My mom passed away last Friday at the age of 89. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few months ago, and was placed on home hospice at the end of August.
My mom was fortunate to live with her sister, who has done a phenomenal job over the past few years taking care of my mom. My mom had expressed a desire to be at home, and not at a nursing home, and it was my Aunt that really made that wish come true. My mom also had a great family support system, including my wife and sons, my sister and her children and grandchildren, and my other sister’s children. They all played a key role in helping my enjoy life to the fullest for as long as she could, and to have a peaceful death when it was time.
While there are a lot of great things I could say about my Mom, and many great stories I could tell, I thought I would share the eulogy I had written for her funeral mass which took place earlier today.
First, thank you to all of you who are gathered here; you have helped make today a beautiful tribute to my Mom and have brought a great deal of comfort to myself and my family.
I’ve often thought about how much courage it must have taken for a 21-year old woman who grew up on a farm in Ireland to leave her family and friends behind and sail to America in the hopes of a better future.
Fortunately she had some caring relatives in the Philadelphia area who welcomed my Mom into their home. She soon found work at a rectory helping to take care of the priests, and became a regular at the Irish dances around Philadelphia where she met my Dad.
And speaking of Irish dances, one of our fondest memories of my Mom was when she decided to teach our youngest son Patrick an Irish line dance known as “Shoe the Donkey”. Patrick was about 8 years old at the time, and he gladly joined in with my mom as they danced around the living room and sang the words, both with big smiles on their faces. It wasn’t until about the 10th time they danced together that we realized Patrick thought the words were “Shoot the Donkey”, which sounds far more appealing to an 8 year old boy. Once he found out the real words, his interest quickly diminished, and my mom got a good laugh out of it.
My mom and dad eventually got married, and moved to King of Prussia when I was about a year old. The church was always a big part of my mom’s life, and she was always a willing volunteer at St. Augustine’s school and parish in Bridgeport, and later at St. Thomas of Villanova, where she was a Eucharistic Minister and a member of the Handbell Choir.
When I think of my Mom, two attributes that come to mind are her generosity and her love of family.
I remember calling home once when I was in college and a stranger answered the phone. As it turned out, the stranger was one of three young men from Denmark. They were traveling across the U.S. when their car broke down at the end of our street. My parents invited them into their house while their car got fixed. As it turned out, the three men ended up staying for three weeks, during which time my Mom made sure they got three cooked meals per day. They continued to stay in touch with my parents for several years afterwards, sending postcards and letters from their travels around the world.
Fast forward several years later, after my Dad had passed away. My Mom and Aunt were having dinner when there was a knock on the door. My mom answered the door to find a young man selling magazines door to door. She invited him in, listened to his sales pitch, and of course, ended up buying several magazines from him. As he was getting ready to leave, he thanked my mom and apologized for having interrupted her dinner. My mom then asked him if he was hungry. When he answered that he hadn’t had a good home cooked meal in quite some time, my mom invited him to stay, and he was treated to a steak dinner with all of the trimmings.
I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a person by looking at their checkbook. I recall needing to look up something in my Mom’s checkbook a few years ago, and was astounded to find how many $5 contributions she made each month to a wide variety of charitable causes. She just couldn’t say no to a letter that came in the mail requesting a donation to help the less fortunate. As you might imagine, my mom was a direct marketer’s and a door to door salesman’s perfect prospect.
Her checkbook also revealed how important her family was to her. My mom and dad set up savings accounts for all of their grandchildren when they were born, and religiously deposited the same amount into each account, month after month, year after year until they turned 21 years old. With 11 grandchildren, or as she affectionately called them, “Mom Mom’s little angels” these were not insignificant monthly contributions, particularly once my dad retired and eventually passed away. But the contributions continued, and she never missed a payment.
My mom would do anything for her family, make any type of sacrifice. She loved it when her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids came to visit. Such visits seemed to rejuvenate her. She attended as many of their school plays, recitals, and athletic events as she could, and took great pride in all of their accomplishments. I can clearly remember taking her to see one of her grandson’s play basketball this past Spring, a big grin on her face as she made her way to her seat using a combination of a wheelchair and a walker. It’s the perfect image of my Mom, who despite her physical imitations, never let that affect the positive attitude and pride she had in her family.
I hope these stories offer you some insight into a remarkable woman who was generous with her time, her talent, her treasures, and most of all her love. She will be missed but not forgotten.
Thank you for being the best Mom a boy could ask for. I love you.
I realize that many of you reading this have never met my Mom (or me for that matter), and I thank you for having taken the time to read this tribute.