A Tribute to my Mom

Nancy Kuhn M.S., LMFT

Nancy Kuhn M.S., LMFT Practice Owner

I offered this eulogy at my mother’s passing and wanted to share my tribute to her here.  It’s fitting because without her, my professional life, our practice, may have never come to be.   

So here we are family, facing the end of another chapter in the book of life. Our sister Lin, our mother Linda, our aunt Linda, our grandma Linda, and our dear friend Linda has moved on to her eternal home. And someday we will join her. And I know this because of the beautiful gift of faith my mother planted and nurtured in me.
I would like to reflect on some of the most meaningful and impactful gifts my mother gave me. I know she also gave all of you gifts of herself, and I’m sure as you’ve listened today, you’ve been reflecting on the blessings Linda gave each of you. I hope to hear about them when we gather.

I will start by describing the most meaningful and impactful gift she gave me…The gift of faith. I was raised right here in this space. We attended Faith Presbyterian Church almost every week of my young life. We did not just attend Sunday service, we attended the Christian education classes she taught, we attended the junior high and high school youth groups. You’ve heard about her extensive involvement in the life of this church, and that trickled down into our family. She and I shared several “mountaintop” spiritual experiences together at Geneva Center, the Presbyterian youth camp that I attended starting at the age of 9 and later worked at until I finished college. These seeds of faith led me to attend Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, where I found my calling to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. I have helped thousands of individuals and families, and it’s all because my Mother taught me to love Jesus, and to know He loves me too. The seeds of faith she’s given me are now deeply rooted in me personally, in my husband and my children, and in all the people I’ve counseled. I’m not sure if you are aware, but all three of Linda’s daughters have spent their careers healing broken hearts and brokenness in the world. Lori has spent 18 years working as a funeral director, and Shelley as a Life Coach and grief counselor. I often joke with my patients that I learned counseling skills from listening to my Mom talk on the phone for hours to her friends and family! She also chain smoked while she was on the phone, and luckily, I learned to hate the smell of cigarettes, so I don’t smoke! Turns out, my mom’s gift to gab, along with watching how her faith gave her strength as she responded to the tragedies our family experienced, planted seeds of faith and wisdom that led all of us girls into helping others heal. And now two of her grandchildren, Maggie and Jack, are interested in counseling others as well. I don’t doubt that all of us who were lucky to “gab with Linda” have witnessed Linda’s strong faith, and the wisdom and strength it gave her. I offer so much gratitude to my Mother for the precious gift of faith. Thank you Mom.

My Mother was a voracious learner. She read the daily papers, the Kokomo Tribune and the Indianapolis Star, throughout her life. She watched several news shows, she read hundreds, if not thousands, of books…fiction, non-fiction, biographies, self-help, political, and Christian books…we have found notebooks where she recorded daily all the statistics of the COVID deaths that were reported on the news, she recorded detailed accounts of the last presidential debates. She even recorded golf scores during a major golf tournament! One of her favorite activities was watching the Masters golf tournament. So when it is aired in April, maybe you’ll feel a bit of Linda nearby. My mother often said that one of her regrets was not getting a college degree…but she educated herself far beyond what a college degree offers. Her intense curiosity to understand the world and human behavior obviously influenced my career choice, and was observed by all of us. She was very interested in social psychology, and in particular politics. Mom was acutely aware of the world around her, and was always trying to figure out what the neighbor across the street or behind her was up to, or what the couple in the booth next to her was arguing about, or what the people in the next campsite over was cooking….she constantly commented on what she observed others doing and tried to figure out the story. We all know she had a lot of impatience with “stupid people, stupid choices.” I am so thankful to you, Mom, for instilling in me a lifelong desire to learn, understand, and help others.

And this leads me to the third gift my mother gave me. The gift of forgiveness. I was once one of those stupid people who made stupid choices. I was fiercely independent and rebelled at her attempts to control me. Or my siblings’ attempts, or my Aunt Carol’s attempts. So, my mom and I had some ironing out to do…and luckily we did most of that work years ago, as I was becoming a mother. I believe we had a fairly peaceful relationship for the past 20 years or so, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Aside from the obvious parent-child forgiving we had to do, there were other, more serious, life altering events that she had to resolve and come to peace about, and from which I learned how to forgive. The tragedies she witnessed, the two car accidents- her brother’s and our sister’s, watching her Mother die of bone cancer- one of the most painful ways to die, and dealing with my father’s mental illness…all of which were unfair and can lead most to question the existence of God, or at the very least question, “where the heck are you God?” So, through all of those life shattering events, she had to find a way to forgive God for all of the suffering she witnessed and experienced. And she did. I never once heard her turn her back on her faith. An example of the forgiveness she offered others besides forgiving my failures, was how she forgave my father for the hurt he caused her. They remained friendly and at peace after their divorce, which was a real blessing to all of us. My mom forgave many of the “stupid people” in her life over and over, and over again. I never once knew her to hold a grudge against anyone. Linda was not a perfect mom…she hurt me and let me down. But she taught me how to love others, even when you see both sides of them, the good and the bad. I learned from her that forgiveness is the only path to peace for myself and others.

One of her favorite sayings was from John Wayne, “Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” Let’s use the wisdom Linda gave us to make smarter choices, forgive others and love Jesus!

As we listen to Joni Mitchell sing “Both sides Now”, reflect on all the beautiful gifts Linda brought to our lives. I hope I’ve represented you well, Mama. I am so proud to be the daughter of Linda Gillem. I love you forever Mom.