J: Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with us yesterday. The church was overflowing with friends and family. It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.
Here is the text of the eulogy that E and I gave:
Thank you for coming here today to celebrate our mom’s life. It truly is a celebration, because, while we are sad that our mom isn’t with us anymore, we know that she is in heaven and back to being the Mary Terese Kahl Blaha that she once was.
Many of you have followed her life over the past couple of years through the blog that we have been writing. Through the blog we have shared our parents’ journey through dementia. But prior to that, our mom had quite a life. We’d like to share a little bit about who she was.
I think four words can sum up who Mary Terese was. Wife. Mother. Faithful German.
Wife. Our mom loved being the wife of George. They were married right after college and she took on the role of Mrs. George R. Blaha like it was her job. She quickly learned to cook his favorite meals. He didn’t have a very adventurous palette, preferring meat and potatoes, or potatoes and meat, but she never complained about the monotony of staring at pack after pack of ground meat.
She ironed his shirts. And his pants. And his hankies. She darned his socks (who darns socks?) She learned to play tennis and golf. When there was an article in the PD about someone who had been promoted to a new position, she’d clip the article out and give it to my dad as a lead. When she sent letters to school with us explaining our absence, she would sign them Mrs. Geo. R Blaha.
She took great pride in her role as the woman behind her successful man. She carried herself regally and enjoyed being mistaken for Nancy Reagan. Her abstemious nature and rigid self discipline were the envy of many. Though she did always pour that one glass of wine that she tucked behind the can opener after she tied on her apron. This probably helped her cope with the stress of dealing with another pack of ground meat.
She exercised everyday and we have her to thank for passing on the importance always striving to look our best. Mrs. George R Blaha always shone.
Mother. Our parents were married in November and our sister Karen was born the following October. They wasted no time. But in truth, our mom had been a mother for a long time before that. The oldest of the Kahl family, our mom was her mother’s right hand man right from the start. Our grandma gave birth to 13 children, but 7 of them died shortly after birth because of RH incompatibility. So our mom helped her mom bury 7 children. Our grandpa had tuberculosis and twice had to be hospitalized for months at a time. Our mom worked side by side with her mom to keep the show on the road.
So when she finally had a family of her own, she knew just what to do. We were definitely raised with the “stick” not the “carrot” mentality. It was her way or the highway. There were rules, and schedules, and lists of chores. I can vividly remember riding my bike home from St. Chris for lunch and finding the note at my place at the table saying “No lunch until that bed is made”
Having grown up poor, she took frugality to a whole new level. Nothing was ever wasted and there was no need for doubles of anything. If we wanted an extra pair of jeans or a new pair of shoes (that didn’t come from Wrights Shoes where we had to buy all of our shoes because he was a client of our dad!) She would suggest that we go “splitsies” meaning that she’d pay half if we’d pay half. We struggled hard to be cool.
She transitioned quickly from being a busy mom to being a busy grandma. She had 15 grandchildren in 10 years. And 13 of them were boys. She watched a lot of Little League games. By being a good grandma she taught all of us how to be good moms.
Faithful Our mom had a strong, simple faith. She was a rule follower and that made her a good Catholic. She was not overly pious or incredibly devout. She was more of a Martha than a Mary. Her faith was faith in action. Over the past few months as we have visited with her friends they all reported how Terese was the first to show up with baked goods when there was a life event. A sickness? A death? Our mom was on it. I can’t tell you how many times we’d walk in the door to the wonderful smell of something freshly baked. And as we’d head to the drawer for a knife to cut into the delight, she’d stop us saying “ that’s not staying. So and so’s aunt’s mother’s uncle’s cousin just passed so it’s headed over there.” No matter how remotely you were related to the deceased, if they died, you could expect something baked from Terese. She firmly believed that any sorrow could be ameliorated by some date and nut bread. Over the past few years, as her health changed, her faith was unshaken. One of her favorite prayers was “All things are passing. God never changes”. She lived that faith til the end.
German. Our mom was strong willed. She was stubborn. She did not forget. She did not have a bad temper, but if you did something to displease her, you knew about it. For a long time. She always felt that her way was the best way, and our way was not. Some of her favorite phrases were “ Absolutely, positively not. Period Amen End of discussion. She did not leave a lot of room for negotiation. She would remind us that she was our mother, not our friend. She kept meticulous notes if we had to borrow money from her – or if we were short on our end of the splitsies . She had a running tally of money owed that she kept posted in the juice glass cupboard. Loan sharks could’ve learned a thing or two from her. And she could sniff out BS. If you told her a story that she wasn’t buying, she would roll out her trademark HMMMM which meant that she knew that you were likely lying and would soon be in trouble. She ran a tight ship
Wife. Mother. Faithful. German. I have laughed and cried while writing this thinking about who our mom was before Alzheimer’s Disease took her from us. I have learned so much from her. And I strive to be the faith-filled wife and mother that she was. As the disease process advanced, our mom lost her strong, German edge. She mellowed. We nicknamed her Sweet T because she was always sweet. She died as she lived: regally, faithfully and sweet. I love you Sweet T!