It has been awhile since my last post. I had not intended for a significant gap between posts. Even when you are very passionate about your job, life sometimes has a way of sneaking up on you, or in my case derailing when you least expect it.
I have been very vocal about my recent wedding. Almost everyone knew, who could blame me, it was the most significant and exciting thing to happen to me. Unfortunately, the week before the wedding, my mom died. She had been sick for five and a half months. She contracted a very serious and deadly infections from a surgery and they couldn’t find it until it was too late.
Everyone talks about life-changing events. Marriage, Divorce, Birth of a Child and Death. While one taken in itself is often stressful and either a blessing or a curse, two within one week has completely knocked me down. A month after both events, I can’t seem to separate the two. People ask how’s the wedding and immediately I tell them about my mom. I don’t mean to, it just seems to slip out. People walk away from me with this look of horror for asking me how I’m doing. My friends and new husband don’t understand that yes…I’m married and blissful and all that other stuff, but I currently feel utterly alone, lost, confused and like a huge chunk of me is missing. The Christmas Season is only making it worse. Unfortunately, it’s something they will have to experience for them to fully understand that right now, I feel like apart of me went with her. So, in the hopes to help the healing process, and because I need to share of bit of me, the following is my eulogy to my mom that I read at her funeral mass. She is the reason I am an archivist. She instilled in me my love of history, creativity and made me who I am. I need to share and I promise that my next post already brewing in my head will be less morose.
I knew I would have to give a speech this month, but its supposed to be next weekend and for much happier circumstances. This is probably going to come out like a historians accounting mom had a love of history, that she instilled in me. When I got the news the past 34 years of memories seemed to disappear and I’ve been trying to find them. The only thing I can remember is she told us a long time ago, that when she died, she wanted to be buried in her favorite tee-shirt and crappy pajama bottoms, and that she wanted a button rigged to her coffin, so when someone she didn’t like came up to her, she could flip them off. I spent a lot of time on Thursday figuring out how we could rig the button, but finally decided to overrule her. Or else she would be flipping us off too!
Margaret Mary Koenig was born November 21, 1948 to Frederick and Mary Frances Ryan Koenig, somewhere in Buffalo. She was their third child, and despite what Aunt Fran always joked, was not dropped off by a police officer who thought she needed a home. They had a rough childhood, not always happy, especially after the death of their father. She told us a couple of stories, the funnier ones, like when Uncle Jim convinced her to play fireman and gave her a Dixie cup full of water to put out a fire that took more than a Dixie cup to put out. How her and Aunt Fran learned the value of sharing and support under not so happy circumstances. How for some reason, her and her friends painted the nicknames of all their teachers on a car and parked it in front of the school. By the way, she graduated from Cardinal O’Hara in 1966. I think there was something about the gym teachers underwear up the flag pole, but I’m a bit fuzzy on those details right now.
Mom and Aunt Fran spent a lot of time with CYAC, which was the Catholic Youth something or other. They only ever called it Catch Yourself A Catholic. That is where they met a bunch of their friends and where they all met their spouses. It was the earlier successful version of Match.com for the not so busy crowd that you can’t meet for dinner. It was at one of these parties, that she spied a very good-looking man, sitting by himself, watching the events and she asked him if he wanted some of her fries. Mom always said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, and she was right. It worked for me too by the way. Well, they clicked and it was the perfect match. Dad proposed. Mom said Dad asked her if she wanted to spend her life with him on a farm. She of course said yes, but she thought he was joking about the farm part. On November 28, 1969, they were married and the city girl from Tonawanda moved to a dairy farm in Lockport. I remember mom helping us clean the milking parlor, feed the calves. I think she milked a cow or two, but it is hard to picture her cleaning the barns, unloading hay wagons, shifting stones and dodging nitrogen pellets…all of which she did until we came along.
Their first couple of months were rough. Dad is the silent type and Mom…was not. It took her awhile, but she cracked his shell. She always said, she never understood why the family considered Dad to be quiet, she couldn’t get him to stop talking. Early marriage was interesting. They lived in a haunted house, that’s about all I know. In 1972 they built the house and 5 years later, I came along and boy did I come during the worst possible moment. I am the blizzard baby and for the past 34 years, I’ve had my birth story recounted every year, including the actual snowmobile to ambulance to hospital route. And if I came in a flurry, Krista shout out with a bang, between the gurney and delivery table, 13 months later. Between the two of us, it was never a dull moment for mom. There was plenty of sharing…not the good kind, baby oil baths, diaper art, and cleaning help. Mom was awesome! Kris and I played dress up a lot with her slips, nightgowns and shoes. She would make us treasure maps and then hid things from her jewelry box for us to find. She hated the smurfs, and that was our favorite record to sing. Her own bedtime stories were the best. I wish she wrote them down and for years I was amazed at her magic in opening the garage door. Countless hours here at church for youth group, First Communion Classes and this and that. I vaguely remember something about pink flamingos in here for Father Bob’s Birthday? Something like that. Girl Scouts, remember her camp name? Shady Lady. All my friends wanted to be assigned to her at camp. She hated, and I can’t stress this enough, hated the latrines… and pine sol, a product that would never be allowed in our house.
High school for her and I was rough, but that was to be expected. We spent a lot of time yelling at each other and crying. She never saw my point of view, but I think we came through all the better for it. College was hard for her, we moved out, got her Filly and then promptly moved home, cause we had a dog. She cooked countless meals for our friends at UB, usually followed by midnight bowling. Looking back, our friends loved my mom. She was cool, funny and was their mom away from home.
I think the hardest part for mom was when I moved away. The closest I ever got to moving back home was 3 hours away in Elmira. It really bothered her when I moved to Reading. Until she got sick, she used to call almost every night. She never really had anything to say, and mostly keep telling me her news of the week, over and over again. But I knew she missed me and I missed her. She was always the first, and sometimes only person I spoke to on Sundays. Thank God for cell phones and in calling. My favorite calls where the ones where Dad would start talking to me through her, or bring up something and they would spend the next 15-20 minutes discussing, debating or fighting on the phone…all while I got to listen. It was like being at home. Now, if you guys think Dad and Kris aren’t big talkers…your definitely right when it comes to the phone. Dad only ever talked to me, after he gave the phone to mom and Krista is the same. A couple of years ago, right around the time I got to Reading, Mom called me and “thanked me” for leaving her alone with Bob and Bob Jr. For as much as Dad and Kris are alike…I am my mother. That’s exactly what I told Greg when we were first dating and that’s exactly what my mom told him when she first met him. Now I have to extend my thank you to her for leaving me alone with Bob, Bob Jr. And the Bob Wannabe, her soon to be son.
I wish she had gotten to know Greg a little better. Mom liked to spar and Greg would have given her a run for her money. Because of distance, they never got to spend a lot of time together and then she got sick. For someone so full of life and laughter it was hard to watch that fade away. There are a few things I know for sure. One, she’ll finally make the wedding, though I’m sure she’s not happy about missing out of the Mother of the Bride attention. Two everyone here has fond and happy memories of her and will always remember her laugh and smile. And three, I will always love her and never forget that I am my mothers daughter.