Remembering Mom

On August 2, my mom passed away after a 29 month battle with brain cancer. Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of time to reflect on her life and what an incredible woman and mother she was. I also had the privilege of sharing some words of remembrance on her life at her funeral in St. Louis this past Friday, and many people have asked me to send them a copy of what I wrote. I've been thinking about what I wanted to write about her here on my blog, but since I've already written it for that speech, I'm just going to paste it below. For those of you who knew my mom, I hope you enjoy reading my reflection on her life. For those of you who did not, hopefully this gives you a little glimpse into who she was and what made her such an incredible woman.

For the 6 of you who don't know me, I'm Michael, Kathy's oldest son. And for the rest of you that do know me, please try not to make too much eye contact, I’m turning 30 in a couple months, so I’d like to make it out of here without crying too much more than I already have. But just in case, I’ve got my wife back here on the sidelines to sub in for me.

As I sat down thinking of what I should say up here today, I immediately thought "how in the world am I going to do this without one of Mom’s lists telling me exactly what to do?"

Growing up, Mom would always leave these lists on the table for us of stuff we needed to get done, especially during the summers before we were old enough to have jobs. They were always insanely detailed and became infamous in our house - you'd commonly hear her say "did you check the list?" or "everything is on the list". As we’ve begun to organize things at Mom’s house, these lists have been appearing everywhere. So if you’re wondering if I completed my chores back in 2004, the answer is no and I have the paper to prove it.

People always wonder how Mom survived, raising us 3 boys. Apparently our wonderful childhood full of pranks and sarcasm was more fun for us than it was for her. But Mom always told us that raising us was the best job she ever had, and if you knew her well, you know how much she loved it. She put 100% of herself into whatever she did, and being a Mom was no exception. Sometimes it was embarrassing for us. For example, a few times a year she would come into our classrooms at St. Clare and teach our class on some subject - it started out with her teaching about Mardi Gras (go figure), and then other random things that were never a part of school curriculum but were more cultural, just to broaden our horizons. As a kid it was embarrassing to have it be MY mom who was coming into the classroom, but everyone always loved it and had so much fun and thought she was so wonderful (which of course she was). As I got older, I realized just how lucky I was that I got to share her with my friends and classmates. Everyone who knew her through school, or who came over to our house, or met her at one of our cross country meets or soccer games got to experience a little part of what made her so special, but Matt, Mark, and I got that every single day.

When I wasn’t too busy hiding behind doors or under beds waiting to startle her, I learned quite a few lessons from Mom - not necessarily things she told me, but mostly from being around her so much, and so I'd like to share the two that have stuck with me through the years.

First is to love everyone. God put us on this earth to love one another, and gave us so many ways to express that. Mom's way of showing love was cooking, which of course made our house one of the most popular places to hang out because everyone knew there would be something amazing to eat. And it didn't matter if you were hungry when you came over, you definitely wouldn’t be hungry when you left. She was going to feed you, because she loved doing it and she loved the joy it brought people. When our daughter Rose was born, we asked Mom to bring one cupcake up to the hospital, for us to celebrate Roses birthday. Mom showed up with a dozen cupcakes and a cake...just in case others would be hungry too. She loved so deeply, and feeding anyone she could helped her show her love.

The second is to be thankful. It's so easy to tell someone thank you when they do something, no matter how small it may be. Mom was never slow to thank someone, no matter what. I’m pretty sure she had thank you cards in her purse at all times, just in case. She was the kind of person that would write you a thank-you card for sending her a thank-you card (I’m not even kidding that actually happened). I remember when Mom was getting her treatments at St. Luke's, she talked about how thankful she was and how well they treated her, as if they rolled out the red carpet for her or were giving her special treatment, when in reality they were probably treating her the same as they would every other patient. But she was always so thankful for the medical staff, and every time anyone came in - doctor, nurse, lab tech, anyone - she always told them thank you. And it was so genuine, she was truly grateful for that person and what they were doing for her, no matter if it was removing a tumor from her brain or walking her to the bathroom. She was so thankful for every single day that she had.

And thankful doesn’t begin to describe how I’ve been feeling the past few weeks and months. As mom’s health deteriorated, we had so many people rally around us, offer us food, and go out of their way to show us love. So thank you.

To her friends - St. Clare was the first place where we found a home when we moved to St. Louis, and so much of that was because of you. When we asked Mom where she wanted her funeral, she didn’t hesitate - she wanted it to be here, to say goodbye to her friends and faith family and to this wonderful community that was home for so many years.

To our family - while I got to grow up with her as a Mom, you have all known her so much longer. She was your sister, your sister-in-law, and the aunt who you cherished so dearly. Despite living so far away from family for so many years, we always grew up knowing family was the most important thing. Distance never stopped her from keeping her Southern roots and we know Louisiana was always at the forefront of her heart.

To Billy - we always grew up hearing people tell us how beautiful our mom was, which for a boy is the last thing you want to hear. But somehow she managed to get diagnosed with brain cancer, lose all of her hair, and still land a husband, so I guess it’s true. I can’t begin to tell how you much it has meant to us to see how well you loved Mom. Knowing that she had you by her side every day, loving her and taking care of her brought a great deal of peace and comfort to us during such a difficult time in our lives. Thank you.

The last 30 months have not been at all what I expected to be going through, especially this early in my life. Between the cancer, brain surgeries, and radiation, Mom’s personality changed in a lot of little ways. She wasn’t the same person we knew growing up, and that was really difficult for me to cope with. The person I knew and loved was suddenly so different. Then one of our priests gave a homily a few months ago and talked about how your relationship changes with your parents as you grow older. He said it can be more difficult, especially as they require you to be more of a caregiver, you have to remember that who they are now is not the same person they were when they raised you. Mom was a super woman, and I’m sure Matt and Mark would agree with me. She was the Mom who raised the three of us, spent years of her life with us at piano lessons and soccer practices, helping us with homework and school projects. She planned special birthday dinners, hosted our friends without ever complaining. She was our cheerleader, personal chef, and she loved us with all she had. She was hands down the best Mom ever, and more recently in her life, the world’s greatest Mamere to her grandchildren.

So while we're all gathered here today, sad, and still in disbelief that Mom is no longer with us, we can be thankful that we got the opportunity to know her and have our lives enriched by her. And as my three year old daughter so wisely told me the other day, "you don't need to be sad, Dada, Mamere is in Heaven now, so she is always in our hearts".