Mom’s Eulogy Feb. 9, 2023
Thank you for coming today. Thank you to our sister Eileen for managing our mom’s care at Mercy Circle for the last five years and to the caregivers who provided our mother with joy and comfort.
Thank you, Mom, for raising ten uniquely created children. We know we caused many sleepless nights.
We grew up, Ma. And two of us passed away leaving you in despair. Over time, you regained your humor and wit, perhaps to lighten the lives of the nuns at Mercy Circle who could never know such pain.
I think back to 114th and Artesian. Somehow, my mom made it so we never felt crowded in that red brick cape cod.
She was feisty, strong and firm. She’d rearrange the furniture, move the piano, and switch up the kitchen items in efforts towards newness.
My dad coped well until one day, he couldn’t find the spoons.
She was strong-willed and particular. She did things in a certain way – no shortcuts. No baked potatoes in our house. Only mashed.
My mom subtly defied my dad’s WWII Navy ways. She’d toss a whole milk carton into the garbage. My dad tsk’d, sorted and stacked.
Efficient, he was.
Doing her own thing, she was.
In golf, to speed up putting, my dad would say, “That’s a gimme.” She’d say, “Frank, I want to hear the ball clunk in the cup.”
My parents loved Wally Phillips, the Chicago Bears, Columbo and being 100% Irish.
My mom was incredibly generous, especially to Girls Scouts. She hoarded Thin Mints in her bedroom closet.
She loved the daily newspaper, Mike Royko and the obituaries. Pre-dawn, we’d hear, “Frank, guess who died?”
And my parents went to wake after wake. They made quite a pair with their bright blue eyes and fair, eventually white, hair. My mom was beautiful.
My parents ran a tight ship, and we learned about courtesy, kindness and the Kennedy’s. We had a bronze bust of JFK in our living room.
Together, they kept us in line, figuratively and literally. My mom was 61 when our dad died in 1988. She told us not to leave the line during the two-night wake. She said, “People are coming to see you. They better be able to find you.”
She never wanted to put anybody out.
She would like the simplicity of this morning. She was uncomfortable with extravagance.
A surefire way to upset her was to spend money on her.
My mom loves St. Cajetan. She marked her territory here with a donation toward a pew plaque. Nobody was going to sit in her seat. After she moved to her townhome, she returned for 7am mass on Sundays. Then she’d stop at Eileen’s to go to the bathroom on the way home. It’s a long drive to Oak Lawn.
My mom was part of MaryJane Murphy’s Misericordia Candy Days troop who stood at traffic lights armed with Tootsie Rolls and cans for the kids.
She was a fun Grandma. She loved cut-throat games of Bingo and Rummy Kub with our kids. She never let them win. She played fair and square.
JT and James told me she would often pick them up at St Cajetan when they were sick. She’d let them lounge on the couch until about 2:00pm when she’d make them black cows – root beer floats – an upgrade from our warm Ginger Ale.
She was a terrible driver! After trips to the lake, she’d report how many times someone gave her the finger.
On the beach, she’d wave the grandkids in from the water when the waves hit their knees. She never learned to swim, and she made sure all of us learned at Kennedy Park.
Every Christmas, she’d bake a cake for the park workers. The custodian, Jim Rego, would say, “Your mom never forgets.” Then he’d tell us to go play in traffic.
Different times! Super cool, independence-building, play outside times. She lived through the Great Depression and embraced the values of the Greatest Generation. Do what you gotta do. And do it right. And don’t talk about it much.
My mom was smart. She was a current events junkie. She knew all about the Shoot to Kill order, Chicago Politics, Monica’s blue dress, Blogovitch, and the OJ trial. And her commentary was insightful and intriguing.
I recently asked about her childhood. “Mom, who was your best friend when you were growing up?”
“Rosemary McNamara.” What did you do together? “Oh, we were poor. We walked to each other’s houses. We were street walkers.”
My mom spent the last five years in the moment – her final gift to us was pure presence. She’d say she had nothing else to do.
She rarely referred to herself except that she marveled at her age. She’d day, “I’m old! I’m an old lady!” and laugh.
Near the end, thinking music might nudge her into accepting eternal life, I played a combo of Edelweiss and funeral songs while I prayed fervently that she would take the big leap. After a round of “Be not Afraid,” she opened one eye, and said, “Don’t go calling the hearse.”
Let that be a lesson to you. Old ladies don’t like nudging.
My mom, though social, was quiet.
Though oh so funny, did not like the limelight.
Though family-first in her thinking, treated guests like God.
Though gracious and kind, was never preachy.
She walked humbly with her God – in her own private way.
Eileen Brigid Sullivan Neylon ‘twas Herself.