As of 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, I became matriarch of the family that Mom and Dad built. My brother Mark has already teased me as to how this fact terrifies him, but the truth is that no one is more daunted than I.
Mom was the classiest person that many of us will ever know. There was never a hair out of place and every one of her gorgeous outfits was perfectly appointed with a great necklace or a stunning pin. Her appearance was overshadowed only by her rare brand of kindness that enveloped you in warmth whenever you were in her presence. Mom was a hostess extraordinaire. Whether you were at a party for 100 or a party for one, you were treated like royalty when in their home. She was wonderfully generous and owned an uncanny knack for always finding the right gift. Mom was also brilliant, but she never used her intellect to show off.
Mom showed us children how to build a marriage of deep love and mutual respect. I am sure they argued at times, but we kids never heard a cross word between them. Dad often told people that when they were first married, he and Mom decided that she would make all of the little decisions and he would make all of the big ones. Towards the end of his life he still marveled how not one big decision had come up in almost fifty years. Mom stood by every decision she made and her commitment to see every decision through is legendary. This was never more evident than when Dad was diagnosed with a blood disorder two and a half years into mom’s ordeal. She called me the next day to tell me that she had every intention to outlive Dad, as burying her would be too hard for him. It didn’t matter that her doctor had given her 24-36 months to live. She survived for 63.
If you were fortunate enough to be her friend, you knew that you had found a listener who would always be there for you without judgment. You knew that she would never betray you in any way. Even in her last days she was more concerned with her friends’ travails than she was in her own. During one conversation with a dear friend Mom apologized for not getting to the phone at times as she knew her friend worried when she could not reach her. What she did not share was that she was completely bedridden and unable to so much as lift a spoon, never mind put a phone to her ear.
The most fortunate of us, though, are her family. She loved us all unconditionally. When asked how many children she had, she would answer that she had seven – four by birth and three by marriage. Mom believed in every one of us and would always celebrate our gifts rather than nitpick our faults. She trusted us kids to make good decisions and when we didn’t she helped us brush ourselves off and keep moving forward. When she worried about us she did it quietly as to not add to our burden. Mom was the biggest fan of her nieces and nephews and loved them unconditionally as well.
As for you ten grandchildren sitting in front me, Nanny thought that each of you was perfect. You made her heart sing every time you laughed and each time you cried her heart broke a little. Over these past five years Nanny’s milestones to reach always involved one of you – a graduation, a Communion, a Confirmation or a school play. The reason she fought so hard these last few months, as I just learned from her friends, was to live to see Danielle graduate St. Andrews.
If I had to pick the one legacy that I hold most dear, it would be her unshakable faith. Mom had a very special relationship with the Virgin Mary, as she prayed often to Mary to intercede and ask for God’s help on her behalf. Though she fought so hard to live, Mom had no fear of dying, so certain was she of the existence of eternal salvation.
They say that the bond between mother and child is never broken and I now have proof. Around 4 pm on Sunday my sister and I were with Mom as she used every single ounce of her strength and her will to raise her left hand skyward. Her eyes were open and she was staring right past us into the distance. There was obviously someone there and she was desperately trying to communicate to us who she saw. Finally she mouthed one word – Mother. A few minutes later, Mom’s eyes closed for the last time.
Though it is hard right now for me to imagine gaining my balance in a world without my mother, I will carry in my heart the hope that just as my grandmother did for her, my Mom will be the first to greet me when it is my turn to enter eternity.
Please stand as we celebrate the promise of resurrection for Mom and for all of us during this Mass of Christian Burial.