My Mom was a professional worrier, I dedicate this blog site in honor of her and others like her and myself that sometimes let worry get the best of us. I am now fairly convinced that it is possible for someone to worry oneself to death. My Dad was hospitalized after having a bad fall breaking his hip (after fighting dementia for 2 years) and it seemed inevitable that his time was near. During the last months, she went from perfect health to having congestive heart failure and fulfilled her own prophecy, that she would go before he did. It was almost unbelievable that when I got the phone call from my sister, clearly expecting her to tell me Dad had gone, that instead it was Mom.
In honor of my Mom’s passing four years ago, here is her eulogy that I presented in Columbus, Ohio in 2011 at her beloved church:
Thank you Father for a wonderful service. My sisters asked me to speak about the life of Irene, our beloved Mother. Under the roof where she considered it to be sacred ground, I first thank God that a bolt of lightning did not come through the roof, as certainly I am not one who would be worthy of being on Holy ground.
With that, it is only appropriate since it’s been a while I’ve been to a mass, while I don’t see that as a big deal, I probably better start off right to make Mom happy:
Bless me Father for I have sinned my last confession was 35 years ago.
- My first confession goes along with an apology to Mom, Sorry Mom, but back in high school when you so fervently insisted that we go to church every Saturday, my brother (and it was his idea not mine) and I collaborated together and took turns week to week faking church attendance by grabbing the weekly bulletin with the date stamp on it to show to you and prove our attendance. So sorry Ma, but I am here today, see.
- Sorry also for the day you found out about my partying habits and you suggested I go to confession (while Dad was threatening to call the police and turn me in, Thanks to my oldest sister for talking sense into him to hang up the phone) . Sorry Mom for giving you a heart attack when I added to the furor by telling you, I didn’t believe in God anymore, so going to confession wouldn’t matter anyway.
- I’m sure those were not the words you wanted to hear.
- But hey, I do remember the time when you used words I’d never heard before out of your mouth, once was outside Saint Teresa’s when my sister was driving us to church and that guy rear ended our station wagon. I’m pretty sure he saw how much you loved your children that day but quickly backed off when your reaction was to jump out of the car and run back to him and say, What the sam hill are you doing? You almost killed my darn kids. (out of respect to our surroundings, the real words have been softened)
- I also remember you saying you were going to kill, yes kill, that part-time dumb “arse” kid at Schneiders bakery who packed the wedding cake for my wife and I’s wedding 25 years ago. You were so proud to provide the cake from Schneiders, but saw the moment ruined finding a purple frosted cake in one box and a blue frosting bottom in the other. We still laugh at that one today, sorry it was not that funny to you, but we knew our marriage would never be perfect, might as well start it off with a little imperfection.
Both those slip of the tongue situations of course were completely out of character of my mother which is why I mention them, or should I say our Mother. I was asked today to share a few things about Mom with all of you in attendance and actually I’ve dreamed about this day many times in the past, I think it is destiny for somebody, so I must say what has been put on my heart as I think Mom saw its importance and relevance, as uncomfortable as this may be for me.
On behalf of Mom and the family we thank all of you very much for coming today. No doubt she is so happy to see you all and I’m sure she wishes it were under different circumstances. I know she would love to be able to greet you and make you feel as if you were the most important person in the world to her. As that is how she tried to make everyone feel.
Our Mother without any question was one who cared for everyone and saw her role as being one to cheer others up with her smiling and caring face. She deeply loved her children and no doubt wore the worries and concerns that go with having Eight Children and their spouses, past and present. I know Mom would never say one child was her favorite, but I, I would like to personally point out and THANK my 3 local sisters, for the amount of time and sacrifices they have made to make the last years of Mom and Dad a special one. They have gone above and beyond in helping them out through all the health and everyday living needs that happen as old age brings on its circumstances.
I know with Mom, the spouses will attest, to how Mom welcomed each and everyone to the family as if they were her own. My wife and I often laugh at the first time she met her. Mom’s first words at the door were, you are a short one and oh so adorable. How lucky you both are, I’m so excited for you.
