Sunday, May 12, 2013

More Than Life Itself: A Eulogy

Today is Mother's Day, 2013.  My mother, Mary Comey, died 17 years ago. Recently I came across the eulogy that I wrote for her funeral service at Saint Thomas Church in Villanova, PA. My brother, Dave, valiantly delivered the text. On this day dedicated to mothers, I offer excerpts from this tribute to the woman that I miss with all my heart.

A Eulogy

It's difficult, in just several minutes, to describe a life that spanned over three quarters of a century, especially when it's your mother. Yet there are qualities of Mary Comey that well up strongly in our memories.

The first of these qualities is determination. For those of you who didn't know my mother, she stood four foot eleven inches at her prime. Because of her physical size, some people, especially sales people, mistakenly assumed that she was small in her determination and her power of will. Each of us can remember watching her thoroughly exhaust, wear out and wear down furniture, clothing, appliance, and dozens of other types of sales people as she artfully used every manner of persuasion to bring them to precisely the amount that she had determined when she first entered their store. And each of us frequently found that she worked her persuasive magic just as effectively on us, usually right after we had declared in a loud voice that we were not going to budge, that we had made up our minds. There was little that could deter Mary Comey, not even death. In the last month of her life, when living became just too physically difficult for her, she convinced God that it was time for her to come to Him. She wouldn't accept no for an answer, and ever God Himself knew better than to mess with Mary Comey.

The second of her qualities was a rich love of telling stories, together with a remarkably creative imagination. All of our lives, we were treated to the most extraordinary tales by our mother. We heard about a Nazi spy she met who ran a boarding house in Saint Louis when she followed my father to the Midwest during World War II; the adventures she had as the Executive Secretary to the Director of the War Bond Division of the Philadelphia branch of the Treasury Department when all of the big celebrities of the day came into town, and the most wild adventures just going to the corner gas station or food store. When my mother went to the Wawa, almost anything was possible. It's no wonder that my brothers and I have been directly involved with the theatre and other media, and that each of us generates our living in a performance-based profession. It is also no surprise that all of her grandchildren have found themselves before some kind of artistic, athletic, or government-related audience. My mother lived life with high drama, and her legacy is that her children and grandchildren are carrying forward her joy of sharing their thoughts and feelings with others.

The third quality, and perhaps the one that most exemplifies and defines my mother's character, was her total devotion to her family.  All of her life, she lived within spitting distance of her brother and her sister. She was fiercely devoted to my father, John Comey. Other than a forced separation during World War II, my mother and father were inseparable for half a century. They consulted each other on every matter, often using their own special and robust form of communication. And for her three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, she traveled by plane, train, car, bus or walked up mountains so that she could applaud, cheer and hug each one of us after every event, regardless of its scope or importance. She always cried at our ceremonies because she deeply admired our efforts and our willingness to dare to try.

In a letter that she sent after we surprised my parents with a 50th anniversary party, my mother wrote, "I love you more than life itself." We were with her when she died, my father, brothers, and I, her family together as she wanted throughout her life. We will miss her powerful presence and her deep caring for our well being and happiness. We love you deeply, Mother, and ask that you not give God too hard a time if He should dare to disagree with you.

Copyright (c) 2013 by James Hugh Comey


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