Mom | December 2, 1946 – June 29, 2020

My mother, Lynne Carol Kosterman (neé Johnson) passed away at the end of last June, in South Carolina. She and my father had moved there less than a year earlier into the first newly constructed house they inhabited in their 50+ years of marriage.

Yesterday we finally held a Celebration of Life for her in Madison, Wisconsin. We had to wait for my sister and her kids to be able to travel here from the UK.

My mother and I had a severely strained relationship for the last 20+ years. Something happened to her right around the time my first daughter was born and, despite many attempts at reconciliation, our relationship was never the same.

I’m sharing this eulogy because many people seemed to find it powerful and I think the practice I describe below could benefit from wider distribution and use. Let me rephrase that – PEOPLE could benefit from employing the practice.

Mom circa 1997. Shot on TMAX 400 (that’s film for you youngsters) with a Nikon N90 and a Nikkor 105mm f/2.5.

The Speech

Thank you all for coming. It is great to see so many familiar faces. 

You’d think COVID would have given me plenty of time to put this little piece together. Alas, old habits die hard. So, after procrastinating for months, I finally composed the basic outline of this speech sitting on the trunk of 200 year old fallen Douglas fir tree atop a large hill in Eugene, Oregon. It was a picture perfect 70º Saturday morning in July with crisp cyan skies. Dappled sunlight danced around me, filtered through the boughs of towering firs. Butterflies flitted in and out of the columns of light. Suddenly, a red wing blackbird shot by my right shoulder as it darted through the outstretched, entangled branches, always moving toward the light. “There she goes,” I thought.

Mom was barely 22 when she gave birth to me. I can hardly fathom being responsible for another human at that age, as I was having a hard enough time being responsible for myself at age 30, much less 22. For the first 20 years of my life, we had a typical mother / son relationship. Basically, I thought she was a pain in the ass. The next ten years were better. We had conversations. I was able to confide in her. It was she who convinced me to propose to Amy. While our marriage did not survive, it brought two amazing souls into the world for which I am forever grateful. Then, something happened to her a little over 20 years ago. To this day, I don’t really know what it was. Our relationship has been strained since then, vacillating numerous times between estrangement and reconciliation. She struggled mightily with myriad addictions over the years. And then she fell ill and passed away. While I might blame COVID for not allowing me to be with her at the end, that would be disingenuous at best. The truth is we were not on speaking terms at the time. I regret this.

Her five beloved grandchildren earlier this morning.

A couple years ago, one of Abby’s Countryside High School friends, Jessica Flanigan, was assisting me with some of my own health problems. She told me about a powerful practice called Ho’oponopono. It came back to me two weeks ago in Oregon and thought it eminently appropriate for this occasion. So what is it?

Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.

“Hoʻoponopono” is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as:

(a) “To put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up make orderly or neat, administer, superintend, supervise, manage, edit, work carefully or neatly; to make ready, as canoemen preparing to catch a wave.”

(b) “Mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”

In the late 80’s, a Hawaiian therapist named Dr. Ihaleakala (ee ha lay a kala) Hew Len cured an entire ward of criminally insane patients without ever meeting any of them or spending a moment in the same room with them. How did he do this? He healed them by healing himself using this ancient practice. How in the world can you heal yourself and have it heal others? Why would it affect anything “out there”? The secret is there is no such thing as “out there” – everything happens to you in your mind. Everything you see, everything you hear, every person you meet, you experience in your mind. So how exactly does it work? It works by reciting four short phrases which call four powerful forces – Repentance, Forgiveness, Gratitude and Love.

Here are the phrases to be recited:

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

While the practice only specifies the need to simply recite these phrases, while I was sitting on that gently decaying trunk of a Douglas fir, it occurred to me that it might be useful to expound on each of these a bit, to clarify my actual intent behind each of them. And so, in honor of my mother’s memory –

I love you 

You are my mother. How can it possibly be otherwise?

I’m sorry

I’m sorry I did not get to a place of forgiveness and acceptance while you were still alive. 

I’m sorry I could not find a way to bridge the gulf that opened between us. 

I’m sorry for not accepting you for who you were.

Please forgive me

For the angry phone calls. 

For ignoring you when you needed help. 

For not being able to get to a place where I could hold space for you while you were here.

Thank you

For always being willing to step in and help, especially when it came to fixing up a house.

For love. There’s nothing like a mother’s love. I may not have been open to receiving it. It may not have come to me the way I wanted it to, yet it was there. 

For my creativity. 

For giving me what I needed, even if it might not have been what I wanted.

For doing the best you were able to do.

And now, in honor of Mom, I’d like ask you to join me in repeating Ho’oponopono phrases after me three times. 

I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.

I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.

I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.

Rest In Peace, Mom.

5 Replies to “Mom | December 2, 1946 – June 29, 2020”

  1. Thank you for forwarding.

    I would have liked to have been there to hear you speak those words.

    I also wish I had reached some peace before my sister passed.

    1. I wish you had been there as well, Aunt Susan. Look forward to seeing you soon. Have fun with the gang at HHI!

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