Mum, 1937 – 2023


My mother died this morning. She was one month past her eighty-sixth birthday.

The two things that first spring to mind when I think about my mother was her devotion to family, and her strength. Mum loved being surrounded by her kids and grandkids.

I remember once, one of her grandkids referred to her as “the fun grandmother” because she liked doing activities with them. She loved playing miniature golf with the kids. Any time she went to the Cape, at least a couple of the kids would go with her.

Family was super important to Mum. She liked to entertain, but it was always for family. Easter dinners, birthday parties, big birthday parties for the whole extended family, and of course, her Christmas Eve parties every year.

It’s appropriate that she died during the Christmas season. Mum loved Christmas. She loved riding around looking at the lights, the hustle and bustle, the activity. She loved giving gifts. Every year, she would make dire predictions about how she had to cut back, and that she couldn’t believe how much she was spending on Christmas, and every year, there was a big stack of presents. In hindsight, I don’t think she could help herself — she just loved gift giving, and doing for other people.

Vienna Teng wrote a song called “The Tower”, about one of her friends, “The one who survives by making the lives / Of others worthwhile”. Mum was the Tower. She was the one people came to for help. She was the one who provided a place to stay (and a hair cut for a job interview) when one of Dad’s brothers needed help. She was the one who took in one of my sister’s former roommates when she was doing an internship nearby. She became the family matriarch who was the center.

Mum loved spending time with her cousins Carol and Julie, and her sister Sandra. Later, she became close to her sisters-in-law, especially Diane, Dot, Anne and Phyllis. She and Dad would double date with Diane and George, and she would often get together with Dot for walks and tea, and several times a year, they would talk a trip out to western Massachusetts to see Phyllis.

Mum spent most of her life in this house, the one she grew up in, aside from a couple of years right after she married, and the last couple of years, when it became impossible for her to remain here. She much preferred to help us, than to have us help her, and the last few years were galling to her, to have us taking care of her, rather than having her take care of us. For some reason, it did not amuse her when I told her, “Payback’s a bitch, Mum”.

But if anything exemplifies her strong family feelings, it’s the fact that she (and Dad) managed to instill in all of their children that family is important, and that we need to support each other. The one good thing about these nightmarish last four years, the ONE thing, is the mutual support my siblings have given to her and to me.

Despite what she used to say (“I’m perfect, just ask me!”) Mum was not perfect. She had a sharp tongue and a quick temper, and did not suffer foolishness gladly. Patience was just something she never had. Never did, and she never developed it when she became ill. But her temper also blew over quickly, and she didn’t hold grudges. While she could be very critical, she never had self pity. No matter how angry she could get, I always felt I could come to her with my problems.

The past four years, and especially the past several months were hard on Mum. For someone who was used to being strong and in control and independent, losing the ability to walk, or rely on help for all the activities of daily life drove her to tears.

And so, while I’m impossibly sad right now, this is not a tragedy. It’s just time. I’ve been looking at pictures of her from the past twenty years, and up until the last couple of years, she really did enjoy her life. She loved to laugh, and she loved being the center of her family.

2 thoughts on “Mum, 1937 – 2023

  1. I’m very proud of you and your siblings for taking care of your mother when it was necessary. To help our loved ones pass is by far the toughest thing we’ll have to deal with. Kudos to you all and kudos to your mother for raising great kids who step up huge when needed.

    You can’t fake good kids!!

  2. Cousin Ted,

    Thank you for the link to your site, it was lovely to read your stories and the pics are so cool. Very sorry for your loss. Loosing mom is always hard, we all mourn her passing. I always loved and respected Aunt Darrell. She was always good to me and I was always glad to see her. She’ll be missed. Hope you and sibs are holding up ok. Love you guys.

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