Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (3)

Mar 15, 2020

Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (3)

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future

To a known God”

  • Corrie ten Bloom

My wife of 58 years (June 10) and best friend Eileen had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus, in February 2019. Eileen died on February 22, 2020, and the funeral was March 4, 2020. This blog gives my thoughts, fears, prayers, and hopes during this challenging and difficult time looking at the space in my life.

No matter how long you have, the actual loss of someone you love cannot be prepared for, as the loss is now tangible. Continuing from last week, our daughter Barbara gave her thoughts about her Mom in her eulogy:

Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming.  My name is Barbara and this is my brother Dan.

We want to thank everyone for the support that has been given to our mother and family for this past year.  A special thank you to the parishes of St Stephen’s/St. Patrick’s and here at St. Margaret’s.  Your prayers have been wonderful.  Thank you to those who have sent cards and letters, and put comments on Facebook.  My father read each of them to our mother.  Thank you to Lourdes Hospice, everyone who called or came to visit, those who sent gifts and those who sent us meals or even a plate of cookies.  My mom appreciated each one and knew that it all came from love.

My mother first came to St. Margaret’s as the DRE (Director of Religious Education).  She soon became part of the team with Donna, Sr. Milice, and Lana, that ran the parish with Fr. Dan.  She really enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship that was quickly developed.  My mother enjoyed her years as a DRE both here and at St. Patrick’s, as well as all of her involvement at the diocesan level, and she really enjoyed teaching 5thgrade religious education.  She first started in 1963 and kept it up for over 50 years.  I can remember being in first or second grade and when my religious class was over, I would wander over to her classroom.  If the door was open, I would go in and sit at the back of the room and wait for her to finish.  My appearance was a notice to my mother that her class was running late and she had to wrap it up.

Both of my parents were heavily involved with the Church.  They were a part of the Cursillo movement in the 60’s and always were part of every church event.  Whether it was the parish picnic, parish meals, parish fair, or even coffee after mass, they donated their time and efforts.  They showed us that belonging to a parish meant more than just going to mass; it was about participating in God’s work and helping out whenever possible.

My mother’s true vocation, however, was being a mother.  She once told me that when she first held me in her arms, she finally knew her purpose in life.  Mom took motherhood seriously.  We had our regular chores and she taught all of us the basics of cooking from the time we were old enough to reach the stove; she said she knew we would never starve if we knew how to cook scrambled eggs.

Our family vacations were traveling to Ohio to visit our father’s parents and brother, camping in Canada, visiting her brother, Jim, and his family at Thanksgiving and then driving over to Queens Village to see her sister Maureen and the rest of the Rogers’ clan.  In more recent years, we would see her other brother, Kevin, and his family after Christmas at Lake Mohonk.  As you can imagine, traveling with 6 or 7 children and a dog for hours at a time could get very fractious and noisy.  If we fought too much, mom would pull over to the side of the road and wait.  Deathly silence would fall over the car as soon as she hit the brakes.  Even after she restarted, we would only talk in whispers for quite some time.   She never had to do that more than once a year. 

Janet once asked my mother how she kept herself from killing us over the years.  Mom said that when things got too much, she would stop and say to herself, “What would the headlines be?”  Thinking about that usually gave her time to get herself under control.

When we were growing up, mom would tell us stories of her childhood on Long Island.  She told us of the time she played a memory game while waiting on line at the butcher’s.  She hid a $10 bill in the display case frame to see how long she would remember it was there.  She smugly waited, laughing to herself at her cleverness.  She got up to the counter, placed her order, and when they asked her for the money, she had no idea where it had gone.  She thought she had left it at home.  She had to return and get more money from her mother.  That night, the butcher called her house and asked if Eileen had put $10 in the display case frame.  “Oh, yeah,” she said.  “That’s right, I was playing a game!”

Later, my mom’s family lived across the street from her family’s church.  Perry Como and his family also attended that church.  She would time her arrival to church so that he would open the door for her, “Thank you, Mr. Como!” she would say.

My mom grew up in the suburbs of Long Island but really embraced the life up here when we moved to Whitney Point in 1971. We had a large garden (that we kids had to weed).  She learned to can fruit and freeze vegetables and make her own maple syrup from our trees. She was really happy, though, when Strawberry Valley Farm started selling vegetables and she didn’t have to do the growing herself!

My mom loved to swim in our pond. She would float around with just her head showing above the surface.  She also loved to sail her little Sunfish and ride her horse.  Mom also mowed the lawn; she knew that we would know that she wouldn’t be able to hear us over the lawn mower.  She would put on her bathing suit and get a tan while she mowed the lawn.  She usually had about an hour’s peace before something happened, but she enjoyed that hour!

After most of us grew up and moved out, my mother traveled more with my father.  Our youngest brother, Drew, got to travel with them and had a very different experience in traveling than we did!   He flew in airplanes to Arizona, California, and stayed in hotels.  How we envied him!  In their later years, my parents got to do a lot of travelling together. They went to Hawaii, Alaska, the Mediterranean countries, Scandinavian Countries, Switzerland, Scotland, the Panama Canal.   Most of these were cruises, which my parents loved.

My mom was always happy to see her family which included her brothers, sister and nieces and nephews and grandchildren.  She was very proud to be representing her sister, Maureen, in recent years, for the special events in the Rogers family.

We love you, mom, and we miss you. We know you are happy and well, and for that we are grateful.

These words from the two eulogies bring great comfort to me, as they concisely sum up the loving nature that Eileen bestowed on our home, leaving joy and laughter in its wake. Her sense of humor and joy in life are what first attracted her to me, and nothing in the 60 years of being together has diminished that feeling.

Indeed, rest in peace.


Loving God, the joy and sunshine Eileen brought to our home cannot be overstated. Eileen’s sense of rightness, beauty, generosity of time was what kept me sane in the challenges of life. Even her acceptance of this past year kept me going on, and her love, ever a reflection of Your love, was the catalyst of life to me and our family. We offer thank you for the gift of Eileen.

One thought on “Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (3)”

  1. How beautiful, Uncle Dave. I loved reading Barbara’s eulogy, and Dan’s the other day, as much as I enjoyed hearing them as Barb and Dan read them to us at St. Margaret’s. I hear their voices and see the images of Aunt Eileen on her mower, in the pond, the kids piled in the car, and every day things going on like her teaching the kids to scramble eggs. (I actually remember Aunt Eileen telling me once that she added a little water). She gave me a “recipe” for stripping furniture finish and for drying flowers by hanging them upside down. There are many little things that I can call to mind and all of them show her love and appreciation of the simple joys in life. I will always remember Aunt Eileen and miss her very much!

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My God has led me on an 80 year jaunt to ever more wondrous beauty. I am led to share this journey and gifts of God that have been showered upon me, not just for me but for whoever God brings into my path.

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