For My Mother, Mary
My mother, Mary, passed away suddenly on August 22nd. The following is the eulogy I gave at her funeral Mass that Saturday. Many of my friends and relatives have asked for me to post this – for their support, for me and my mom – thank you all for being there.
Thank you all for coming today. Thank you, Fr. Paul for your special words for Mom. Thank you to Fr. Powers for graciously having us here again in St. Patrick’s – my mother and father’s second home. Thank you to Sister Flora, my mom’s high school classmate, for helping put this Mass together. Thank you to all our friends & family for being here and especially to everyone at the Center, my mom’s home for the last three years. Please forgive me if I miss a name or two as I go along.
Well, I have to tell you that I really believed that I would not be speaking at my mother’s funeral because the joke between us was she would outlive me! But, I know that God has other plans – some fundraiser, church bazaar or religious education program to run up in heaven.
My mother and I had a typical mother-daughter-fine-line relationship. So there was always much sarcasm, much laughter, arguments, special times, issues avoided, and, most of all, love.
My mom was called by many names –
And she had many, shall we call them, idiosyncrasies.
She was organized. My mom worked for Cohn, Hall, Marx in the textiles industry where she was a “Bill of Lading” clerk; keeping things in order was her strong suit. From the Candy Table with Marie Marzigliano, to the Milk Money collection and distribution, to her beloved Library, my mother organized everything her way. She kept meticulous records for all the fundraisers and programs she was in charge of and taught me to do the same.
My mother was relentless. I always knew she would badger many if not all of you to “buy your tickets to the luncheon”, “get you chance books in”, etc. – Janet Adler will attest to this that my mom would put the fear of Mary (which was much stronger than that of God) in you that you would not get into the festivities if you weren’t paid up before.
Mom was a good sport. She was teased by the best – my dad, Marty, George, and so many others – including me; being chased by Nino and a two-pound lobster, her campsite being invaded by Lella & Rae with a whole restaurant setup – she took all the teasing, although protesting. She never admitted it but she loved the spotlight. She was always ready to share a laugh and usually had a good one-liner back.
My mother was a good listener. When you could get my mom’s ear with a problem you had, she would listen for hours. She would ask all the right questions, she would give you her opinion and usually leave you off with something like, “I know it’s not easy, but hang in!”
My mother was our own news source. She always prided herself on watching the news, Court TV, “Meet the Press” and more, although someone, usually me or my father had to explain the nuances to her. I am a Today Show baby to this day because she always made sure we watched together in the mornings when I was little; she worked at the Board of Elections for years and if she could have, she would have revamped the whole system way before last year’s election, singlehandedly!
My mother was loyal. She was the middle child who stayed at home; got married young to her high-school sweetheart, my dad, Ernie. They helped my Aunt Flo when she was left widowed with Patrick and Debbie – my father & mother spending weekends to help around the house, play with the kids and being a shoulder for her sister. She cared for my grandparents – all of them – never ever making a distinction between her own parents and her in-laws. She wasn’t blessed to be a mother by birth, but she was, as she always said, “Blessed to have the best day of her life, when I held you in my arms” – the day she and my father made the trip to Angel Guardian to pick me up. She was the contact with my father’s family in Gibraltar, though never meeting them because we were family. She remained by my father’s side until he drew his last breath ten years ago. She spoke to her brother-in-law, my Uncle Mort every day sharing their “isms” and more. She spoke to her best friend, my aunt Mary D. every day.
Mary Parmel, the Librarian, was a weekly reminder to hundreds of children who came through St. Patrick’s school. She started volunteering here when I entered first grade and left only after forty-three years and her health issues getting the best of her. “Put your chair in”, “What are the Magic Words?” “Make sure to return the books the way you found them” were just some of the commands – which she also used at home.
My mother was possessive. She always introduced Rae as “her friend first” – and the ladies and men on staff at the Center were all “her favorites” who shared many lunches, trips and afternoons on the patio with her. And that possessiveness made her your biggest advocate; she would do anything she could – right up to holding the hand of a friend on her floor in the nursing home, until last week when that friend passed.
My mother was a sweet and lovely lady. So many of you have said that to me. My retort was usually, “Thank you, but you don’t live with her”! My mother, just like her sister and brother, could lay you out with a look – and thankfully, only a few of us know the dressing down she could dish out when she was mad. She would never admit to her mean side; only to remind me that I had to “take it easy”, especially with her. A deep breath in, a rolling of her eyes and a “Don’t tell Janie” were usually in the cards.
Every day of the last ten years, I have been blessed with my mother. We became closer than ever; we talked about everything. We did things we hadn’t before like a vacation in Maryland, trips to the Casino and family gatherings like our “Meatball Experience” at Colleen’s house so we could all learn her recipe.
It’s never easy to lose a parent, you simply figure that they will always be there. I have to come to appreciate the support my mother always gave me; she may not have always said to directly to me but she was my biggest fan, my confidante, my partner-in-crime. I will miss our thrice daily phone calls – I am so happy that the last time I saw her, when she said to me, “I love you Jane” as I had heard a billion times before, I said to her something my niece Michelle says every time, “Ma, I love you more!”
To use some Mary-isms, “This was expected but unexpected” – “I knew it was coming-ish”; but for all of us, as she would say, “I know it’s not easy, but hang in”…