Thank you all for joining us today to remember my Mom. I think she would be in awe by the wonderful turnout. I can actually hear her saying “Oh my, how lovely!”
I’m sure every person here today could share something about Mom that I either didn’t know or that would make me smile. I’d like to give all of you just a few glimpses of Mom from my perspective.
Mom wasn’t a large person but you may have noticed that she had a rather big head that thankfully looked great in a bandanna, because it was the rare occasion a beach hat was found to fit it. Her ears were not dainty either but she also had an even bigger heart which I think balanced things out nicely.
As is the case with most mothers and daughters, we had our share of ups and downs. We’ve run the gamut from friends to enemies and everything in between but I always knew she loved me fiercely.
Jane Leonard was a complex person with very simple needs. She never cared about material things. Her riches came not from measurable wealth but from her family. In her eyes we were her greatest accomplishment and her first priority. I know she found it easier to leave us because her five children had finally all found wonderful partners and had children of our own to love.
As we promised her, we will all share her zany legacy of love with those little ones who knew her only briefly and those precious babies yet to come.
Mom has taught me innumerable lessons such as you don’t have to be fashionable to have an unbeatable sense of style. However I think she should be recognized for her longstanding fashion contribution. Yes I mean wearing sneakers with skirts long before yuppies made that same look so popular.
Mom’s relationship with her own mother both during life and after she passed away provides me with invaluable comfort especially during this most challenging time. She showed me that as long as I believe I can keep her alive in my heart she will be here with and for me forever. So while it is so very sad that I’ll never again be with her in person, I know I will always be able to feel her loving support and the warmth of her arms around me.
Mom’s parenting style was unique. She showed me a child could survive on cans of coke and cinnamon raisin toast. She told me that a baby would be alright if you had to leave him crying in a crib for ten minutes in order to keep your sanity. When my children were young and always seemed to be sick she promised me that one day they would both be free of runny noses and coughs and she was right. She taught me that the most important thing to tell your child is “I love you.” She showed me that being a loving parent doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact one of the reasons she was loved so much was not in spite of but because of her many flaws. Her ability to laugh at herself makes it much easier for me to accept my own imperfections. One of the classic Jane mistakes which has provided my family with many laughs is the time she thought she was being sassy by giving her youngest daughter the finger only to be told that the index finger wasn’t the offensive one. I believe her response was Hmmm.
Mom was stubborn, sometimes to a fault. She never did anything halfheartedly and I think she left us much more quickly than any of us expected because once she was as she put it “willing to let her spirit go” in true Mom fashion she completed her last journey with determination few of us posses.
Some of you have never experienced her Irish temper. In her inner circle it was legendary. It even came with an early warning signal the National Weather Service would be envious of. We refer to it as THE TWITCH! Once you saw it, you got out of the path of fury by any means possible. Her anger was usually well deserved; we were not the Brady Bunch children. On those occasions that she overreacted she would typically overcompensate by taking us on shopping sprees or plying us with food containing no nutritional value at all.
Mom was a librarian so I’m sure it comes as no surprise that she loved to read, but long before she pursued that career that suited her so well; she taught me the love of learning and all the sweet serenity of books. Now you may think that because she was an exceptionally intelligent person she would have gravitated towards great literary works and while it’s true she read the entire Great books series before she was 25 and War and Peace twice, she found just as much enjoyment in a trashy historical novel. Just as books gave her joy, comfort and knowledge, the stories she told us over and over again at our request and stories about her do the same for our family.
I don’t know if you realize how competitive Mom was. She passed that trait on to all her children and I doubt any of us comes close to her fierce need to win any card game. As her eldest grandchildren can attest, by the time you were 8 or 9 you were fair game. Any game that included the slapping of hands such as War or Egyptian Rat screw were played with her at great risk to the other players. In fact during one game at the beach she slapped TJ across the face instead of on the hand!
Mom was not the stereotypical Grandma. Yes she loved to hug and kiss her grandchildren but as my son reminded me she didn’t drive like you would expect a grandma to, she quite frankly had a lead foot. Her gifts were not always typical either; I mean how many grandmas buy their 5 year old grandson, Madonna’s “like a Virgin “record?
I’m sure that the first time many of you met Mom you may have thought she was a sweet, sometimes ditzy person. You may not realize the incredible strength and willpower she always possessed. As a young girl she was bedridden for months as a result of rheumatic fever. The day she heard the doctor tell her mother it was time to call the priest to give her last rites, she rolled out of bed onto the floor so she could teach herself to use her legs enough to crawl again. She knew if she could crawl, she could than walk and then she would be able to do anything even if it was by pure guts alone. There have been many times where Mom had to marshal her strength to overcome horrific challenges, like when our house burned down 37 years ago today. Each obstacle just made her stronger. But Mom was human after all and had her breaking points. There was one thing that never failed to rejuvenate her and that was the beach. She didn’t live at the shore but that was where her true home was. The moment she arrived it was as though all her worries and cares were washed away with the tide. She was always a great napper but when she tossed a towel on the sand chaos could run rampant around her, by that I mean many children including nieces and nephews, without disturbing her rest. Her perfect beach day didn’t require the day be sunny and hot, an overcast day was enjoyed just as much especially if it began before the lifeguard arrived, included lunch delivered to her and ended after the lifeguard left for the day.
Of all the many gifts Mom has given me the one I will treasure most is her last one. She asked me to come home to be with her during her illness. I am so grateful for the special time I shared with her, especially the many hours of hand holding and smiles.
I could talk about Mom endlessly and I am sure I will but for know I will end by saying as my son the writer so eloquently put it, She was the bomb!
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