In Loving Memory, Theresa Dorothy Agnes (Peters) Sadler — 1929 to 2012
I start today with a simple “hello”. I can’t claim it feels like a good evening. Most of us have been here before, in this same emotional space, sixteen years ago, with me having the honour and privilege to do a eulogy for a parent. You might even think the second time writing an eulogy was easier, but it wasn’t. About the only lesson I learned from the last time is to print it out in case I get too emotional to be understood.
I thought about talking about different stages of Mom’s life, or the roles she played. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mother. Nan. Aunt. Friend. Growing up in East City. Meeting Dad at the store where he was playing pinball. Living in the South End and going to Sacred Heart church. Falling in love, getting married, going on her honeymoon, having children, playing with grandchildren, going to weddings, baptisms, christenings, communions, visiting family, having family visit. Being out at camp, travelling in the car. It would be an okay structure to a eulogy, but in the end, it would feel incomplete. Mom’s life, Nan’s life, was more than simply a chronology of events.
In a reading I found on grief, it talked about how people tend to face the end of their life the same way they lived it. Maybe a bit mellower, maybe a bit softer, but generally the same person. And the images I will retain of Mom throughout her life reflect the same person she was at the end. For each of us, the images will be different. Salt and pepper shakers. Salmon sandwiches. Club sandwiches. Big meals. Garage sales. Playing with Takoda.
For me, the first image I will remember of Mom is The Look. We’ve all seen it. The half-second smile on her face before she’d give you a pretend scowl. Sometimes I’d even get a playful swat! A few weeks ago, Jacob was at the hospital and Nan was playing with a little dinosaur he had brought up with him. I said to Jacob, “You, know, Nan used to have one of those for a pet when she was your age.” Mom smiled. And then gave me the Look. A Look that was as familiar as ever. Sometimes that’s how the daughters- and sons-in-law knew they were officially part of the family. They got the Look. Andrea even got called a turd once while playing Chase-the-Ace. But that’s just how Mom rolled. Smiling, playful in her own way, all the way to the end.
The second image I have is the look on her face when someone would walk into the room. She was always glad to see any of her six children. I’ve been going through old photos, and there is a consistent image…Mom holding one of the 6 kids, and smiling. Just happy to be with us. We all experienced it at the hospital, Mom perking up when we came in. Yet, as loving of us as she was, we all became chopped liver when babies were around. Any babies actually but particularly one of the 13 grandchildren (Brian and Julie, Christopher and Elizabeth, Megan and Stephanie, Mike Jr., Jeffrey and Jennifer, Justin and Jason, cute little Joshua, and Jacob) or one of the 10 great grand-babies (Gabe, Mike Jr. Jr., Ayden, Marley, Jeffery, Jacob, Jay Leigh, Jack, Kyra, and Savannah). The fact that Mom liked kids so much is not surprising – as one of 11 children on her side, and 4 more on Dad’s side, her generation produced over 40 kids!
The final image is a bit different, so I have to give you some context. To me, Mom’s religious beliefs were not like the fire and brimstone stylings of some of the fundamentalists you see on TV. She wasn’t preaching or recruiting on street corners. She simply had a strong, quiet faith throughout her life, attending church regularly … Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart, St. Peter’s, St. Anne’s. Even the chapel at the hospital. She was an active parishioner in the Peterborough Diocese longer than most people in this room have been alive.
So the final image of her that I want to share with you is tied to her faith. When I was young, Mom took us to St. Peter’s for mass. Usually we sat in the side seats, rather than directly in front of the altar. In my memory, she’s wearing a fall / winter coat, long, warm. Snuggly even, with fur around the collar. I could even curl up in it when I got fidgety or tired in the pews. Yet here’s the strange part. If I picture her in that coat, she is always wearing a red poppy. I don’t know why, I’m sure she wore the coat all winter, but in my memory, she’s always wearing a poppy.
As I am the youngest son, I felt it only fitting to ask the oldest granddaughter, Julie, to help with the next part. I know Remembrance Day has passed, but in honour of Mom’s continued faith, I have a poppy for Mom to wear, just as I’m wearing one tonight. And, lest we forget, you should know that these are not ordinary poppies. They are sixteen-year-old poppies. I saved them from when they did the Legion poppy service at Dad’s funeral. (Note: Julie pinned one to Mom’s lapel for me.)
When someone dies after an illness, and she’s Mom’s age, 83, society tends to push you to think of it as natural. It’s tempting to think, “Well, she had a long life, it wasn’t a surprise, it was simply her time.” Except, for the people in her life, it isn’t natural or simple. For us, the world has shifted. An emotional, intellectual and mental earthquake that rocks our place in the world. We are no longer the “second generation”. We are no longer the children. As we adjust to our new role as the oldest generation, we have to hang on to our memories lest we forget what we are now missing.
Thank you, Mom, for the memories we hold. From your example, I hope we have learned to be playful with each other, and that we light up when friends and family come into our lives. And long may we honour you in faith and love.