My mother, I think, would have loved her memorial weekend. Everyone gathered at the lake on Friday: my dad, all my siblings and their families, my aunt and uncle and cousins, and my mother’s cousins. We visited and hugged one another and ate spaghetti and told stories of remembrance and got caught under the tent in the front yard during a pouring rain thunder and lightening storm…and we missed her terribly as we prepped for her funeral the following morning.
The kids, even the littlest ones, helped to make the photo memory board, and arranged the fresh flowers and tied the twine bows for the centerpieces. They loved her so much and they worked so diligently to make it special for her.
On Saturday morning there was a HUGE thunderstorm and we had a difficult time setting up the tent, but we managed.
Because, at my mother’s request, we had not had a wake, we had a reception line at the church prior to the funeral, and we were astounded at the number of people who came. My sister is knows the deacon personally and he told her that that number of people never come to funerals. He was so impressed by the attendance. After the funeral, we had large gathering at the lake. I kept looking around at all the people thinking how much my mom would have loved it; she was always happy to have people come and visit at the lake.
We sent everyone away with Forget-Me-Not seeds that the littles wrote the message on.
After everyone had gone, and it was dark, my siblings and my family gathered on the dock and sent a couple of lanterns up to our Mom.
And, I know she loved them.
Mom’s Eulogy July 8, 2017
My husband reminded me last night that my mother was a pretty open book, so some of what I am about to share with you you may already know. Also, I think Father stole some of my notes.
My mother was born in Syracuse. She was raised in Baldwinsville, on State Fair Boulevard, until the fifth grade when she and her family moved to South Otselic to live with aging grandparents. She loved that first house though, so much so that she spoke of it regularly throughout her life, and although she moved at a relatively young age even her grandchildren know she lived on State Fair Boulevard once upon a time.
It was in that house she began to develop her feisty personality: once she hit a neighbor boy over the head with her golf club because he sat on her ball and wouldn’t move off of it. Another time she chased away some older, bigger boys who were picking on her and her sister as they walked home from the store. She may have been little, my mother, but she was mighty even as a child.
In high school she was a cheerleader and a member of the color guard.
Like most teens, she enjoyed spending time with her friends, and she told us stories about swimming at the gorge and hanging out, or doing chores at her friend’s family farms. Because her family lived in town, those farms were particularly appealing to her, and, at one, she was even given her very own calf who she named SqueeDunk and fed with a baby bottle.
She was very close to her cousins and loved having them come to spend time with her family or going to their homes, in their cities, to spend time with them. Those times with cousins were some of her most fond childhood memories.
After high school, my mother left her little town for the big city of Plattsburgh, to attend college at Plattsburgh State, where she intended to study elementary education. She quickly made a friend from Chateaugay, and went home with her one weekend. That weekend she met my father.
As the story goes, when they were ready to become engaged, it was agreed that my father would come to South Ot to take my mother engagement ring shopping in Syracuse. Unbeknownst to my dad, however, my mother and grandmother went shopping the weekend prior to him coming “just to scope out styles” and my mother, of course, picked out a ring. The jeweler put the ring she choose aside, and then totally forgot to act nonchalant when my mother, who had told my father she had no idea what she wanted, and father arrived in his store the following Saturday.
My father purchased the ring anyway.
51 and a half years later, my parents continued to share the crossword puzzle every single morning. She would do the “down” clues, and he would do “across”. Or vice versa. I’m not sure, and it didn’t really matter. They were both in it together for the ups and downs and sidewaysness of it all.
My mother loved reading, and she read voraciously, but as much as she read, she was also horrible with book titles and never remembered until she was partway through a new book whether or not she’d already read it. This difficulty with titles also made it challenging for her to recommend books to friends or family, but it never stopped her from trying.
She was funny. My Anna says she was the funniest person on earth. She told wonderful stories, had a tremendous sense of humor, and she was able to laugh at herself as she shared her experiences.
She enjoyed traveling to the homes of her children for visits. When she came to CT it was understood three things were required: chocolate ice cream, Pepsi, and a willingness to drive her to Target every day she was there. Sometimes more than once a day. There were bonus points if the ice-cream truck showed up while she was visiting; she couldn’t get her money out fast enough when she heard that music coming down the street.
