Speak in Remembrance of the Deceased

Here are the remarks I delivered before the final commendation at my mother-in-law’s funeral today:

Good morning and merry Christmas!

Mary was a great mother and a great mother-in-law. There are countless examples but you only have to look to last week for proof. As she lay dying she was surrounded by two of her sons, four of her daughters and her four sons-in-law. I am privileged to be one of those four sons-in-law.

We obviously learned from her. Mary exemplified the corporal work of mercy to visit the sick. She stayed at her husband’s side when he was hospitalized. She stayed with her daughters after they had babies. She stayed with Aunt Dee and many others too. She and Rich served as Eucharistic Ministers and brought communion to the sick.

When she was sick, she had a great appreciation for those who visited: her children, her grandchildren and others. We’re happy to know that she is now free of the cancer and dementia and able to rejoice in the Lord.

Mary put other people first. Whether it was a small thing like holding everyone’s coats when the family went to a museum or a big thing like opening the door to her children’s friends who needed a safe and welcoming place. Or letting her granddaughter Meaghan live in her house for five years.

She even put others first when it came to entertaining the grandchildren. Mary and Rich made VHS tapes of Disney Channel shows for the kids to watch. In recent years, her kids were able to return the favor by marathoning one of her favorite shows, “Keeping Up Appearances.”

Most of us got to know Mary when she was in her 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s. As she got older, her illness allowed us to get to know the Mary of her teens, 20s and 30s. She vividly recalled the places she knew in St. Louis, Missouri, and Waterloo, Illinois. She told us about working for the bank president and about her parents and grandparents. We also saw her youthful amazement at beautiful Christmas lights and fall foliage and spring flowers.

Although she forgot a lot of recent things, she didn’t forget people. She recognized us and remembered our names. She would tell us about other family members too. When Mom visited Jere and me in Knoxville, she told us about her youngest granddaughter Claire and about her youngest grandsons Jonathan and Eric.

Mary loved a party. Think about the fun she had at wedding receptions over the years. Even as recently as a year ago, I can remember her excitedly bouncing in a chair at Peggy & Joe’s house and saying, “Now we’re gonna have a good time!”

Mary had a great sense of justice. Of course she would have to by virtue of raising eight kids! Bill, Peggy, Mary Lynn, Joe, Jere, Carol, Christie and Christopher. Fr. Metzger told us about the time they saw men fighting on the boardwalk in Ocean City. She stopped the fight by yelling at them in her Mom voice.

The family went camping almost every summer after swim team season ended. Mary would prepare for the trip by packing food in special cabinets that Rich built. She also prepared for her spiritual journey to heaven by attending Mass as often as possible and saying the rosary with the prayer group here at OLGC.

Mary was exceptionally strong in her faith. She was OLGC’s designate among the Catholic Women of the Year in the Arlington Diocese in 2004. She would be the first to tell you that her brother was a priest, Fr. George Griesedieck of the St. Louis Griesediecks.

Her faith is an example to all of us. As she journeys to heaven we can take solace from the way Mary so prayerfully accepted the deaths of her loved ones before her. Lord, please accept Mary into your loving embrace and thank you for the 90 years you lent her to us.

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