During your waning hours at Mary Immaculate Hospital, I whispered nothing but words of comfort and gratitude in your ear, certain that you had heard me only when your hand faintly returned my squeeze. Just hours after placing a fond farewell kiss on your cheek, I received word that you had passed. I dropped the phone, stood, and walked to the nearby woods in silence… my hand holding the emptiness of you beside me. You were my vision and my way. You were the lonely path I strode, the owl hooting high overhead, the deer hiding in the brush, and every fleeting thought, as my 55 years with you flashed through my memory.
I was once again the thrilled four year-old you patiently taught to tie his own shoes while sitting under a tree in Addisleigh Park. And I was again the sickly youngster with braces on his legs you somehow found time to visit every day during my long recovery in the hospital, despite having other kids to worry about. I’m sure your supportive sisters, Gerry, Dolly, Ruth and Carmen must have been pitching in to pick up the slack. So, by always being there for me from an early age, you instilled deep in my soul the reassurance of a mother’s undying love, regardless of what circumstances I might encounter.
In fact, at this very moment, I take solace in a lifetime of lingering lessons learned courtesy of your solid, steady and sage role modeling. For, I adored you, mom… you knew that… from your modest grace to your faith in God to your commitment to our family and your selfless sacrifice in service of the perfection of your children’s lives.
If God had allowed me to design you, I’d have made you exactly as you are, from the sweet freckled face who read me to sleep every night to the gifted chef who reliably whipped up a different, delicious nourishing meal each night to the disciplinarian who never let me go out to play until I finished my homework, but who was always willing to tutor me if I needed help.
For these and so many other reasons I admire you, and grew up trying to emulate you, and today attempt to summon the same gentle strength, though saddened that your eyes never opened again after I left. You drew that last breath into a silent sleep now, not a tendon taut, not a pain endured, not a fear feared, no longer calling out for Lloyd or your friend Eleanor. You are rejoined with Dad, and again at peace in a heavenly world you both so richly earned and deserve.
I want to pause to acknowledge this celebration, too, all this, the tears, the flowers, the service, my siblings, the very dear relatives and friends here in your honor. Mom, I want to be able to recall this day anywhere, anytime, whether in church, hiking in the forest, stuck in traffic, lying awake at night, or walking along the shore.
I will never forget the hugs, the honoring of your existence, the sacrifices made to attend folks coming from as far away as Virginia and the Caribbean, and the shared remembrances of this or that aspect of a life well-lived.
Each season of every year,
I will be recalling you.
Each season, every year,
I will need to recall you.
Each summer… fall… winter… and spring.
Summer, I will remember family gatherings bringing out your beautiful smile, since you always were so happy in the presence of your sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles at all the picnics, parties and barbecues over at Uncle Slats’ or the Russells’ nearby in St. Albans, at Aunt Dar’s in Brooklyn or the Augustus’ or the Browns’ The Bronx, and at the many weddings I attended, since I had so many older cousins, especially the wedding where everybody fussed over me because I was the ring bearer. I will also cherish our family outings to the beach and amusement parks, and simply sitting on the porch in the evenings, back in the days before TV took over.
Fall, I will remember your walking with me to kindergarten for my very first day of school, and assuring me that you’d be back to pick me up and that I’d survive without you or the baby blue blanket you had to coax out of my tightly-clenched, little fists.
Autumn, I will also remember being awakened by delicious aromas on Thanksgiving morning, owing to your already toiling away for hours in the kitchen, including basting the slowly-roasting turkey since the night before. Who could ever forget how, before we were allowed to take a bite of that sumptuous feast, you taught us to say grace and then take turns to sharing something we truly felt thankful for.
Winter, I will remember Christmas, and the sheer joy generated by your generosity, by ‘Santa’s’ magically granting my every wish, however reasonable or unreasonable, whether for a sled, a baseball glove or the pet Dalmatian that made me feel closer to dad when he was at the firehouse. Winter also holds fond memories of your gently waking me before dawn, and having a bowl of warm oatmeal ready for me before I rushed out the door, a freshly ironed surplice in hand, to serve as an altar boy right here in St. Catherine’s during 6:30 AM mass.
Spring will be the hardest to forget. Yes, the season of rebirth will be hard, because that was when you seemed to blossom the most. You often had a newborn in your arms in Spring, Larry before me, then Daryl, Teri, and your baby, Roddy. My most treasured times with you was intimately watching my younger siblings develop from infants into toddlers, and your carefully pointing out what new skill they had accomplished each day: the ability to smile, to recognize faces, to squeeze a finger, to clap, to crawl, to pull themselves up, to take their first step, to speak their first word, to walk and explore. And when you stopped having babies to raise you started lavishing your attention on your grandchildren, nourishing not only their bodies but feeding their dreams, dreams too wonderful to speak aloud.
Flo, I shall never forget you, nor will your spirit be ever free of me, for your arms were forever my home, and mine are the circle you cannot leave, however far you go. Yes, I will be remembering you each day and every hour. Each night and day, some wonderful memory will well up in my heart.
I will remember you in silence, in prayer and in song each time I sit alone in quiet contemplation, each time I say the Lord’s Prayer or a Hail Mary, each time I listen to gospel or jazz, or sing Ave Maria, Oh Holy Night or Amazing Grace.
Mom, if I see a shooting star, I shall wish for you…When the moon is full, I shall look for you…When a cardinal lands outside my window…When I hear Gabrielle, Cameron or Nick squeal with delight… when I smile again… I shall wish for you.