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Denise Pearson Dixon, R.I.P.
October 19, 2010 — 1:38 am

For those of you who knew my mom and weren’t able to attend her funeral, or want to remember it anew, this is my eulogy. I wrote it on Friday, Oct. 15, and delivered it the next day on Oct. 16. Video of the service is embedded below.


For as long as I can remember, it seemed like wherever we went — any part of town, any event, any other city or state to which we traveled — mom would run into somebody she knew. All of you gathered here today knew and loved Denise Dixon in different ways and in different contexts. The funeral program contains a few of the highlights from her life, and her sister Nancy collaborated with her on a longer memoir that I imagine she’d be happy to share with those of you who’d like to read it. For my eulogy, I’d like to share a few memories of her from my own perspective as her son.

What I remember most about her right now are small moments: dancing in the kitchen; singing solos in church, and punctuating conversations with song every day; groaning at our puns; playing Scrabble; watching Wheel of Fortune; wearing her muumuu around the house; bundling up even in weather that felt warm to the rest of us; shuttling us everywhere in our urban assault vehicle; teaching us German folk songs on our long summer road trips to Boise; listening to the Tijuana Brass or her collection of South Sea islands records; always welcoming our friends into our home and making them feel like family; telling us how she planned to tackle us on the tarmac when we flew home from college to visit, and insisting on itemizing every piece of food in the kitchen available for our consumption once we arrived; tearing up every time she told us how much she loved us.

One pastime that she particularly enjoyed was reading biographies and autobiographies of famous people. When I was a kid, I used to wonder whether it was a form of escapist entertainment for her, but as I grew older, I realized she saw them as cautionary tales of excess and mistaken priorities. A public life may be fascinating, but she often told us how she only ever aspired to be a wife and mother, and she was content building a good life with her family and helping her children gradually become adults.

Even though she wanted to devote herself to a life in the home, she worked as hard as anyone. I remember her spending hours in the evenings poring over bills and our finances, trying to make ends meet. Sometimes, when people say they can’t find a job, they mean they can’t find a job that they don’t feel is beneath them. But when it became necessary for her to find a job to make ends meet, she dove right in to one of the most thankless jobs there is — fast food, at the neighborhood Arctic Circle. Before long, fortunately, she was able to find a job as a nanny, which she did for more than a decade for multiple families, helping to raise their children with the same care she gave to her own. When the nanny jobs dried up, she started to work in retail sales, until we convinced her that her declining health was more important — she didn’t have to work any more.

Her own individualistic streak may be the reason that she always made sure we knew that she would be happy with whatever we chose to do in life, as long as it was something productive that we enjoyed. She had no preconceived notions about a perfect career choice or an ideal life path. It was important to her that we knew our lives were our own to choose — as she put it, “just as long as you’re not a bum!” She encouraged, but didn’t push. Instead, she inspired us to want to succeed in life.

At some point in my early teenage years, I remember mom coralling all of us kids. The bishop had addressed several parents in the ward, concerned that many children had no idea whether their parents loved them, because not everybody goes to the effort of saying or demonstrating it. She was not the type of person to take expressions of love and gratitude for granted, and she wanted to be sure that we knew she loved us with all her heart, so there would be no doubt. And when she explained this to us, we laughed — because how could there ever have been any doubt? She told us, and showed us, how much she loved us every day. She didn’t know how to do otherwise.

This is not to suggest that she was perfect. She sometimes had a temper, although the older I grow, the more I understand how a handful of rambunctious little kids can try anybody’s patience. She had a stubborn streak, which I inherited in spades. Perhaps most tragic of all, she struggled throughout her life with a weakness for the sugar that ultimately ravaged her body. If there’s any one thing I could have changed for her, it would be that.

But we have to be careful what we wish for. People are complex, and the mix of qualities that make them unique and vibrant can’t be easily separated and altered. Mom loved life, loved living it fully, loved music and food and people and dancing, and consistently celebrated the joy that life had to offer. Although I wish we could have her here with us — healthy and energetic — for decades to come, the time that she did spend with us was filled with happiness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’ll always love you, mom.

Graveside Memorial Service, Part 1:


Graveside Memorial Service, Part 2:


Graveside Memorial Service, Part 3:


Graveside Memorial Service, Part 4:


Graveside Memorial Service (Highlights, set to “Moon River”):

— Eric D. DixonComments (4)

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  1. I laughed out loud at: “telling us how she planned to tackle us on the tarmac when we flew home from college to visit.” How could I forget that? Thanks Eric; you captured Mom so well.

    Comment by Michelle McDonald — October 19, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  2. This is a very beautiful tribute to your mom, Eric. She sounded like a wonderful woman.

    Comment by Caitlin — October 19, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  3. All my thoughs with yout family, she was such an inspiring sister,if you will, I’m in shock….we are not getting younger:”(.

    Comment by margaret — October 19, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  4. Well done. That was insightful, thoughtful, and kind.

    Comment by Veen — October 20, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

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Eric D. Dixon

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