Here’s to Lucy

My mother died recently. I gave this eulogy at her funeral. I miss her very much.


My father had trouble coming up with a heading for my mother’s obituary heading. As you probably know, in The Washington Post, everyone has a heading, director of this, president of that, fundraiser, teacher…

How could he possibly decide on Lucy’s? She was so many things: mother, grandmother, reporter, painter, diplomatic wife, a huge diplomat herself. Fundraiser, Russian historian, teacher, crossword demon. Highly intelligent woman. So what I wish he could have put was just LUCY. Because that’s who and what she was. Lucy. And she is unforgettable.

She was one of the funniest people I know. In fact my sister and I have been a bit embarrassed about how much laughing we have been doing. But no one can think of Lucy without a smile. She was hilarious and we will treasure our ‘Lucyisms’ and our memories.

Lucy was constantly learning. And reading. She gave her children that deep love of reading. I remember when I was a young kid she worried that I would never read for pleasure. I was too busy watching ‘Petticoat Junction’ and ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ But she didn’t worry in that drastic way parents do now. I was never labeled or tutored or despaired over. But when we moved to Copenhagen and I couldn’t understand the Danish television she saw her chance. She brought me to the library where they had an impressive line of English books and introduced me to Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I was off.

Lucy was interested in everything. As children my brother, Ted, my sister, Mandy, and I were brought to every museum under the sun. In fact, my brother once joked later that, during his travels, if he arrived in a new town, be it Tokyo or Ouagadougou, and he didn’t immediately check out the local art museum he felt incredibly guilty.

She used those wide ranging interests in her varied careers as reporter, university coordinator and docent for two museums: for Hillwood Museum where she recited Russian history and for Dumbarton where she used her amazing knowledge of American colonial history.

A common theme from the kind comments of my friends has been how glamorous my mother was. They don’t know the half of it. As a little girl I remember sitting with my sister at the top of the stairs in Brussels and watching my mother swan out into the night beautifully dressed. I still have one of her satin ball gowns.

She was presented to the Queen of England at the coronation at St. James Court in 1952. In fact she was so pretty that Prince Philip stopped to talk to her. I wonder what Queen Elizabeth thought of that.

She danced with King Juan of Spain and oh, so many, many others.

And she drove around in a cherry-red Alfa Romeo sports car until she was 83. Her license plate read: LUCY K.

But as glamorous as she was she was the most democratic person I know. She served dinners at So Others Might Eat and always fought for the underdog: the Wobblies of her childhood, the protestors during the Vietnam War, the Democrats during the dark years. And that perennial underdog: gun control.

My mother loved us so much and wanted the best for us. She worried about us. In fact she worried about everyone. And they didn’t have to be human. I remember her surreptitiously putting the neighbor’s cat, who had had one too many kittens, on the Pill.

She was a loving, gorgeous, loyal, funny wife to my father. I won’t go on about the deep love my mother and father had for each other because I will start crying. But that love was an anchor for Ted, Mandy and me and for our children, Hannah, Molly, Jordan, Lara and Ben. She bore the death of her beloved son, Ted, with grace and she tried her best to be an anchor to his son, Jordan.

Because one of her greatest gifts was as a homemaker. She always managed to foster a sense of home. Which for a diplomatic family is not easy. Home for us was always where she and my father was. It didn’t matter if it was London, Moscow, Brussels, Geneva, Newport, Georgetown or Maplewood, home was where they were.

Home was where Mom was.

So I wonder where she is now.

Where will I find her now?

And I realize she is in my heart.

I picture her there, sitting in a chair, with a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine. Being able to read again. She has a newspaper and a stack of her beloved mysteries. And that’s where she’ll stay. In my heart. In all of our hearts.

Here’s to Lucy.

Photo: Good memories.




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13 responses to “Here’s to Lucy

  1. Nina, How beautiful. Your Mom sounds like she was an amazing woman, Superwoman, a Mom of Mom’s. You were so lucky in your life to have had her.. and she to have had the amazing life she had. Thoughts and prayers continue to be with you. Don’t ever doubt that she is looking over you all.
    Big Hugs, Joyce

  2. A beautiful eulogy for an amazing woman, Nina.

  3. ninakillham

    Thanks, Joyce, that’s really kind of you. And thank you for the Russian Church link. Wonderful! xx

  4. ninakillham

    Thanks, Sarah. That’s so nice of you.

  5. David Bruskin

    Very very moving, and as lovely as all the Killhams I know.


  6. I’m so sorry to hear of your mom passing. You have some amazing memories to hold fast to. She sounds like a woman everyone would have been blessed to know.

  7. ninakillham

    Thanks, David. How are you doing? How is Benny? x

  8. ninakillham

    Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, she was great. Still getting used to her being gone. x

  9. I am so sad to hear of your dear mother’s death. Thank you for sharing this lovely eulogy. I remember well her sparkle (and dare I say sass?) when she and your Dad came to visit in LA. I remember thinking “I wish she were my mom!” 🙂 Laughter is good medicine, I think, and love binds us together across boundaries, real or imagined. May your memories bring you warmth and deep comfort, even as you grieve…
    Our love and prayers surround you,
    lisa, Clementine, SARK & the Forever FORD

  10. ninakillham

    Hello, lovely Lisa, thanks so much for this Lisa. She thought you were marvelous. She was a great mother. I was very lucky. x

  11. Jo Angell

    Nina…..I was just thinking about you and wondering if you have been writing on your blog about the move to Australia…..and I found this…. So lovely to read xx

  12. Nannette Stueck Reed

    I loved your mother Nina and foe those few years we all dwelled on Woodhaven Blvd she always made me feel at home. A great lady through and through. Waffles always remind me of her!

  13. ninakillham

    Thank you, Nannette, that is so kind of you. I remember those years so clearly. And yes waffles! Weekend waffles. How I loved them. x

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