasn’t around. And the world that my mom and I took on was constantly changing and frankly, never very easy.

We endured many challenges together, but somehow it all worked. It worked because we were not alone. We had each other. Our togetherness enabled us to navigate the constant change and to conquer the challenges. It gave us an invulnerable strength. That strength endures. It’s with me today.

In our time together, my mom taught me some of life’s most important lessons. And she did so in a a unique, but powerful way. Rarely, if ever, did she preach a specific message or compel me to act in a certain manner.

Rather, my mom inspired and influenced me through her actions. While with her words she was humble and caring, in her actions she was bold and powerful.

I’ll speak about three lessons my mom taught me that stick with me today.

Belief

The first lesson my mom taught me was the power of belief. During my entire life, she reiterated one thing: her absolute and unshakable belief in me.

No matter the endeavor – attend an elite university, work on Wall Street, travel the world – she believed in me. She never questioned the things that I wanted or choose to do. She trusted and believed I would make the right decision and accomplish anything I set my mind to.

By believing in me with full confidence and trust, she cultivated the belief within me that I could do anything. That belief is powerful. Belief is everything.

Writer James Allen tells us that “The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do.” (As Man Thinketh) In other words, our ability and desire to do things is born in our knowledge that we can do things.

Many of us struggle in this domain. We question our abilities. We think we aren’t as intelligent or as skilled as others. We say we aren’t ready or capable.

These narratives we tell ourselves are dangerous. They are myths rooted in a lack of belief. And without belief, we don’t take action. We don’t take the necessary leaps to create truly fulfilling and inspiring lives. We never master the art of fulfillment.

Fortunately, I had my mom. I had her absolute belief. I had her full trust and support. Every morning before school, she would hold my hand and pray for me. When I failed, she would pick me up.

When a girlfriend dared to question my abilities, my mom would happily correct her. When I achieved anything, she would tell the whole world. She was immensely proud. She was a true believer and protector, a Pit bull mom.

With all of these actions, she created the belief that drives me today. I think this is the best thing you can do for anyone. Believe in them. Let them surprise you with how far that belief can go.

Compassion

The second lesson my mom taught me was the power of compassion. She is the most compassionate person I have ever known.

According to writer Eckhart Tolle, compassion is “the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures.” (The Power of Now)

My mom embodied this understanding of compassion. In our family, she was the most thoughtful and kind soul.

She listened without judgment. She gave without expectation. She helped out because it was the right thing to do. She was honest because there was no other way to be.

Growing up, we never had much money. But my mom never complained about this. She would literally give you her last dollar. And for me, many times she did. She would sacrifice eating lunch to buy me mangos or a new toy if it put a smile on my face.

Even if she wasn’t feeling well, my mom would write me a kind note or buy me a bar of chocolate just to say she loved me. Everyday before school, she got up early to make me breakfast and help me study with flashcards. She also showed this deep love to our dogs, Brinks, Pepper, and Bubbles. She was the best mother a dog could have.

In her career working with children, she brought this same compassion. For many years, she worked at Bentley Elementary. I visited a few times.

She always thought I was the star of these visits. She proudly walked me around to meet her colleagues and the students. But without knowing it, she was the star. She was the one who brought joy to the lives of people in the school.

As we walked around during the visits, the kids’ faces would brighten when they saw my mom, Mrs. Rosser. They brightened because of my mom’s compassion. She demonstrated that she cared. She listened. She held them if they were upset. She advocated for them.

She was so good with children. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to see that.

The Dalai Lama tells us “If you want others to be happy practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

My mom did just that. I hope we can all do the same.

Authenticity

The third lesson my mom taught me was the power of authenticity. She was a free and authentic spirit.

Poet May Sarton said that “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

My mom lived this way. She didn’t stand behind the restrictive social walls we all like to build. If she wanted to say or do something, she did. Instead of judging people, she sought to understand them.

She loved bright colors. She was very spiritual. She went to the ocean at every opportunity. She had many tattoos.  And she had a contagious laugh that was filled with unsettling amounts of joy.

