This is a guest post from Diane Webber Thrush.
My mother died on March 19, 2013, and I spoke at her funeral Mass on Friday, March 22. The priest was pretty clear that my comments should be brief, so rather than writing everything I wanted to say I spoke from a few bullet points on a single sheet of paper. I want to preserve some version of what I said, though, especially since so many people who know her and love her couldn’t be with us.
This is based on my recollection of what I said and my notes on that single sheet of notebook paper:
Thank you all for coming today. I have just a few things that I want to say about my mother.
One of her favorite sayings was “We have to laugh to keep from crying.” That thought has really sustained me through these difficult days and I hope you will take it to heart, too. Please think of your happy memories of her and please don’t be afraid to laugh and smile. That’s what she would want.
My mother was easily amused. The joke did not have to be particularly good for her to laugh really hard at it. Please try this at home. It’s a good way to go through life, I think.
This has been a very hard year. It was just a year ago today that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I remember this because I was walking into work the next day, which was the second anniversary of the health law and I had all sorts of things I needed to do related to that for my job. And I got a phone call from my sister Joanie that I took on the sidewalk outside my office. Joanie was talking about next tests and next steps and which doctors and she mentions the brain tumor thinking I already knew about it. “The what? Back up, Joanie. Mama has a brain tumor?” That was the beginning of this very hard year for Mama and for all of us.
Somewhere in the middle of this past year, when she began to have heart problems for the very first time, one doctor told us she had an enlarged heart. Well, that was a surprise, but we didn’t need a doctor to tell us that she had a big heart. She had the biggest heart around, and everybody knew that. It was big enough for all of us to fit into it. And this includes her family, but also people she would just meet in the grocery store. She was the kind of person who plays peek-a-boo with the baby in front of her in line at the grocery.
And she was the kind of person who welcomed all of our friends into our house when we were teenagers. Some of those friends are here today. She loved feeding people her meatballs and spaghetti. And if you want the recipe for her red gravy, here it is. You would ask, “Mama, what do you put in your sauce?” She would answer, “Depends on what’s in the fridge.” That was the kind of cook she was, intuitive, improvisational. Her sauce was always different, always delicious.
Another thing I want to say about my mother is what she taught me about love. Love is like nothing else in this world because the more you give, the more you have. And love can easily be in two places at one time. She taught us this by example because she filled our house in Fayetteville with so much love and at the same time there was so much love for all her family in New Orleans. We are so happy to have my cousin, her nephew, John Grego here with us this morning. He woke up at 3 a.m. to be here and he is standing in here for about 200 people down in New Orleans who would love to be filling this church right now.
I have such a clear picture in my mind of my mother sitting on the edge of her bed when I was a child, talking on the phone — back when phones had cords and you had to sit in one place to talk. And she would talk to her mother, her sister, her brothers. The distance could not diminish that love that was flowing between North Carolina and New Orleans. Love could easily be in two places at one time, she showed us that. And it helped us grow up – it helped me move to New York, it helped my brother Sal and sister-in-law Jaymie move all over the place – as if they were in the Army, though they aren’t. And it helped my sister Joanie move to Houston and Raleigh and New Bern, always knowing that we carried Mama’s love with us. Love can easily be in two places at one time. And now instead of North Carolina and Louisiana, it will be North Carolina and Maryland and California and heaven. Distance can’t diminish love.
Finally, I want to say a few words about my sister. Joanie has done the most important thing one human being can do for another. She took Mama into her home and she cared for her with hope and tenderness and love for these last very hard months, weeks and days. Joanie, you are my hero. Thank you. And I want to say I am so glad we can be here in Joanie’s church for this Mass. Father Gaul, Father Smiley, please keep Joanie laughing in the weeks ahead. She’s going to need you.
My mother was born on Easter Sunday in 1936 and she died on the Feast of Saint Joseph – if we had any doubts that she was a blessed person, those are gone.