Eulogy for my Mom

Hello friends,

I recently lost my Mom at the age of 90. Rest in Peace of beautiful servant of Christ!

Thanks to everyone for coming today to celebrate my mother’s life. Kate, Mom, Gram, Aunt Kate - she was so many things to so many people.

She was one of 12 children of Polish immigrants. Mom often shared stories of her childhood, growing up on the dairy farm. There were tales of a bygone era of a solid family life tempered with the hardships of the depression, childhood deaths from influenza, losing her parents with many of the children still at home and leaving the one room school house after the eighth grade to work in the factories. But there was always evidence of an underlying familial love steeped in the Polish traditions.

When I gathered my thoughts for this remembrance, my mind kept returning to my Mom’s hands. Our hands are magical, think of your hands and the hands of those who are close to you. Hands are as unique as faces; we carry our hearts in our hands. We don’t need photographs to remember them. How do I recall my Mom’s- patient enough to teach, gentle enough to hold, strong enough to discipline and wise enough to trust.

My earliest memories are of strong, steady hands that pulled the wisps of my hair into long braids and pin curls. She guided the hands of her children to be folded in prayer, taught us the sign of the cross along with our nursery rhymes, scrubbed our faces, tending to scraped knees and loose teeth, wiped away our tears and held us in support while we struggled to walk. She taught us to whistle with a blade of grass between our thumbs and put buttercups to our chins, to pick wild flowers and tend the garden.

She guided our hands in the tying of shoes, I remember sitting at the kitchen table writing my name for the first time – no easy task with a name like Klisiewicz! I can still see her hands folded in prayer while she and Dad knelt next to their bed each night praying silently alone but together.

Mom never drove a car, she never wore a watch, we could rest in the knowledge we always knew where to find her - as constant as the sun rising or the evening star at night - Mom was home. She always kept our home a welcoming oasis.

Those of you gathered here today will most likely have experienced the culinary pleasures that emanated from my Mom’s hands. Most everyone in this humongous immediate family of dozens of pure bred Polish Aunts, Uncles and cousins will be quick to tell you no one does Pierogi like Kate.

Once I moved Mom into my home to take care of her during her final 18 months, she was no longer strong enough to cook. So I have taken over the pierogi. Mine are pretty decent and my son Brian now makes pierogi - he does a good job, too but they will never be as good as hers. She was so excited when I served her Brian's homemade pierogi at last year's Christmas Eve Wigilia Feast at my home.

Brian she was so proud of you she told everyone - her caregivers, the nurses, the priests, friends that came to visit her "Did you know my grandson Brian made pierogi all by himself? And they were GOOD!" She was thrilled that the next generation will carry on her tradition. Her homemade bread was a family favorite along with so many other delicacies too numerous to mention. She always lamented that she never had her Mother’s coatz recipe, well, Mom, now you are reunited with the parents you lost as a teenager, I know you will revel in that glory.

Her hands taught my hands well. I watched them roll out nut rolls, glide around the edges of pie crust, rolled the golubki and pierogi, canned the tomatoes, fruits, jellies and jams. The greatest compliments my Mom ever gave me was when she asked ME how I made my apple pie because it was so much better than hers and when she told me my homemade chicken soup was the best she ever had and asked for the recipe. My Mom knew full well she was the best home style cook around, she rarely gave out statements like that, I am honored that she said that to me twice!

Never adorned with anything but her wedding band, not beautifully manicured and polished nails, her hands carried the no nonsense elegance of hard work. They hung the sheets to dry because it made them crisp and fresh, shoveled coal and snow, worked the soil, ironed countless baskets of laundry, scrubbed and waxed floors until they shined, tended the altars of SS Peter and Paul Church, sewed and moved in the mystical rhythms of crochet.

I recall being at home alone with her before I was school age. Dad was at work, Jeanne and Bob were at school and John wasn't born yet. Every Monday she would be ironing with the radio playing music. I remember her putting down the iron, moving the little table and chairs out of the road and pulling me to dance to Nat King Cole’s Rambling Rose, Que Sera, Sera; Let me call you sweetheart and of course, Polkas. I must have been only 4 years old. Every Sunday of my life, the same routine was repeated if I happened to stop in while the Polka music hour was on the radio. She would be making Sunday dinner but she or Dad would stop and swing me around the kitchen to the Polish melodies.

