Someone Worth Remembering

My mother, holding my son, at his Christening. February 10, 2002

Today is October 10, 2012. It has been 10 years to the day since my beloved mother passed away after a short and sudden illness. She became sick so quickly, that by the time I had reached the hospital, she was already incoherent with a 106 degree fever. Three weeks later, she was gone. It is the greatest regret of my life that I never got to say goodbye to my mother. It is a heavy burden I’ve carried for ten long years. A burden I am ready to put down. 

When I was thinking of writing this story about her, I knew it would be difficult, but also knew she deserved the tribute, and maybe it would help me a little as well. I changed my mind repeatedly for the last few weeks about what I would write, and then it came to me. Why not write the words I spoke for her 10 years ago?, her eulogy, which I delivered at her funeral. Without question the hardest thing I ever had to do, but when my family turned to me to give tribute and insight into her life, it was a request I could never turn down.
                                      October 14, 2002
       “One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there were only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there was only one set of footprints. I can’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me. The Lord replied, my son, my precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, that you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you” This poem is entitled Footprints in the Sand. It was an absolute favorite of my mother and I. She taught it to me when I was a young boy, and I have believed in it ever since.
       I do take comfort in my certainty that during the last days of my mother’s life, there were only one set of footprints on her beach. I know in my heart that God was with her during her tiresome and valiant struggle. In the end, he carried her all the way to her ultimate goal, which I am sure that everyone here, who knew her, would agree that is where she has ended up. My brother Richard, Sister Lisa, father Richard and I all walk with one set of footprints now, as God carries us during our darkest hour. I know I can speak for all family members when I say how special she was, how very much she was loved. And how she will be sorely missed.
       My mother died on a Thursday and as an avid card player, I joked with my sister on how she made it just in time for the saints Friday night card game. One thing I know is that she would be the only one I would trust not to cheat. Maureen Ann Pecoraro, MSW, PhD (as she liked to be addressed, wouldn’t you?) was the smartest and most honest person I have ever known. I am 36 years old; I have known countless people in my lifetime. I will say that again for emphasis, she was the smartest and most honest person I have ever known. I think that statement speaks for itself. The most important thing in my mother’s life was her faith. She always turned to God, when times were tough, or her spirits were low, and incessantly encouraged us to do the same. She not only personified the word Christian, she raised it to another level, a level the rest of us should continue to strive for, in her memory. If her faith was first in her life, then her family was certainly a very close second. Her love for her husband and children were immeasurable, but her grandchildren were her pride and joy. She loved to talk about them to anyone who would listen, and I really don’t think it mattered to her if she knew you or not. From the story of Ryan’s miraculous survival of his horrific, catastrophic accident, which you all know by now, down to the arrival of her newest grandchild, my son, Christian. She always looked at each of them with a visible sparkle in her eye. Oh how I will miss the way she looked at my son.
       My mother went back to college late in her life, earning a BS, MSW, and PhD of psychology. She then turned her focus on teaching and working with Autistic children. So typical of my mother, a teacher and helper of others. There is no one on earth I respect more, and I couldn’t have been prouder to be her first born son. There isn’t anything Maureen Pecoraro wouldn’t do for you, again, didn’t matter whether she knew you or not. She was also a good friend to many whom I didn’t even know. But as stranger after stranger approached me at her wake, and told me stories about my mother, something I suspected became evident. My mother had an impact on every life she touched. She was a Christian, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, a teacher, and a friend. I have nothing but fond happy memories of my mother, but with one regret. And that is that my son will never know his grandmother. However he will learn all about her from his mother and I, his grandfather, aunt and uncle. Mom, if I raise him to be one-half the person you were, I will be satisfied. The values of Christianity, love, faith, honesty, compassion, the values you taught me, will be the foundation of our teaching. But he won’t be perfect Mom, and when the truth tries to hide, and integrity falls a little bit shy, I promise you Mom, he will hear YOUR echo in my words, and he will feel the love of his nanny. Richard, Lisa, Daddy and I miss you Mom. We will miss you every day that we are alive, until the time comes when we will all meet again, in the place we know you already are.       Goodbye Mom   I LOVE YOU

     After much thought, it became obvious to me that this was the ideal way to pay tribute to my mother. It was difficult using this eulogy, words I haven’t even been able to look at until recently. I remember vividly sitting in the church pew, before it was my time to read, praying to God, practically begging him, for the strength I would need to read this aloud to a packed church. It was the least I could do, I felt, to honor my mother. With a few small pauses, I was able to complete it. As I descended from the podium. I felt weak as I returned to the pew. It was there that my brother was standing, waiting for me. I practically collapsed into his arms, as we both sobbed and consoled each other.
          My mothers influence didn’t only apply to those she taught in school. There isn’t anything I do or say as an adult, that didn’t come from her teaching me as a child. Sometimes I get so filled with an idea or emotion, that I am moved to write. That comes from her, a brilliant, published writer in her own right. Every act of kindness, or good deed I ever do, comes from her.  All the good my children do (there is plenty), rests firmly on the foundation she built for me many years ago. For that let me simply say thank you Mom. Maureen Pecoraro wasn’t just my mother, she was my heroine, my idol, and a true icon for all that is good and honest in people.
            As I cross the fault line, from then until now, two things became clear to me while I reviewed this eulogy, and ultimately decided to use it. One, is that I am a better writer now that I was ten years ago (ha ha ha), and two, I wish I had looked at these words sooner than I did. For revisiting the feelings I felt then, in the deepest way I could, have been nothing short of cathartic for me. I miss my mother more than words could express, as much today as I did ten years ago. Nothing gives me more satisfaction in life, than to see the good inside both of my sons, and to know exactly where that good came from. Thank you Mom, I love you. Your first born son, Darren

               Maureen Ann Pecoraro, MSW, PhD
               November 1, 1942-October 10, 2002

Darren Pecoraro is a 46 year old retired stay-at-home dad from Englishtown NJ. He enjoys all sports, especially golf, music, and writing. His greatest love is his wife, Adele, and their two boys, Christian, and Andrew.