I thought I'd try to weave together some of the many golden threads that were woven together into the beautiful tapestry that was my Mom's remarkable life, but then I thought that well that seems awfully wordy, awfully grandiose, maybe I should just tell a few jokes.
But then I thought, well, first I need a title. (Not for myself, I already have a title, I'm the Son of Sylvia. What I need is a title for this talk.
I thought perhaps:
"My Mother Wore Army Boots"
(but that's an insult that little kids throw at each other)
I considered some movie
"A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Memorial."
(but that was a musical I can't sing)
I thought maybe
"Carry on Protesting" or perhaps "Carry me away Protesting" or "I got carried away Protesting"
She loved to travel, so I even thought maybe "Carry On Luggage," but that's just plane silly.
This made me think about some of the adventures we had in the 1970s.
In 1971, Wendy -- my younger sister -- and I travelled with my Mom the length of the Yugoslavia along the Adriatic coast.
In 1975, my older sister Heather and I took the Orient Express with my Mom across Europe to Greece and Turkey,
My Mom and I travelled --just the two of us -- across southern Mexico in 1976, we went about two thousand miles on local buses.
In 1977, my Dad drove my Mom and I in a jeep through about 800 hundreds of miles of rugged Guatemalan mountains. We climbed jungle pyramids, we paddled in a dug out canoe, we saw crocodiles,
You know, it was just a normal little family holiday.
But I'm still no closer to a title.
I thought hmmmm what about my favourite movie:
"Dr Strangelove," subtitled "Or how I learned to stop worrying and Love the Bomb."
My Mom was a veteran worrier, that's worrier, not warrior. She worried about her kids. That's normal. But she worried about other people's kids, kids a million miles away, and she worried whenever we organized a big event. So it's a good thing she's not here because the worry of planning this memorial would have killed her.
Her worrying drove me crazy sometimes. I'll miss her worrying. But now I'm the big worrier. My wife Susan says it's not my most lovable or redeeming quality. She worries that it might be bad for my health.
I'm still worried that I don't have a title for this talk.
My Mom did love Peter Sellers movies, so I thought maybe "The Mouse that Roared" in which an impoverished backward nation declares war on the US, hoping to lose so they could receive financial aid, but instead, they bring the US to its knees and win the war.
My Mom roared. Sometimes she roared with laughter, sometimes she roared against the war machine.
(On being a Catholic)
I want to reconsider her Army Boots. During the war she was -- at least on paper -- a catholic. Why? Two reasons. Every Sunday, Anglicans had to march in military formation to church, Catholics didn't. And, the Catholic service was in Latin, so she didn't have to listen to a word of it. But she went back to being a nominal Anglican, not because she believed the theology, but because that's where her friends were. The people attracted her to church, not the theology.
(Unitarians and Pie in
But it was different with Unitarianism. She believed in the seven principles alright, but it was just the small matter of putting those noble principles into practice.
You see even within such fantastic and progressive groups, like Unitarians and the NDP, my Mom never quit. She didn't always see eye to eye with everyone in the Congregation. She was always struggling to radicalize people, to get us to put our beliefs into action. During the Vietnam war, when we came to this church, believe it or not, there were some Unitarians who supported that war. Others of course didn't, but not everyone was doing anything to stop the war.
My Mom and I painted a family mural in the basement here. It showed Christ on the Cross and a sign on the cross read "Property of the Establishment." Two groups were depicted. Some were down on earth carrying peace signs, it was my job to paint those people. Others were up in the clouds singing pie-in-the-sky hymns. But don't get me wrong, my Mom loved pies and she loved singing, but no one was going to make her wait for her piece of pie. She wanted her peace here on earth, she wasn't going to wait for pie in the sky.
(Life after Death)
My Mom didn't believe in life after death, although she knew it would be a comforting belief. Listen for the John Lennon song at the end of this service [Imagine]. My Mom always said she wanted that song at her funeral.
(Helping People far from
Perhaps her real religion was the peace movement. She really wanted to make a difference here on earth and I think she did. She struggled to improve her family's lives, but she also struggled to improve the lives of those who she would never meet. Refugees, victims of war, victims of apartheid in the United States, victims of Canada's arms trade, countless unknown innocent people.
(Helping People close to
She knew war hurt people here too. When the Voice of Women was collecting baby teeth to test for radioactivity, she sent in my teeth. She waited till they fell out, she wasn't that fanatical. It was my first contribution to peace. The US was blowing up hundreds of atomic bombs, and radioactive dust was raining down on us and babies were getting it from their milk.
Those were the days before the birth of the environmental movement when peace groups provided the umbrella for health and environmental and social justice issues. Peace activists like my Mom always had their hands full. Our work never ends.
We rarely have large tangible victories, like stopping a war, alone stopping all wars. The idea that we might stop all wars is naive, like the idea we can stop death. We can't. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to ward them off. We try to live as long as we can, trying to improve life on earth. I think we could do more, if only we had more people like my Mom and Dad.
(The bear story)
Now here's a cottage story. The cottage is a 150 year old log house with its big square timbers, that my parents saved from destruction. The logs were pulled across the lake in the winter by horse and sled. It's nestled in the forest with a gorgeous view out across the lake, no cottages in sight.
Itís a central grounding place. Itís a simple place. Before my Dad put in the solar panel, there was no electricity then. We used oil lamps and a woodstove. My Mom was resting and was awoken by a loud thump. Then there was a crash. She called out for my Dad. Hearing no answer she got up and went to see what was going on. There in the kitchen she met a big black bear. It stared back at her, standing its ground.
