I’d like nothing more than to be able to stand in front of you and eulogize my mom, the problem is, I physically wouldn’t be able to. Waterworks. I know enough about myself at this point in life to understand that there are things I am good at, and things I am not. Speaking fondly of loved ones always chokes me up to a point of near paralysis, and I don’t want to burden anyone with that. However, my mom and I had a unique way of sharing our feelings with one another through the written word, and I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my memories of my mom in our preferred medium.
– Charles De Lint
My mom highlighted these quotes in a book we found on her nightstand called “The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir.” For those that knew her well, I think you’ll find these pretty accurate descriptors of her life’s philosophy. All throughout her years, she faced mountains upon mountains of adversity. From being raised in a single-parent household, to the upheaval of moving her family around the country six different times, to challenging financial situations, to having to raise my brother Will (just kidding), to receiving her original breast cancer diagnosis on her 40th birthday, only for it to metastasize and return nearly 20 years later. Despite having the worst thrown at her, her philosophy never wavered. If I had a dollar for each time I heard the following, I would be a very, very rich man: “You can only control what you can control; you can’t control what you can’t, so don’t waste energy worrying about it. Life is the gift, and it is about the present and your presence.”
Despite the terminal illness my mom was diagnosed with, she never ever stopped living her life by that credo. In fact, she was so focused on the present that I doubt many of you in this room even knew she was sick; if you did, I doubt you knew how serious it was. For a long time, I wondered if she was embarrassed to tell others about her condition, because she thought people would treat her differently. Or if she was so distraught that she couldn’t find the words or didn’t know how to share. Upon reflection, I know that it was for entirely different reasons. She was the constant servant, focused only on others and never on herself. By not sharing the state of her disease openly, she felt that the focus of whatever she was involved in (and she was up to a lot) would stay on others that needed help. Make no mistake, she wanted to get better, and feel better…badly. But she knew it was largely out of her control, and that her gift to the world was being present in other people’s lives. Which she was, until the day she passed.
She was dedicated to her work and felt a personal obligation to send emails and tidy up loose ends while lying in her hospital bed. Even when she was so sick that she could barely walk, she forced my dad to drive her into the office so she could see the coworkers that she loved so much.
She wanted to find a cure. She poured countless hours into organizing and raising money for the 2020 Metsquerade. When she was tired, exhausted, and in the middle of a treatment cycle, she never missed an opportunity to meet with her friends in the metastatic community, offering encouragement, support, and anything else they needed. She fundraised until she couldn’t.
Even when she didn’t have much, she gave back. She fed the homeless and got to know those she served. Because even though she was sick, tired, hurting, and questioning why, to her, she had so much. What might be ordinary to others, was extraordinary to my mom.
Above all else, family was her true calling, and if you looked up the definition of what a mom was in the dictionary, I would contend it should be a picture of her. While I could share countless examples of how she raised us, loved us, and prepared us for our lives ahead, there is one story that will stay with me forever.
In late 2009, my family moved from Long Island to Pittsburgh. I was a senior in college but returned home to spend the holidays with my family in our new home. Unfortunately, right after Thanksgiving my dad lost his job. New city, few friends, no income. Most people would be distraught, panicking, and helpless. Not my mom. She had another philosophy: “when hard times hit, you get one day to be sad, then you move on.” Thinking of everyone other than herself, she got a temporary job delivering packages for UPS. Every morning, she would put on winter boots and her brown jumpsuit, and head out to the unknown. Every night, she would come home and make dinner. I am sure she was exhausted, but you’d never know it. She would laugh, tell stories about the drivers she worked with that day, and talk about the packages she delivered and houses she went to. We never heard her complain, not once. To her, it was another one of life’s adventures. A part of her journey. When I asked her later about why she did it, her reply was simple. “I wanted to make sure you all had a nice Christmas.”
That was my mom. Selfless when faced with adversity, serving everyone but herself, and doing so with a smile on her face.
She highlighted another paragraph in the book I found in her nightstand.
Gone way too soon, it is now time to say goodbye to my mom, a woman who I loved and admired so very much. In true mom fashion, I am going to promise to always acknowledge the present and make sure that her optimistic, fun-loving, never quitting, omnipresent, creative, cool, kind, empathetic, bad dancing, music-loving, benevolent spirit will always be the presence that fill me and my family’s life.
It seems appropriate to conclude with a line from the ending of a book she used to read to me when I was young, and that I now read to her grandson almost nightly.
I love you mom.
Your extremely proud son, Christopher.