A number of years ago, I read this at my mother's funeral mass. I am sharing it today with you to honor my mother and sister. It was the last gift that I could send upward to Heaven dedicated to her.
Our Mother, a Gift of Words
If my mom were alive today, she would thank you for coming here. So her family thanks you today. Besides prayers, the last gift that I can give our mother is a few kind words. She used to say, “If it makes you happy, do it.” And I am happy to share these words with you.
Our mother is gone, but she’s here in our hearts and memories—like Father Jim said. She’s here in her children and their spouses, grandchildren and many others. Yes, she’s here in her grandchildren. She was a “grand” mother to all of them. Whenever we closed a long distance phone call, she would add, “Give everyone a kiss for me and tell them that I love them.”
She even included our dog, Rosco, in her good wishes. Dogs held a special place in my mom’s heart because they asked for so little and gave so much. Dogs like Rudy and Lucy. Mom is here in her nieces and nephews and her friends.
So, who was this woman we call mother, sister, grandma, great-grandma or friend? She was an angel on Earth. That’s who she was. Those who used to watch “Touched By An Angel” know what I mean. This earthly angel wasn’t perfect, but she was as perfect as a person can be. She earned her angel wings by spending most of her teenage years without a father, a father who died in a fire. Her oldest brother, John, became her rock of Gibraltar, her substitute father. This lovely lass fell in love with a hard-working macho Italian man. It was a classic case of “Romeo and Juliet,” except that the relationship survived growing up in two different houses, with two different cultures and lifestyles.
In the first year of marriage, there were challenges and the background of World War Two. Out of love, my mother gave into her groom in many ways. She waited hand-and-foot on a man used to European ways of living. That’s partly how she earned her heavenly wings today. She pleased this tough macho man as much as she could because she knew that he would love her all the days of his life; that he would work hard for her and their family, as long as he could.
She knew a profound secret about him that escaped the minds of his children, even as their lives unfolded into adulthood. She knew that he was hard on the outside, and a marshmallow on the inside. And that he would always be a good father, better than his father, and better than most fathers.
She gave birth to three sons and one Earth-Angel, Margie. Our mom earned her earthly wings by being a wonderful mother to all of her children. Each one of us was an integral part of her life. We all have stories we could tell. I remember many things she did for us. Christmas was always full of tradition, food, laughter, gifts, and generous relatives. I remember wonderful birthday parties, my First Holy Communion, Confirmation, playing ball around the house, breaking windows, and ruining patches of grass and storm doors with a love of stoopball and baseball. If mom saw me playing happily with my cousin, John, nothing else mattered. I remember Queens, Ozone Park, getting lost at the Bronx Zoo, shaking Hopalong Cassidy’s hand at Gertz Department store, after waiting three hours on line. I remember our trip to Colorado, picnics at Belmont Park, a special yearly picnic at Coram, feeding our stomach and our souls. It was a fantastic time for young or old.
In our daily lives, our mom was always there for us, standing behind us 100%. She believed that we could do anything with our careers. When I was nervous about student teaching in the college campus school, where many college kids were always coming and going, I complained to mom about teaching in a fish bowl—where college professors and students could observe your every move through a two-way mirror that lined the classroom wall.
She said, “Don’t worry, Joe. You will be a Kingfish.” She was right. I did well.
I could always count on my mother to believe in me.
Later on in life, when my wife had a serious operation, mom came for a week and took wonderful care of all of us. Mom could be there for family and for strangers in need. Mom and Dad loved movies, [so here comes a movie-connection for mom]. In the movie “Judging Your Life,” the main character had to prove to a panel of his heavenly superiors that he’s worthy of advancing higher. He wishes for the sake of upward mobility that he had a real fire scene in his life like his new friend has. He wanted something dramatic to show the panel judging his life.
Well, our mother did have a fire scene. She saved a boy from death who was on fire in the neighbor’s yard by rolling him in the wet grass. He had second and third degree burns but he survived, thanks to my mother. Besides her fire rescue scene, she had her long lasting marriage to father. And she gave birth to four children who were touched by an earthy angel every day.
Our mom is now a full-fledge angel. She was the best mother we could possibly have had. She spent her whole life being an outstanding wife and mother. We will miss her deeply. But she did leave behind wonderful memories and three sons and an Earth-Angel, Margie, who became mother to her own mother in the end.
Mom told us we were all loved the same amount. But, if she loved Margie a little extra, that’s okay. Margie gave mom some of the best years of her life. Amen.