My Mom knew exactly what to do and she did it. She didn't freeze. She didn't run. She acted immediately and without hesitation. She protected her hearth and home.
My Mom confronted the bear. She shouted and screamed at the bear. She waved her arms around. She made herself as loud and as large and as scary as she could. She showed that bear who was boss. The bear knew it had met its match. It backed down and got the hell out of there.
My Mom confronted many bears in her life. (I won't call them bears, I have nothing against bears.) Her voice rang out against many beasts, The beast that we call war. The beast called racism. The beast of injustice.
When a beast threatened her, or threatened her cubs, or threatened people anywhere in the world she stood up for them.
She didnít worry about offending the bearís feelings. Or offending those didn't want to hear that there was a bear in the house. She wanted to wake people up, to alert them to the danger, to ring out warning. Ironically, people like my Mom who go around singing out warning and waving hammers to hammer out danger and are often misunderstood.
The media doesn't help. If they'd bothered to cover the bear story, they'd have said this:
"A crazed, angry woman on the verge of violence, shouted and waved her arms in a threatening and aggressive manner. [period, end of story]"
They take us out of context with no mention of the dangerous bear.
Many, not knowing there's a bear near by, fall for the lies and see activists as violent or crazed, people who perhaps need constraining, need to be caged, need to be sedated, as if we were the beasts.
Done through the ages, the real beasts of war have gone uncaged, they're run rampant. They still rule this world. For thousands of years activists have challenged them. But many are afraid to confront the beasts. My Mom wasn't like that. She wasn't one to say ďIím alright, Jack.Ē She couldn't ignore the horrors; Couldn't carry on as if everything was fine. She wasn't afraid to make her voice heard. She spoke out even if it wasn't popular, even if it wasn't polite, even if it upset people, even if it sometimes hurt people's feelings. She didn't like being "the bad guy," but she felt a profound responsibility to speak her mind. She was stir up controversy in order to resolve a problem. I learned this from my mother. Sometimes conflict is an unavoidable necessity. Gandhi and Martin Luther King did the same thing. They brought deep underlying conflicts to the surface where they couldn't be avoided or denied. They forced people to confront injustice. My Mom didn't bury her head in the sand. She didn't bury her feelings or hide behind a phoney politeness.
Her default was to be friendly, to use her sweet voice and charm to convince people. But if they wanted to argue. Watch out! She was no push over and she didn't tolerate people who belittled her or put down she was doing. She was confident and she was fearless.
(Me and my Mom)
I'm a lot like my Mom in many ways. I don't mind arguing for a good cause, even if it sometimes makes people dislike me. My wife and others close to me do not necessarily believe this is one of my most endearing qualities.
My Mom taught me so much about love, about caring and about conflict and war. I am so proud of my Mom and my Dad and all they have done for their kids, and for the world.
My Mom and Dad and I worked together for about 20 years on countless peace campaigns. We started starting organizations, planned events -- meetings, protests, conferences, vigils, festivals, anything to make people aware of the bears around us and to confront those bears, to try to get them to back down, if only for a moment.
When I joined them in 1984, and started working full time for peace, my Mom had already been at it for thirty years. Of course she was much more than just a mere peace activist. She raised a family, she travelled, she had hobbies, she did pottery and painting, she researched the family tree, she went antiquing, she sang, she danced, she did so much.
But I think her main passion in life, besides my Dad, was always trying to make a difference, and the vehicle for that was the peace movement.
You'll be happy to hear I have only one or two little stories left. Picture a busy bridge filled with commuter buses in the early rush hour of a cold November morning in 1986. A few dozen radicals from ANVA, the Alliance for Nonviolent Action, are stopping business as usual at Ottawa's War Department. The issue was NATO weapons testing and war training in Nitassinan, an area of Labrador and Quebec never ceded to Canada by the Innu first nation. People were sitting down in waves and police were dragging them. It was around Remembrance Day and seeing two old resisters wearing war medals sitting down on the road, an angry policemen turned to me and spat this out. He said "See those veterans? If it wasn't for people like them, you wouldn't be here!
I turned to him and said, 'Yes I know, they're my parents.'
My Mom was also arrested for blocking a huge arms bazaar in 1989, and at External Affairs in 1985 when we exposed the hypocrisy of Canadian participation in Reagan's Star Wars program.
When my Mom sat down and blocked traffic, the police moved her to the side of the road. But rather than doing as she was told, and staying put like a good little girl, she got up and walked back out into the road sitting down again with the other war resisters. Sure, the police could move her out of the way, but they couldn't stop her from going back.
We're going to sing a song in a minute and I promise I'm almost done. It's a classic, "We shall not be moved." It's very idealistic and it neglects to mention that sometimes although we struggle to hold our ground, although we try to be strong and hold fast to our beliefs, sometimes although we try to be like that mighty tree standing by the water, sometimes someone comes along and cuts us down.
When Sylvia came crashing down, the peace movement lost a mighty tree. Our family lost a mighty tree. This community here today lost a mighty tree.
But thankfully she lived a long time. She planted a lot of ideas. She helped make this world a more beautiful place. The wood from felled trees can be used to create wonderful things, like this church. And, that wood can also be used as fuel. I know we'll keep her spirit burning in us.
And thankfully, there are new trees growing up to carry on.
And thankfully we are a forest, and or our branches still reach up to create a living cathedral to shelter us.
And our collective roots are woven together into community of communities that ground us.
Mom, We shall not be Moved!