By Matthew Hennessey
My mother died on March 30, 2010. Her funeral mass was held at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Morristown, NJ, on April 6.
I was talking with my brother and my sisters the other day about who would do a eulogy for my mother. One by one they said, “I don’t think I can do it.” So of course, I said, “I think I can do it.” I’m going to do my best. We’ll see how it goes.
I should add that my mother was always after me not to leave things to the last minute. She wouldn’t have been happy to see me typing this eulogy on the computer last night after the wake. But some things never change, no matter how much we want them to.
My mother was a gardener. Nothing made her happier than puttering around in a garden, planting, pruning, and watering her flowers. That was one of the reasons she wanted to get out of the house on Speedwell Avenue, a house that we all loved, but that she hated. The house in Mendham had space for a big old garden. And she and my father put it right in the front.
Like anyone who puts their hands into the soil to plant a seed, my mother was a nurturer. Even the stray tomato seed that snuck into her rose patch in a scoopful of compost got the love and attention it needed to blossom, to grow, and to bear fruit. She didn’t weed it out. She let it bloom. And it grew up right alongside her beautiful yellow roses. She let the tomato grow. She let the tomato live. She let it be who it wanted to be.
And in August, we sliced it and we ate it on a BLT.
It wasn’t a very good tomato, if I remember, kind of mealy. But that story, which was just one of those funny kind of family stories, somehow became a poignant story in course of the last week — a story with its own obvious moral: When life gives you tomatoes, make yourself lunch.
My mother got her fair share of tomatoes in life. I wouldn’t say that she got more or less than the average person, but my mother knew what to do with those tomatoes.
She knew what to do with us. Let them grow. Let them live. Let them be who they need to be.
She knew what to do with my father. She let him grow. She let him live. She let him be who he needed to be.
We thought we had more time with her. But she was a flower, and like no flower blooms before its time, so too no flower blooms forever.
We love you, mom.