She loved Elvis Presley, JFK, lilacs, and the color blue. She put butter on practically everything she ate, and she favored shrimp scampi and lobster tails. She loved photos of her family and she took a million of them; always telling us to “wait for the green” when her camera was slower than she prefered as she attempted to take the photo.
She attended as many of her grandchildren’s sporting events as she possibly could even though she couldn’t begin to explain the rules of lacrosse or soccer or baseball or softball. But, she was there. And she always had candy in her pocket at the end.
My mother made the best chocolate chip cookies.
She couldn’t parallel park, but she could drive a stick, and she was proud of that.
She was always the first one to “like” our facebook posts.
My mother was a terrific card player. And, by terrific card player, I mean to say she cheated at cards. And, she taught all of us how to play, so you might not want to play cards with us.
She was a night owl, and often bought helpful gadgets off QVC at two o’clock in the morning. Most of the time, by the time they arrived in the mail, she’d forget just what they were helpful for, but this didn’t stop her from gifting them to us. All of the men in the family looked forward to the “tool of the year” for Christmas, and more often than not, these tools actually did come in handy at some point throughout the year.
My mother’s favorite place on this earth was the camp on Chateaugay Lake, and she loved every minute she spent there. One of her favorite days of the year was Dock Day–the day the docks went into the water symbolizing the beginning of the season, and the promise of another great year of fun and family.
She enjoyed watching the birds at her feeders (although she wasn’t a huge fan of the red squirrels), and she loved listening to the loons on the lake, stalking them in the boat, and watching their little loon families grow.
She was happiest on boat rides, or sitting on the deck, drinking Aunt Lindy’s slush, watching and listening to her grandchildren swim and play in the water. She loved sitting around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories–she was a champion s’mores assembler–and she would sit for hours staring at the flames and listening to the laughter, never wanting to go inside until the first bat of the night was seen flying above our heads–then she was the first one inside.
She looked forward to the camp t-shirts the kids made every year with that year’s particular theme whether it be Camp Monsoon Rainforest or Got Camp?
But mostly, she loved US. Her family. She loved her siblings. She loved her cousins. She loved her nieces and nephews and her brothers and sisters in law.
She was a loving and devoted wife, a doting and supportive mother, and an engaged and adoring grandmother.
She went by many names. We called her Mom, Nanny Pitbull, Nancy Lee, and PeeWee, but Grammy was her favorite title. She truly adored those seven young people sitting right over there: Nicholas, Hayden Elizabeth, Anna, Ainsley, Drew, Colton and Avery Kate. To say she felt the moon and stars rose and fell on them would be a gross understatement. They were her world.
My mother was the most passionate person I know; she felt everything intensely, she cried with great sadness and she laughed with great joy, and she held steadfastly to her beliefs. She did nothing halfway, but, rather, poured her entire heart into everything she did, and everyone she loved.
In the days and weeks immediately following my mother’s passing, our family received many condolences; they came in several forms: as cards, emails, facebook messages, visits, and phone calls. And, in reading and re-reading the messages I received personally, I quickly noticed a pattern begin to emerge. In nearly every single message: you all told me that you had lost your best friend.
At first, I was puzzled by these repetitive messages. They were heartwarming for certain, but how, I wondered, could all of you, each and almost every one of you, refer to my mother as your best friend? It was a bit surprising to realize that you all saw her the way her family saw her.
My mother was always there for the people who were important to her. She was always ready to swoop in and catch you when you were falling, she was always the first one to congratulate your accomplishments, she was always there with a hug in sad times or a smile in brighter times.
She always had a cup of coffee or a coke float or a glass of slush for anyone who needed one, and she always knew which of those things was needed.
If you needed to talk; she was there to listen. If there was something she felt you needed to hear; she would tell you. If you needed to sit on her front steps in Dannemora or on her front deck at the lake and enjoy the evening air, or if you needed to sit at her kitchen table and visit for a little while; she was there.
My mother was loyal. If she loved you, you were hers for always. No matter what.
Because, my mother, I’ve come to understand, though she had many friends, was simply not friend material. That’s just not who she was. No, my mother was BEST friend material.
She was your best friend, you told me she was. She was certainly MY best friend. And, though we will never, ever, fill the void she has left, I know she would want us to move forward loving one another.
On behalf of my dad and our family, I would like to invite you all to join us in remembering my mother today at her favorite place on Chateaugay Lake. We have a big tent, so let it rain.