My mother passed away on October 21, 2020 after a long battle with Alzheimer/Dementia. I wrote about my mother and the smile I miss at my previous blog post titled Irene H. Durkac.
Her Catholic funeral mass was conducted on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 in Rossford, Ohio and the funeral home’s obituary was published a few days prior to that service.
I’m writing this post because the mother I knew and wanted to be known was not referenced in the eulogy or obituary. Please don’t misunderstand, this is not a complaint, the priest who officiated the funeral and the funeral home did a very good and meaningful job at communicating the value and impact of my mother’s life.
However, there are at least three points from my perspective that I wish had received recognition and that I value enough to put into words here for ongoing reflection and for posterity regarding the mother I knew…
First, I want you to know that my mother lived a committed life to her family even as she fought through her Alzheimer/Dementia disease. All along the progression of the disease, from the early years to later weeks, she fought with her full might to stay connected to the family she feared she was detaching from.
Talking to her over the phone became a challenge to her memory but I always admired the fact that she didn’t run from her pain of not remembering the simple things about her grandchildren. She could have easily cut phone calls short and avoided conversations about family but despite the disease, she was determined to stay connected and to ask about grandchildren and family happenings, even if she couldn’t recall names and ages.
Alzheimer/Dementia is a battle that deserves fighting and I happen to believe that families who have passed through this experience can dispel the ignorance surrounding it by intentionally including it in our stories.
To me my mother’s last battle with Alzheimer/Dementia represents the fight she has engaged in her whole life, including a brain tumor that left her blind in her left eye, the stillborn birth of her first child that made it impossible to give birth again, her bought with lung cancer that took a lower lob of one her lungs, and her never ending pain with Rheumatoid arthritis.
Second, I want you to know that my mother lived a committed life of religious service. She shared with me a time in her life when she was going through school and sensed a calling to vocational sisterhood as a nun. (I shared a bit about that in my previous post titled Irene H. Durkac.)
It wasn’t just her grappling with that potentially huge life-altering decision as a calling to sisterhood, but it was the many ways she was involved in the parish ministry of the local Catholic Church. There was always food being prepared for church events and parish families following funeral. There was bingo events to work, there were committees to attend, and of course the biggest effort of the church calendar — the church festival.
Most notable, of all her years of parish service, was her service as a Eucharistic Minister. As a Eucharistic Minister she was committed to serving in one of the highest roles for a Catholic layperson. For decades she faithfully distributed communion to shut-ins, nursing home residents, and healthcare patients.
Third, I want you to know that my mother lived a committed life of adoption as a mother of adopted children. Five adopted children that she willingly gathered as her own to be closer than flesh and blood, chosen to love unconditionally despite the mismatch of common genetics.
I was her middle child. Adopted at the age of 3-months just days after Christmas in 1962 from the Catholic Charities Adoption Agency of Fargo, North Dakota. It’s been several years since I was able to identify my biological family and those findings led me to make a separate trip to Ohio in order to personally thank my mom and dad for adopting me.
My biological mother died at the age of 51, from brain cancer, but I look forward to seeing her one day in eternity so I can thank her as well for making the courageous decision for my adoption in hopes of the stable life I did have. (You can read more about her at my earlier post titled Baby Feet.)
Interestingly, my biological mother’s middle name was Irene and my mother first name was Irene. The New Testament koine Greek word for “peace” is εἰρήνη, from which we get the name Irene, and I can honestly say that though my younger self may have made it hard for her to live up to her name, she has instilled it into my life today.
The peace that gives me contentment in my own journey with health challenges, religious service, and adopted life is the same as what my mother has now in the absence of her’s.
Somehow, the words of our shared Savior come to mind, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27), and that is the mother I knew.