To my mother, Paula Constance Leonhauser. My mama.
The person who has made me feel the warmest, the proudest, the most loved.
As a parent, you taught me many things. How to be organized. How to dream. How to make many of those dreams come true. But most importantly, you taught me how to love. And be loved.
Because that is why we are celebrating my mom today - it was her love.
And we all certainly know that she was overflowing with it.
It has been an extremely difficult year for all of us, and I share in that pain the loss of my loving mother.
I’ve spoken with many of you about her in recent months, to which I’ve been reminded time after time of how proud she was of me, and how it couldn’t be more clear how much she loved me. And I know that.
Because there is no person who could’ve made me feel more loved, than Paula Leonhauser.
And while the bond between a son and mother is like no other, if you knew my mom, then you probably felt it, too. Not only did she love to be a mother, a wife, a dog owner, sister, aunt… she loved being a therapist, a neighbor, a friend, a teacher, a mentor. Any role that she could be in your life, she had nothing but love to give.
My mom loved her life. In fact, she would say it often. “I love my life, I love my family!" And she really meant it. Because her love of life was a lot of fun.
My childhood was a lucky one. I fondly remember warm summer days at the beach with my mom. How we would spend the last day of every school year riding roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm. Visiting some of her favorite places like Italy, her hometown of Bucks County PA, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Following her around shopping - and sometimes she would even convince me to get a man’s manicure at the nail salon. Watching Alfred Hitchcock films during family movie nights. How she even let me skip school to celebrate my dog’s birthday!
My mom taught me that if you love to do something, then do it. And while life isn’t always that way, I’ve only sought after the things that I’ve loved. And much like my mom, those things have included a love of music, of people, food, travel, and community.
But also a love... of love. My mom and I share a lot of warm memories and like I said, she taught me a lot of very important things. But the deepest bond that we share, what I will cherish and keep sacred for as long as I live - is our love. And our love to love. To love life and love what you do. Be proud of who you are, what makes you happiest, and love, love, love.
It is difficult for me to share this next story with you, but I want my mom to hear it.
There comes a time in every kid’s life where life and this complicated world that we live in - it becomes much more real. It becomes scarier. I can only imagine what it’s like to be a kid today.
There was a period of time in my life where I couldn’t sleep at night. We called it the"fraidies" as in, "I’m afraid because I just realized that life is complex."
My mom and dad would always be there to reassure and comfort me when I was terrorized by the dreaded fraidies. My biggest fear was the death of my parents. Something that haunts us all at some point, I suppose.
My mom was always really good at nurturing me. And oftentimes she would say to me, “Don’t worry, I’m going to live forever.”
Forever? Oh okay, good. Fraidies gone. Now I can get some sleep.
But obviously, nothing is forever. Or is it?
Because what I’ve learned over this past year and a half is that my mom is right here - with me.
And no matter what you believe in, my mom is here with you, too.
Her memory, her love, the love that we give to one another. And that love is forever.
I love you, Mom. Thank you for sharing your love with me, and with the world.