Sadly, we lost my mother in September of 2022. I hope these past and present iterations of this business are a fitting tribute to her legacy. She was the inspiration for everything.
This is the eulogy I wrote for her funeral which I didn't get to attend because I had COVID.
My mother was a marvelous lady.
She was wise. So wise. I don't recall how young I was but I had made some sort of pronouncement, probably loudly. My mother leaned into my ear and whispered , "Son, now that should have only happened inside your head." Oh, how different my life would have been had I listened.
She was Literary. I don't know anyone else who had two cats named after characters in a Flannery O'Connor short story: June Star and John Henry. My mother just loved words. In our lives, we were always surrounded by books. Shelves upon shelves. Stacked by a chair. Open on a sofa. Packing more titles than could possibly be read for a trip. "What are you reading?" That was one of her favorite questions. And her book club. Now that was devotion. What to read. The year's choices. Decades of evenings discussing, analyzing, and devouring books.
She was Complex. She denied it. When someone accused her of being a Ya-Ya when the book the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood was first out --- All she said to me was "I'm flattered that anyone think's I'm that complex.
She was Welcoming. I love the image of her coming out the front door, with open arms toward whoever was visiting, with "Greetings Greetings" always opening her home and her heart.
She was Religious and Spiritual. Though my mother died last September, we waited to celebrate her life until we could be in her church. This congreation figures so prominently in her life and the life of my family. Almost 50 years of memories. Acolytes. Confirmations. Lent. Easter. And Christmas. So many memories of Christmas. Our friends Martha and Toady for years and years had a notorious annual Christmas eve party at their home by the post office and our tradition was to attend and then walk down the street for midnight mass. Early on, we'd go to Hersha and George's afterwards -- have breakfast -- and celebrate to the wee hours. We, of course, were all much younger then. My mother was steadfastly devoted to her little grey church with the big red door.
She loved learning. And in her DNA was also a love for the movies. She loved old Hollywood. She loved the newest film, just out. And she passed that DNA on to each of us. We all will drive miles and miles to go to the movies. When the first video store opened in Dublin, her membership number was 2 --- and I'm sure whoever got 1 was somehow related to the owner. We saw the Poseidon Adventure at the Martin Theatre. When we were young, Mom would put the seats down in the wood sided station wagon and pack blankets and pillows into the way back, put us in our pajamas and we'd go to the drive in.
She was Adaptable. When she visited me for the first time in Chicago, I lived in a little studio apartment off Halsted Street. I had this ratty pull out sofa that I'd picked up at Good Will. She would stretch out on top and I stretched out on the floor underneath. She did have a dilemma. She knew we were going to see a play in the evening, but she had to choose between going home and changing out of her blue jeans or seeing a second afternoon movie. She chose the second movie.
My mother had a green thumb. Gardening --- flowers --- Beds and pots and everything in between as she filled the immensity of the yard at Turkey Briar. And though there was usually a a place in her heart for just about any creature - there was no place for the armadillos. She thought that problem should be solved with a shot gun.
The loves of her life came in fours: four children and four grandchildren. She was a mother and a grandmother through and through. I love the quote -- "To the world she is a mother, to her children she is the world." There was nothing she loved more than having all of her family around her, celebrating some holiday, making an amazing meal and talking for hours around the dinner table. And there would be my father, always at the head of the table, with my mother at his right, laughing, celebrating, and basking in the glow of our family.
My mother really was an amazing cook. She didn't really like cooking but decided she still needed to be good at it. I remember telling her once that I loved to cook and she said, "Have four children and see if you still love it."
My mother loved with the ferocity that knew no limits. As one of her favorite writers, Raymond Carver would say in his short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, love is absolute. It was for my mother. I can remember conversations about choosing the right gift for each person in her life, making sure it was special, making sure it reflected them perfectly, and there was always a book --- it was as if her greatest hope was that everybody would be reading.
Near the end of her life, during her last days at Turkey Briar, one memory crystalizes my mother perfectly for me. I was walking her to bed. We got to her bedroom door and she hugged me and said "Good-bye. No. No. I meant Good night. Good night. And as she turned, right before she shut her bedroom door, with a twinkle in her eye, she said - I'm sure we've seen all this in a play somewhere.
Helen Keller said "What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose, for all we love deeply becomes a part of us." Our greatest gift, I think, was my mother. She lives in each of us because I think the real measure of a life is how much you love and how much you are loved in return.
I miss her every minute, of every hour, of every day. And she'd think that was silly. "Go enjoy your life," she'd say. "I'm gonna be just fine."