One story always comes to mind when I think about my mom’s authenticity.

My mom had a deep faith in God and she often went to church. For a few years, she went to a church in Sanford. She enjoyed it a lot. She would return home with a spirit of joy.

She convinced me to tag along one Sunday when I was 11 or 12. When we arrived, I was nervous. This was one of my first times in a church. I had never read the Bible. I didn’t know any songs. Everyone around me was a stranger.

Walking in the church, another reality challenged my internal comfort: my mom and I were the only Caucasians. This was a predominately African American church. It was one of the first times in my life that I remember facing the discomfort of feeling different in such a palpable way.

My mom sensed my discomfort. And as always, she helped me embrace and overcome it. With a cheerful spirit, she introduced me to all of her friends. They were incredibly welcoming and happy to have me there. During the service, she guided me to the right verses. She encouraged me to sing and dance.

At one point, the Pastor asked if there were any newcomers. Naturally, I sunk lower into my seat. Ignoring my cue, my mom decided to lift my hand for me. The Pastor called me to the front to say a few words. I nearly collapsed on the short walk. With a racing heart and sweaty palms, I glanced out at the full room.

I saw my mom in the crowd. I saw her smile. I felt her joy. She was so proud to have me there with her. Her presence gave me the courage to speak.

I spoke to the initial discomfort I felt at the beginning of the service and how the open arms and friendly spirits had helped me break free from that feeling. It was liberating. We finished the service singing and dancing.

Author Seth Godin tells us that, “There are no real rules, so make rules that work for you.”

It’s hard for us to do this in practice. We are concerned with what people think. We let social norms or feelings of difference deter us. We choose comfort over courage.

Fortunately, my mom taught me how to live authentically and be comfortable with that. She lived by her own code. Because of her, I now embrace difference. I choose courage over comfort. I live by my own rules.

Moving Forward

As I wrap up, I’d like to share a few thoughts on death and how we can all move forward. After all, death is the reason we are here today. Our friend and my mom, Sheri Rosser, has passed. This is a reality that we all need to understand and process.

It’s circumstances like these that often allow us to step back from the day to day noise and reflect. I reflect daily on my mom’s passing. When I wake up, it’s the first thing on my mind. During the day, there are infinite reminders. When I go to sleep, it’s the last thing I think of.

But I’m confident I’m not alone in this. I’m not the only one processing. And I’d like to share some wisdom that has given me strength and courage during my own journey.

In his commencement speech to Stanford graduates in 2005, the Founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, spoke about his relationship with death:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

For Jobs, recognizing his own mortality everyday was a tool to focus on what really mattered in life. He confronted death 6 years later.

The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome shared this pragmatic view on death. They encouraged us to keep our own mortality in mind at all times. In doing so, we could better appreciate life for what it is and find peace with the many adversities we all face.

But most of us prefer to ignore that one day we will no longer be here. It can be scary. No one wants to die. But our time here is limited. One day we will no longer be here.

Like the Stoics and Jobs, I have found strength and courage in accepting my own mortality. If you are struggling, I encourage you to consider doing the same.

By openly embracing our own mortality, we can focus on what really matters. We can glide past the petty frustrations of daily life, live the story that brings us immense joy and fulfillment, and spend our finite time with the people we love the most.

I know my mom would support this approach. She never liked to see me down. So, instead, I am choosing to fully embrace life while I still have the opportunity to do so. I am choosing to celebrate her life and find inspiration in her teachings. I am choosing to practice compassion, to believe, and to live authentically.

Of course, I’m going to miss her. How could I not? It’s my mom. But I know she will always be with me. Her belief, compassion, and authenticity will always be by my side and in my heart.  

For that, I am deeply grateful. Thanks mom.

The last thing my mom said to me was, “I love you with all my heart and soul.” I love you too mom. I will make you proud.

My mom and me at my high school graduation party
My mom and me at my high school graduation party.

Note: If you found this eulogy because you have recently lost your mom, I’m incredibly sorry and want you to know two things – you are not alone, and things will get better with time. If you want to talk to someone, reach out to me anytime at [email protected]

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