And of course we cannot leave out her 10 grand children, all of you were very dear to her heart. And yes she admits, she sure wished she had a better gift at communicating her love towards all of you. Aside from providing cookies, for all you boys, she really cared a lot. All of us should know that as well.
Her dedication to our Father for the course of 62 years is almost beyond comprehension. Dad at times could a be a bit difficult as we children will attest, yet she never faltered in her love for him. The last few years she took on the role of care taker for him. Undoubtedly the dedication and sacrifices made for him took its toll on her life, yet she would tell you she has no regrets. Their life together was an amazing show of dedication to one other.
Over the course of her life she endured the pains that happen in life seeing her own miscarriage and her children’s miscarriages, hospital stays, marriage difficulties, life styles she didn’t agree with, yet did not condemn, lost jobs, and other mishaps. Each and every situation she took on as a personal worry and prayed about and lost sleep over all of them on a regular basis.
But she was also quick to emphasize the good and focus on those school triumphs of her kids, her husband’s golf skills and kids sports successes, job successes, and she was so very proud of seeing nearly every child fulfill the American dream of home ownership.
All of us derived from her the example of being very hard workers. My wife and I still marvel that she was always whistling or humming a tune while slaving in the kitchen or being on her hands and knees scrubbing a floor at home, or later in life wiping a counter at the bakery she worked at. Seldom was heard from her mouth any complaining or whining about having to do her daily routines and never ending chores.
And of course a painting of our Mother would not be complete without describing her love and deep devotion to God and Church.
She often volunteered for the church her whole life from doing the readings during Saturday services, to washing the linens from the alter which she treated as sacred, cleaning the rectory, and offering her devoted service of any request made by the priests at the parishes she was a member of.
More important was her relationship with God. While sometimes it is hard for me personally to fully accept the full religious beliefs she followed daily, as exemplified by the wonderful Mass performed today, thank you Pastor, we both made long steps towards finding middle ground.
Post my high school rebellion days I moved more towards what she called the “protestant” viewpoint and accepted Jesus as my Savior some 30 years ago. Of course at that time, I knew more than anyone, with my new faith,,, and Mom and I had it out over who was right and who was wrong. Rejection of her faith was harder for her to accept than any other thing any of we crazy kids did. That was clear as day to me.
But over the years events happened that changed the views for both of us.
The climax was on the day we called 3-11, March 11, 2001. They say burying one of your own children is worst than any other fate a parent can face. Imagine the horror of a mother not only having her daughter murdered, but to find out about it from the news channel on TV. I vividly remember talking to Mom seconds after seeing it on TV myself. She was crying, not something this strong woman did very often, saying why would he do such a thing, WHY?
My reaction and those of the rest of us was of course sorrow for Moo, but also an almost uncontrollable anger to want to go and take care of that fiend. But only days, not months, not years, DAYS, Mom said words I never expected to hear, I forgive him.
She said, I cannot carry a grudge, I cannot carry bitterness, I cannot carry anger around with me. I’m just not that way. And you cannot either, it will tear your heart to pieces. It is God’s job to judge, not mine.
There contrasts the two religious view points that center around God and religion and I believe Mom got it better than most.
First is the need to seek justice and indignation. While that is important, she took Judge not, lest you be judged literally and understood it. And justice was carried out by none other than God as He did take care of the perpetrator, striking him dead in prison shortly after, bringing on a swift justice.
And justice can be and is often looked upon as an unfair biased entity today. Lot’s of sports fans here today I am sure. Think how unfair it seems that Joe Paterno helped so many people and had great success, yet will be remembered as the guy who covered up Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Jim Tressel my hero, sadly will be remembered as the guy who lied about his players deeds. Noble in some ways, yet it was wrong. And even though we all wanted to react the same way, Woody punching out a player was not the best way to end a career and be remembered.
