A Eulogy to My Mother-in-Law

On the 4th anniversary of her passing, I've reflected on all the family moments we have missed her presence, but in some way we all know she is there.
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When people think of mother-in-laws a lot of thoughts come to mind which are usually not flattering. I had known my mother-in-law, Victoria , for 27 years, and she was the best. I still recall when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2006. Although a heavy smoker, the news was still devastating. After a period of remission, her cancer came back with a vengeance and she was admitted to the hospital November 30, 2010 where she would spend her final months. We celebrated her 70th birthday (which happens to be Christmas Day) surrounded by family and friends in the hospital, and on February 3, 2011 Vicky passed away.

On the 4th anniversary of her passing, I've reflected on all the family moments we have missed her presence, but in some way we all know she is there. She leaves signs, whether a puzzle piece on the ground (she loved puzzles) for my son or wife, or the dreams she comes to us in, she's there. I was privileged to deliver her eulogy and hope I did her proud. On this anniversary, I'd love to share it.

Eulogy for Vicky

On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank you for coming out over the last few days and sharing your stories, your laughs and memories of the good times you had with Vicky.

Thank you to all of Anthony's and Gabriella's teachers and classmates who are here today to share in this special ceremony.

As Vicky's son-in-law I am honored to be given the opportunity to speak at her services today and hope I do her proud.

As I started to outline the Eulogy the evening of Vicky's passing it was hard to find the right beginning. After all how do you summarize a life that spanned 7 decades, how do I wrap the 27 years I have known her into 3 minutes.

I was on my laptop and Googled 'mother in law.' What I found were links to mother in law jokes, an ad for a therapist "if you have Mother in Law problems?" and I couldn't help but laugh. Mother in laws have been the fodder of jokes, TV shows, and just maligned. But, I was never able to relate to this since I had the best mother-in-law in the world. She was mom to me.

I remember the very first time I met my future mother in law. Lisa and I weren't even dating but it was 10 p.m. in front of her house. I was on my bike and we were chatting, just then a car pulled up and parked across the street, Lisa turned to me and said "my parents are home." They were coming back from the racetrack.

So of course I freaked a little, the 'parents!'

My father in law came across the street with Angelo across his shoulders sleeping; he gave me a wave "hi" after Lisa briefly introduced us. Following behind holding James' hand was Vicky, tight white pants, high heeled shoes and her big hair which framed her face. With a "hey how ya doing?' she gave me that look. "That's your mom?" I turned to Lisa.

She scared me more than my father-in-law.

The tough exterior belied what she truly was. Vicky had a huge heart, a caring spirit, and a deep religious and spiritual core. But don't anyone think that tough persona wouldn't come back, especially when it came to protecting her family to which she was fiercely loyal and protective. What a blessing to know she's now if Heaven to watch over us.

I asked her grandchildren what they will remember most about their Grandma Vicky:

For Samantha: Samantha will always remember the Cavatelli pasta Sunday dinners and how grandma would threaten to give her 'tata' if she didn't behave. If she was good she would get her 'baba' mile bottle. Mom had a language of her own.

For Sabrina: How Grandma called them bubbies, watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Jeopardy, watching Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris films on AMC, and how in the hospital when someone asked her how she was feeling, Vicky replied "The Best in the West."

For Gabriella: Her warm smile that always greeted her. Anthony, he shrugged his shoulders...for him everything was special with Grandma.

From times of crisis comes the true test of one's spirit, of one's courage in adversity, of one's strength in their faith. Toward the end, Mom wanted to do things on her terms, despite the cancer that had returned to ravage her body. She fought with every fiber of her being, she wasn't ready to go. She came so close a number of times only to bounce back and surprise the doctors. At one point I think we all believed she could actually pull this off, to get out of the hospital, but alas that wasn't to be. The scriptures say to suffering brings us closer to Christ, and she exemplified that. The reward for that suffering is no trophy or SuperBowl ring, but a reward she is enjoying now, being with her mom, dad, brothers, the angels and saints.

I'd like to give her a round of applause for the bravery and courage she showed us over the last few months. (Applause)

In that time, I also saw the same fierce spirit within the family, her sons (Angelo and James) and daughters (Lisa and Patty) who rallied by her side, who maintained round the clock vigil and support. In the end all that mattered was who was around that bed...la famiglia.

Last night I couldn't sleep and watched a documentary on Ronald Reagan. They showed a clip from his daughter Patty's eulogy to her dad and she had a quote which was very powerful which I thought so appropriate for today...."Neither death nor disease can conquer love.' That is so true in our case.

So what will I remember most...the Christmas Eve feasts of seafood and mom putting the right amount of tinsel on the tree (which was always too much), the simple backyard summers with dinner outside under the canopy, the endless pots of coffee and mom running the gauntlet from the backyard up the two steps to the coffee pot, oh and let's not forget the endless cakes, Entenmanns was always welcome and preferred.

And so I'll end my speech by signing off the way she would after a phone call,
'Ciao ciao.'

Love you Mom!

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