My mother, Barbara Ann Cooney, passed away today, December 17th, 2011. She was 77, and she lost her valiant four-year struggle with cancer. Because most of you don’t know her, I want to share with you who this tiny, 5’ tall Italian/Portuguese woman was.
She was a wife. A week before her death, I went to visit her. The last really lucid story she told me was as follows. She said, “When I was a single girl of 25, they all said I’d never meet the right guy. (pause) heh heh heh heh heh (she cackled). Well, I did.” She then shared her memory of the proposal and the next day at work. Bottom line, she was a wife first, before anything else. She lived and breathed for my dad, and spent 52 years of her 77 years married to him. He was the one there with her through all the final days of her life.
She was a glass half full woman. My mom was optimistic, and embraced whatever life threw at her. She dealt with her cancer, the same as everything else. Whatever she had to do, she did. Whatever she had to endure, she did without complaining. A few years ago, one of the cancer treatments caused her to lose her hair. She was telling me a story about her day, and she shared that she and my father were going out to run some errands. They left the house, and had to come back because my dad forgot something. Then they left the house a second time, and got down the road, and had to turn around and go back because my dad forgot to lock the door. Then they left for the third time, and got down the road, and my mom made my dad go back home. She forgot her hair. I’m sure they got a laugh out of that one. But that was her – she took lemons and made lemonade.
She was a game player. And I don’t mean that with any negative connotations. My mom loved to play games. Any games or mental puzzles. Scrabble. Boggle. Crossword Puzzles. Jumbles. Cards. Trivial Pursuit. Why? Probably because she had a mind like a steel trap and once anything went in her mind, she never forgot it. She would remember little bits of information about silent screen stars from decades ago. Stuff that was just totally unimportant (to me). I don’t remember her ever losing a Trivia game, although perhaps she did. My mom’s mind was awesome.
She was an artist. My mom started art school before she got married, but she never finished because she got married and started raising a family immediately. But she wanted to let her creativity out, and over the years, my mom displayed her artistry in many different ways. She designed and made cross-stitch works of arts that contained 50 or 60 thousand stitches. She knitted and crocheted. She made rosaries and jewelry. She always had her hands moving on one project or another. There are hundreds of my mom’s creations out in the world floating around with her signature “B. Cooney” in the corner. Keep an eye out for them. They’re beautiful.
She was a cook. When we were growing up, my mom cooked just about every night and day. She of course made spaghetti sauce, lasagna, linguica (sausage), quiche, etc. But she also came with all sorts of ideas for the growing, sometimes picky kids. If we didn’t want to eat hotdogs, she would slice the ends of the hot dogs or the middle, and she would boil them. Hot dogs curl up if you do that, so we’d arrive to the table to see these wacky shaped hot dogs. Of course we ate them. She’d put together “Make-your-owns” on nights she wasn’t really into cooking an entire meal. She’d put a huge plate in the middle of the table that had small slices of bread, condiments, tuna, olives, cheese slices, meat slices, peanut butter, jelly, and whatever else she could find, and we were able to put whatever we wanted on our sandwiches. We made the weirdest combinations but of course we always thought they were awesome (bologna, peanut butter, mustard and olives on whole wheat?).
She was a mother. My mom stayed at home when we were young and growing up. She was always there. Of course I think we probably took that for granted, since many moms stayed home “in the day.” But she stayed home, even though there were years when she wanted to work outside the home, and she wanted to have some additional challenges and rewards. Instead, she led our Girl Scout troops, and planned arts and crafts, and did the cookie runs, and froze in the back of the pickup truck when we all went out caroling. She cooked, cleaned, and did the laundry. She was always ready with a big huge hug when we needed it. She sewed our clothes. She helped with our schoolwork. She tried to teach us to cook (although I don’t remember being very appreciative at the time). She did the mom thing with the same gusto she did everything else.
So I say goodbye to this multi-faceted and talented woman. I say goodbye to my Mom. If she can hear me, I say “thank you for you.” And I ask that she say hello to my sister, Maureen. And I say the world will be an emptier place without her. And I say that I hope to see her again, and when I do, the first thing I want is one of her great big hugs.
And I say, simply, “Godspeed.”