My mother, Sally Kathryn (Laing) McCormick, passed away on the 25th of
April, 2019. This is the eulogy I gave at the celebration of her life on
"Your mum is the nicest person I've ever met."
I've heard these words from friends and strangers countless times during
my life. They are how I slowly came to understand that Mum was somebody
extraordinary and not to be taken for granted. I'm so glad to have been
able to express my own gratitude to her in recent years.
In Henry the Fourth Shakespeare has a turn of phrase: "like bright metal
on sullen ground." Mum was bright metal on sullen ground. She was solid
Everyone here will have their own fond, and if you knew her well,
sometimes frustrating memories of my mum. I want to focus today on those
things I came to really admire in her.
We all knew that warm side of her because she gave it freely, to
everyone, everywhere she went. No matter who you were you would get a
sweet smile, warmth, and praise. Perhaps fewer people here will know of
her strength, energy, and willpower, her humour, her infinite gratitude,
and her fundamentally uncomplaining nature.
In recent years I've found inspiration in the philosophy of the stoics
and it is hard not to notice strong parallels with the way mum carried
herself, always ready to help, always grateful, always giving. Standing
straight, or held straight, by sheer will. Until around 11 each night
when the universe would gently say "ok, it's time to sleep now Sally",
and she would nod off where she stood.
And then, as my father knows all too well, was woken every morning by
her two alarms, one at 4:30, so that she had "time to think", and one at
5 so that she could actually wake up.
But Mum was not a stoic, she was a Christian. Even though she was tested
by the Good Lord with three opinionated, and two atheist sons, her faith
never waivered in the slightest, even at the very end. As with
everything about her, it held fast and true and uncompromising
throughout her life. I am not a Christian but I admire her persistence
I am going to try to be more like my mother.
I'm going to try to be as grateful as she was. To remember that every
morning I wake, every cup of coffee, every lego spaceship built with my
kids, is a gift of limited supply. To delight and give thanks as she did
in the smallest of things, common or uncommon. Any time I said thank you
to mum, she would brush it off. Clearly, she thought it her basic duty
to this world and the people in it to give everything she had with
The most valuable thing each of us has to give is our time. Mum always
had time for people and most especially for us her sons. In this too I
hope to emulate her and give more time to my own kids, and to you, my
friends and family, and the other people in my life, just as she did.
She never ever complained. Never. Instead she did whatever was in her
control to help other people, and sometimes even things which were well
outside her control. She knew that complaining accomplishes nothing but
to make you feel worse and to burden those around. Mum never burdened
anybody. If I need help I will ask for it. If I can fix something I will
simply fix it, just as she did.
Mum had incredible energy. It wasn't the kind of energy you get from an
energy drink, or from eating high energy food, because we all know she
did not do that. No, it was the energy that springs forth at 4am at the
hospital after several sleepless nights when your sick kid needs to be
held. Its the energy you didn't realise you had until you decided to try
and overcome the fatigue with willpower. Mum made amazing use of that
particular reserve, and whilst it would probably not be advisable to dip
in to quite the same extent as she did, it's good to know that there is
always more you can give when required.
Finally, I aspire to mum's strength. She powered joyfully 100% into
everything that life handed to her, and even her last hugs were
vice-like, and with a genuine smile. Again that is not because she was
particularly physically strong, although she was, but because she was
emotionally and spiritually strong. If a mouse like my mother can be so
mighty, surely I can too. She made it apparent that it is a simple
matter of choosing to be strong.
Mum and Dad's legacy speaks for itself. The life they made for
themselves in this country. The lives they helped others to build. The
success of their sons Dirk and Mike in building a good life for
themselves, sometimes against extraordinary odds which most people will
never face. Of course I also owe a huge debt to my parents for the
wonderful life I enjoy today, a debt I intend to pay forward wherever I
can, in my mum's spirit.
At times like this the universe can seem cold, and harsh, and unfair;
but people like Mum show us that goodness and love abound in this
universe. The goodness and love is in us. We get to defy the cold and
the unfair. Like mum, each of us gets to choose to be strong, to love,
and to make reality wonderful for each other.
Thank you Mum, for caring for me, and Dirk, and Mike, and Dad, and for
Orson and Scout, and for always believing in me. Thank you for always
laughing out loud at our stupid jokes. Thank you for sitting patiently
and learning to code with me on our Apple IIe when I was 8. Thank you
for showing me the way to be a good human. I promise I will try.