|Mom and me, October 2012|
There never seems to be enough time. Last Tuesday, Heaven received another angel. And I'm jealous. I can't help it, but I am. Time has run out.
Aunt Jean. Mom. Savior. That last word may seem a bit over the top to some of you, but let me tell you a story. When our last surviving parent died in 1982, my sister Cathy and I were orphans of the State of NY for a brief time. Aunt Jean came to our rescue. Luckily my parents had made legal arrangements to provide care for us. That meant a move down to Florida to live with my mom’s oldest sister Jean’s family. The ironic thing was that we were about to move to Florida that summer anyway, but the cancer had finally caught up with my dad. He had outlived his diagnosis by about 15 years, and back in that day he was living on borrowed time.
As my sister and I were adjusting to our new lives while still grieving in our own ways for our father, I can’t imagine what Aunt Jean was going through. I really didn’t know what to call her and I was old enough that mom didn’t feel quite right. Yet, anyway. And the boys. Her sons. It was like we were invading their house and their lives. All I could think of was that I had to share a bedroom with my messy kid sister, when I had my own room and privacy in my old house. I think at one point I resorted to putting a strip of tape down the middle of the floor with a very dire warning if any of her toys inched its way over that line. (But who was I kidding? She was only 4.) We came from a small town whose graduating class had maybe 70 graduates. And the school was a small K-12 building. My new school had a huge building that was like three times larger than my old school in NY and I didn’t know a soul here. While I was dealing with school and fire ants (just in case you didn’t know, they are nothing like their black cousins up North who are fun to play with and don’t bite) and mosquitoes that could carry you away, mom was dealing with adjusting work schedules, two extra mouths to feed and fit around the table, her own grief, and who knows what else? I never had a clue that anything extraordinary was going on. But it was. Our lives quickly became normal. I can’t imagine how hard she worked at it to make it that way. Her compassion knew no bounds. She was always there to talk to and answer questions, and she was so gentle and compassionate.
I really want to thank Billy, John and Mike for sharing their mom with us. It may not have seemed fair to you to have to do so and I know not every moment was fun and games, but that was a gift of life us. It was a gift of a new life and a second chance for us. It was like she saved us. You all did.
So, my story is not so much about me and what happened when I was 12, but about the woman who took over as ‘mom’ for my sister and me, and the extraordinary person she was. Everyone who knew her knows how fun-loving she was. She worked hard and long hours as an emergency room nurse, often working doubles to save up for a trip she wanted to take. She seemed to have endless energy, almost… she’d work an 11-7 night shift, come home and pack up the kids and go to the beach, but then fall asleep during that movie she wanted to see sooo much. That was one of her trademarks, falling asleep during a movie. I know Aunt Sheri has a funny story about the movies I’d like to share. Mom had once again run a marathon shift and had taken the kids to the movies, in which she promptly fell asleep after a few minutes. There was this lady sitting in the seat in front of her that had sunglasses perched on her head and when she leaned back her sunglasses slid off into mom’s popcorn. Mom started awake and shrieked “RAT!” and flung the popcorn all over, making everyone around her shriek too. …. Oh yes, good times.
She loved to travel, and many years ago she travelled to Ireland with her sister Sheri and they had a grand time. Ever since then, she loved all things Irish. A good potato soup would warm you right up and stick to your ribs. But she also loved Irish humor and especially Irish blessings. I’d like to leave you with an Irish poem I think that if she could tell us one last thing it would be this. It's titled
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free!
I follow the plan God laid for me.
I saw His face, I heard His call,
I took His hand and left it all...
I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss...
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life's been full, I've savoured much:
Good times, good friends, a loved-one's touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—
Don't shorten yours with undue grief.
Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.
And that is what mom was all about…. Family, friends, good times. A Good Life.She truly is free now, as the first line says. She’s no longer tired, and she has no worries. She is whole and healthy once again. She has earned a well deserved rest.