She so loved the outdoors, always yearning for the fresh air of the farmlands and fields laden with harvest. Every chance she got she would push my Dad dragging us along, to the fields orchards and woodland to glean potatoes, apples, strawberries, blue and raspberries. When I was a child I hated those hours traipsing through brambles that scratched and burned but she truly needed to escape the tight, hot city quarters and get out in nature. Oh, and it wasn't just us that she drug along, I know lots of my cousins here today will recall picking berries with my Mom - and our neighbors and school mates, too! If they were at the house, they came along. We were each given a pot and had to fill it up before we could leave. It takes a LOT of wild berries to fill up a pot, and it couldn't just be full we had to 'Put a heap on it!" before we could quit. Once we moved to Canan Station, Dad took over the gardening so I became the designated driver for these excursions. She was thrilled that I provided 3 new recruits as my sons were indoctrinated in gleaning the forest and fields. A couple of weeks ago my son Tom tagged me on Facebook with a photo of wild strawberries that he found growing in a field next to the train tracks while on an inspection trip.

He said "Mom, call Gram, I found a wild strawberry patch!" I told him if she was able to get up out of bed she would probably insist I drive her to Fort Wayne, IN to pick those berries, can't let them go to waste. How many playing cards have shuffled through my Mom’s hands – even as a lifelong bookkeeper I don’t think I can count that high.

As she aged, those capable hands grew thinner and more fragile but they never slowed. Each day her hands faithfully embraced her rosary as she moved along the beads. She repeatedly told me that she prayed the rosary every single day for my Dad. Each night when I prepared her for bed, I would hand her the rosary that I made for her. She would kiss it and every night she always said “Bonnie, who is going to pray the rosary for me when I die?” I assured her that I would indeed pray the rosary for her and I have already fulfilled that obligation several times since her death on Tuesday. I would like to ask each of you here today to do just that one thing for my Mom. Not every day, just once, pray the rosary for my Mom, she will be ecstatic.

Our faith teaches that in death we are reunited with our loved ones. I am confidant that God sent my Dad to meet her and greet her and show her the way to the eternal wedding feast. Dad, your long rest is over; I can just hear her chastising “Pap, get up off that couch. Quit smoking that pipe, John, you have had enough beer!” I’m certain there is a huge party on the other side. If you just listen you can hear the Polkas, see Mom and Dad dancing and twirling with abandon, sharing the laughter and joy with her parents, brother and sisters, in laws and friends that have gone before her. I’m sure there will be many poker parties with good food prepared by her and even better company. She promised me she would give my love to Pap Bartley, too.

The other evening when we sat down to our first dinner after Gram died, my son Rob said: "I wonder if Pap has had any potato cakes or pierogi yet?" We all agreed that within minutes of their heavenly reunion that Mom had the cast iron skillet fired up, taking requests and cooking up a storm.

Yes, I will always remember my mother's hands. I'm reminded of them when I look at my own hands; they're the same. When you become a parent, you suddenly hear yourself repeating the things your parents said and did. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my God, I’m becoming my mother!” Now I say “Oh thank God, I’m becoming my Mom!”

Mom, we have been truly "homemade" by you and for that we are grateful. We will miss you always but you will live on in our memories. As we gather each holiday around my table abundant with family and feast, we know you will be with us in spirit.

Mom, we all know where to find you and someday, we will meet you there. How much do I love you, Mom? A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck! As always, all my love, Bonnie

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By EweniqueEssentials on 08/01/2014 @ 09:23pmYou are blessed to have had such a wonderful, loving Mother, and you've written such a sweet tribute to her.You will miss her...

By BrainofJen on 08/01/2014 @ 07:48amYour mother sounds like a remarkable woman, my sincerest condolences for your loss, Bonnie.

By PinPointPatterns on 07/27/2014 @ 07:31pmBonnie, My heartfelt sympathies to you on the loss of your mother. Your very touching eulogy honors your mother beautifully. My Mom (89) died at the end of May. Even though she did not reach 90 she insisted I say she was in her 90 year! The service to scatter her ashes will be on August 17th, her 90th birthday.

By SnuggleBugBabyandME on 07/27/2014 @ 03:11amSuch a beautiful and caring eulogy. Our prayers are with you and the family during this time. She is in very good hands now.

By PinkCloudsAndAngels on 07/26/2014 @ 08:00pmBeautiful eulogy, Bonnie. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear mother.

By luvncrafts on 07/26/2014 @ 01:28amWhat a beautiful tribute to your mother. My prayers are with your family. Mom Grandma, Mom's Mom passed away a few weeks ago. She was 95. I remember all the stories Grandma use to tell me of her life. She saw a lot in those 95 years. She is with the Lord now too.

By DoubleSJewelry on 07/26/2014 @ 01:00amA lovely tribute to your mother who I can see was loved by many and loved them all in return. Mother's are very special people who can never be replaced. You were very lucky to have her for 90 years! God bless.

By PutmanLakeDesigns on 07/25/2014 @ 11:50pmAbsolutely beautiful! I feel as if I know your mom through your words. I wish I still had my mom to hug and look at her hands but she's been gone since 2009. Miss her every single day.

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