I think most religions agree that the day will come where we will stand before God and be held accountable for our deeds and He’ll have the job of doling out justice. Not a task I want, especially for those like our fallen sports coaches. But judgment day is where all the things that go on in a person’s heart and their actions is revealed. What really happened, did all the good things we and others did warrant passing under God’s standards? Glad He gets to decide.
2nd is the forgiveness factor. One can only grasp forgiving other people, if one understands being forgiven. While it’s hard to find Mom with a dark side, she knew she had her faults like all of us. If you are waiting for a sudden revelation of things she has done wrong, don’t hold your breath, as there are none I am aware of. Unless the church suddenly condemns Bingo!
But Mom knew she needed a savior just as we all do. She understood that a greater love has no one than the One who laid his life down for others. Mom was an example of laying her life down for other people, learning from the best example ever provided, Jesus, giving up His life for us and dying on a cross, depicted and hanging hear at St. Elizabeth’s. The question Mom and I struggled with though was a taught viewpoint on what happens on judgment day —- Does God take out a scale and put our good deeds on one side and our bad on the other, and if it comes up best on the good you pass, if not oops?
Personally I stand by the most well known verse in the Bible. For God so loved world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. It’s plain and simple without the statues or anything else. A simple belief, but one that has caused division and persecution everywhere, primarily because the religious want to say, I earned it. Where God says, nobody is perfect, therefore all will perish, unless, you have believed in the Savior and solution that I provided for your sin.
Sorry to get Bible ee on you, but there was a reason for that explanation.
A week ago on Christmas Eve, I spoke with Mom in a way we’d never talked before. It’s as if she knew it was the last conversation we would have here on earth.
Always important to Mom was her wanting to see all her friends and family in heaven. We’ve had many a discussion over the years on how that is to be attained In the past I would ask, are you sure you know that you are going to heaven? she would typically answer, I have lived a good life and I believe in God and I think and hope He knows that.
The call I had with her last week was different, she said, I know God is with me now, and when I go from this earth, I’ll be with Him. I talk to him every minute and especially these last years I have had Him in my mind always. Being in a position to not go to mass every week forced me to reach deeper past the common. I do believe as you say Joe, I always have. I wish you had the same whole “church” view I do, but I think God is big enough to allow some differences, and I’ve accepted the ones you and I have. I hope and think we’re both right.
My response was Mom, only God knows our hearts and that is between You and Him, and if you’ve put your trust in Him, I’ll look forward to our time together in heaven, that’s what is key. She said I’m scared. I’m scared that day is sooner than I’d like it to be, but if He says it’s my time, I’m ready and I believe. How could I not? I’m at peace.
Mom always said when the time comes, I’m going before Dad when it does. That time has come. I cannot be judge and it is now between her and God. I believe her Faith and trust in God and Jesus was intact and she passed through the pearly gates and sits in heaven now.
What she would say today is she wants all of us to be there with her when our time comes. Thus the days of making us go to church were important to her as that was the way she knew.
But now she’s gone and it’s up to us to grasp and make real that belief stated in words we just recited here in Mass. They cannot be merely words recited, but ones we believe. And I speak as also needing more change, we/I must toss behind our anger, bitterness, or whatever ails us inside, any self-righteousness that may have crept in, and surrender to a loving God who gave us the solution.
And if we truly have believed and do believe, we can forgive others as Mom did, we can love others, and we can live a life fulfilled by having a REAL relationship with God. I know I will be with Mom when my time comes, I hope all of you here in attendance today also know.
Some things in life happen or don’t happen to us perhaps to be given a chance to CHANGE the way things are:
If you didn’t get enough hugs, give them out in quadruple.
If you didn’t hear the words I love you enough, BE SURE to say it to all who are dear to you.
(MOM when asked the question, if you could live your life over again, what would you do differently, her answer was always, I wish I could have been more affectionate, more nurturing). She knew it was not her strength, but she gave it all she had.
If you didn’t hear enough praise, praise your kids, your spouse, your siblings and friends.
If you were treated unkindly or kindly, be kind.
Whatever you want, give to others and you will get more in return, ten fold.
God bless you all and Mom, rest, and relax in peace, worry no more.