Yesterday my cousin Kim asked if I would delivery the eulogy at her mom’s funeral today. I’d never delivered a eulogy before, what will I say? Will I be able to talk when I know I’ll be crying? I said no, I didn’t think I could do it because I knew I’d be fighting back my emotions. But after a few minutes I realized it was the least I could do for this great woman and this family that have given me so much love in the past week, it was an opportunity to pay it forward. Here’s my final tribute to Auntie Jo:
I am honored to say a few words about my Auntie Jo today. She was a cheerful, fun-loving woman who was full of life. Her smile could light up a room as she made everyone around her happy with her positive outlook and great big smile.
As I sat at Auntie Jo’s bedside last week, keeping her company as she dozed, I thought about her remarkable life.
I had the good fortune of being her niece, her favorite one I might add. As a child I could always feel an abundance of love flowing from her. I remember thinking she looked like a movie star with her beautiful smile and graceful demeanor.
Once I grew up and went off to college, Auntie Jo made sure I was fed a home cooked dinner from time to time and to this day her chow mein hot dish is one of my favorite meals. How ironic it was that her daughter Cindy made that for us last Thursday night. Thank you Cindy, it not only was delicious, it brought me comfort in knowing it was one of your moms favorite meals too.
As I got older my Auntie Jo always made an effort to stay involved in my life. She was at my wedding and was the first to send a card and a gift when my daughter was born. I even remember the gift, it was a tiny t-shirt that read the Class of 2000. She always put a great deal of thought into every gift she gave. I always appreciated how much she cared and knew I could always count on her for anything I needed.
She took her job as mom, auntie and friend very seriously. She always gave you the benefit of the doubt and if you messed up, she forgave you, but not until after a good scolding.
Auntie Jo had a fierce loyalty to those she loved. You knew that if anyone hurt you, they’d have mama bear Auntie Jo to contend with.
She had a calming way about her, too. There was no point in wasting a day at the spa when all you had to do is pick up the phone and call Auntie Jo. After a few short minutes of visiting with her you would feel relaxed and stress free. She had a way of erasing the weight of the world when you talked to her because she was a great listener and the tone of her voice would soothe you.
Conversation was easy with Auntie Jo because she kept up on current events. Our conversations were never consumed by negativity and gossip. We talked about life; travel, war, gay rights, marijuana reform, politics and the violence in our country today. She also followed sporting events but that’s where I would always have to sheepishly admit I didn’t watch the game.
The easiest conversation for Auntie Jo was talking about her grandchildren. Calista, you were her rock, she knew she could always count on you when she needed help. John, she’s so proud of you and your recent promotion, way to go! Jake, she admires and appreciates your free spirit that’s why she created a special bond between you and I with the gift she gave you. Katybug, you were her daily dose of sunshine and her eyes shined bright when she spoke of you. Kate, she knows your strong will and independence will take you great places. Joe, she was always in awe of your never-ending talents. Although she didn’t see Jenna and her great-grandchildren often, she loved them very much. She also had a special place in her heart for her nephew Mike Lowe, and looked forward to your daily phone calls. There are no words that can describe the enormity of the love she had for all of you.
It was her example of being a grandmother that taught me how to be a grandmother. I’ll forever treasure our Good Friday visits to Como Conservatory and our annual summer outing to Como Zoo and Como Town followed by a picnic in the park with my grandchildren Gavin and Stella. They loved Auntie Jo dearly and will never forget her.
How incredibly strong was she? Do I know anyone stronger? She never gave up: she put her entire being into raising her children and grandchildren. She put her entire being into staying on this earth as long as she possibly could. In spite of the fact she took heart medication, she had a very strong heart, we witnessed that first hand last week.
When Auntie Jo was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in March, it was a very difficult time for our entire family. Auntie Jo was such a positive and strong woman she never acted down about her illness, not even when we knew she was in pain. I spent a lot of time talking to her as she reflected on her life as the disease progressed. It was my turn to listen and the time I spent listening was nothing compared to everything she had done for me over the years.
She was an incredible role model while she demonstrated her bravery and strength as she battled to the very end of her journey. When she exhaled her last breath we inhaled our first breath without her. Surrounded by her daughters, grandson John, niece Jean and myself; Auntie Jo peacefully slipped away.
I will miss my Auntie Jo’s smile, our frequent phone calls and the way she said goodbye each time we talked by telling me over and over, she loved me very much. She was an incredible sister, mother, wife, auntie and friend. I know she will be missed by all of you here today.
When I woke up to the sound of thunder this morning, I knew it was the heavens giving Auntie Jo a drum roll, and the down pour of rain were her tears telling us goodbye and that she’s going to miss us very much.
I wish you peace Auntie Jo and will always love you very, very much!