A Life Well Lived: Reflections of My Mother

My mom passed away last week at 89 years old, and I was tasked with giving the eulogy at her funeral mass. Below is some of what  I spoke about, that my siblings and I wrote:

My family reflected on some of the many things we admired about my mom and I would like to share a few of them with you:

  •  Her Passion for Learning

My mom was an avid reader, she took many classes, attended lectures and enjoyed trips to different museums. She had a fabulous vocabulary and could literally spell ANY word in the dictionary.

  • Her Strong Faith

My mom had strong faith and a special devotion to Mary,; which carried her through the difficult times in her life.

  • Her Bravery

She grew up through the depression and lost her father at a very early age, and then her mother in her 20’s.  When our father passed away after battling an illness, she found a way to go on and continued to live a full life. 

Five years ago, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and she researched everything she could to learn about therapies to do for herself in order to remain strong – for as long as she was able.

During the last year when she could not see her family as much as she was used to, she remained positive and hopeful.

  • Family Came First

Family meant everything to my mom and she instilled in us the importance of traditions such as:  Sunday dinner together; which always meant roast beef, mashed potatoes and lots of gravy. Another Sunday tradition was to attend mass and then drive to the local bakery afterward for donuts; which we were all allowed to eat in the car on the way home. That was even before breakfast. Obviously, no one in our house was counting calories on Sundays. 

Later in her life, she would drop anything and everything to spend time with her beloved grandchildren.

  • Her Exuberance for Life 

My Mom loved to have fun;  with old friends and new!  She was a joiner. She fully participated and enjoyed many clubs, sports groups and other hobbies over the years.

All of these attributes we admired about my mom were no doubt the reason why she was always surrounded by so many friends, our aunts and uncles, and neighbors who had such a fulfilling life gathering socially to do things like – play golf, travel to see Notre Dame football games, dressing up to the 9’s on New Year’s Eve (full gowns, suits, hair done and all!),  just to walk around to the neighbors’ houses in our cul-de-sac for their version of a progressive dinner party. And, of course, her every Friday night date with my father at their favorite little dive restaurant with great seafood, which they jokingly referred to as “The Dump.” I remember them walking out the door with big smiles on their faces saying,  “We’re going to the DUMP!” They became regulars there, and in turn, friends with all of the staff. 

My parents were married for close to 50 years. I doubt very much when my mom went on a first date somewhere around 1953, she had any idea how long she was going to be married, nor the impact she was about to create with her marriage and children; who went on to create their own marriages and families, and continued with the next generations doing the same. And, I’m sure, many more to come. 

All of these family members who go out into the world every day and make a difference in so many other people’s lives with this simple, yet profound, way of thinking that we have all learned from her. All of that wisdom would not be passed down and spread all around if not for her.

We really don’t know, do we?, the effect we have on the world when we are just simply living our lives. 

I found this little poem which I thought was fitting: “The best measure of a  life well lived has less to do with the number of years we are here, or our accomplishments, but more to do with how other’s lives were lovingly touched by our presence.”

My mom passed away at home in a beautiful sun-filled room, surrounded by her four children, nine grandchildren, their spouses and significant others, three great grandchildren, and one little guy who is on the way. She even had two crazy dogs running around and Kenny Rogers, her favorite singer, playing on the radio.

If there really is a measure of such a thing, I would say without a doubt, that is a life well lived.