My brother, Br. Terry Todd, S.J., gave the eulogy at my mother’s (Charlotte Todd’s) funeral. The following is a summary of his reflection.
I have chosen to give Mom a “spirit animal” that would best embody her spirit and character. The spirit animal I have chosen is a porpoise. A porpoise and my Mother share three distinct traits. The first one is that a porpoise is empathic and caring. They have recorded many instances of someone falling from a ship only to be nudged to safe shores by a porpoise.
In the early 80’s when I came back from the missions in Truk, I got a gentle nudge from my Mother when I was having a most difficult time adjusting to life in the States. I was numb, depressed and had lost my way. My Mother told me what Fr. Tom at the Tulane Catholic Center said, “You really don’t have to ask ‘why’ when things get difficult and unmanageable. You have to live the ‘why.’” I said, “Wow, this is very heavy stuff.”
As the weeks passed by and I was feeling better, Mom told me told me that there were times that a Mother wanted to go to bed, but she has another task to do. Maybe to sew a button on her daughter’s blouse before she can get some rest. It was an ah-ha moment for me when I realize how much my Mother and all Mothers show their nourishing and nurturing side for their love ones.
The second quality that a porpoise has is that of a tenacious fighter. A porpoise has been known to ram the side of a man-eating shark to protect a human from a deadly attack. Mom always had a competitive fighting spirit. She had intuitive knowledge of what was right and wrong. She loved games like Uno, Bridge, Ping-pong, and Scrabble and she always wanted to win. As kids, it was humiliating for us to have your Mom who was five months pregnant beat you in a game of ping-pong.
The third quality that a porpoise shares with my Mother is that they are playful. Many years ago I was in a motorboat in the Truk Lagoon when two porpoises swam with the boat for two miles, and then left. They were very fast swimmers and like to play around. Besides games, Mom enjoyed Square Dancing, playing Bridge with Loyola Faculty wives, singing songs at family gatherings, being at a party, or being with her sewing circle ladies. She never got tired of Mardi Gras. She loved taking her grandchildren to the Aquarium. Mothers loved to be with people.
I have picked a “spirit person” from the Old Testament that shares some qualities with my Mother. I have picked Queen Esther. There was a point in Queen Esther’s life where she had to do something quite difficult and scary. She discovered that she had a core of steel in her soul. The Jews were going to be exterminated. Her uncle Mordecai told her to plead with the King for the Jewish people. Esther said that she could not enter the king’s presence without being invited; if she did, he could kill her. Against great odds she fasted, prayed and went to see the King without being invited and won his favor. Queen Esther saved the Jews from extinction.
Mom had that very same strong faith life that gave her strength, vigor and energy. She was a person of action.
Mother never dwelt on such question as, “Why bad things happen to good people.” She lived the “why.” She attended daily Mass wherever she lived and often led the rosary in various churches. She accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and tried to put God first in her life.
After a long life, may she rest in God’s peace.