Ten years ago to this very day, my mother passed away … it was June 13, 2001. Less than eight months earlier, we all celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary. Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor only 36 days prior to her death. The end was fast and furious. At the time it all felt surreal … I felt mostly numbness.
Ten years later, I miss my mother but feel mostly gratitude. Sadness no longer overwhelms me … although I am feeling it now as I write. I accept what Mama Gump said, “Death is just a part of life. It’s something we’re all destined to do.”
I’m grateful for my mother. My mother taught me the meaning of personal responsibility. She planted the seeds that have grown into the concept of Gumption. She gave me life … what more could I have asked for? That is why I feel grateful.
In my file cabinet I found the eulogy that I delivered at her funeral. My two brothers and two sisters helped me craft it – I’m grateful for my four siblings.
Today, to honor my mother … ten years after her passing … I want to share with you the final words spoken about her at the time.
I love you, Mom! Your spirit lives on inside me. I’m grateful.
A Tribute to Rita M. Weber (May 26, 1926 – June 13, 2001)
June 16, 2001
‘Only the good die young … that’s what they say … only the good die young’ – paraphrased from songwriter Billy Joel. Thanks to my sister, Jeanne, Mom listened to that song many times.
Well, my mother, Rita Weber, at age 74, may not have been as young as some … but it’s hard to deny that she was good. And most would say, “Very good.” She was still young at age 74.
Appropriately, we are saying goodbye to Rita Weber here in church – at Our Lady of Good Counsel … a place that she would regularly visit. And more importantly, it was a place she took with her wherever she went … every minute of every day.
Mom’s faith was strong.
We gathered today, to pay our respects, to a wonderful woman – Rita Weber.
[Rita Weber’s Story]
So who was Rita Weber?
- First and foremost, Rita was a devoted, loving wife and best friend to my father, Jack. It’s almost impossible to describe Mom and Dad’s relationship, without including all of the family and friends.
Rita maintained her own identity and interests – but never at the expense of the family.
Rita was the operations manager and CFO of the family.
Rita was the one who instilled the values of religion and thrift into us children.
Rita was tolerant and forgiving.
- Rita was a mother, teacher, disciplinarian, counselor, and friend to my brothers, John and Ken … to my sisters, Eileen and Jeanne … and to me.
There were times that all of us would cause mischief. Mom was always there afterwards, to help us realize what we did wrong … and more importantly, she would explain why it was wrong. We knew Mom was disappointed, yet we also knew that she loved us … and would always love us.
This attitude helped young children grow into responsible adults. God willing, we will continue to use her wisdom in raising our children and grandchildren.
My siblings and I often tease each other … “Mom loves me best!” … that was easy to do, as we knew Mom’s love was equal and plentiful. Her favorite was whomever she was with at any given moment.
- Rita was the grandmother of ten grandchildren. All of them are here today, to salute their Grandmom … as she ascends to Heaven.
- Rita was the great-grandmother of two boys. The youngest, Max, at three and a half months, never had a chance to meet his great-Grandmom in person. I suspect that both Max and Vincent will both be greatly influenced by the life of Rita Weber … as stories and life lessons are explained to them.
- Rita was the loving sister and friend to her three brothers and eight sisters.
As the oldest daughter of this large Irish-Catholic family, living in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom Philadelphia row house, she frequently was asked to help in the care of her younger siblings. That help continued every year of her life … long after her brothers and sisters had grown.
Little known to many in this room is the fact that Rita lost a brother and two sisters … all three of whom were under the age of three years when they died. As a little boy, Mom explained their deaths to me as part of God’s plan. And today, I accept Mom’s death as part of God’s plan.
As a schoolgirl, Rita almost died of pneumonia; she spent a year in bed. Fortunately, God spared her … God had a plan for her. Looking back on her life, I would say Mom completed God’s plan.
Therefore, today is a celebration of a Philadelphia schoolgirl named Rita, who did not die of pneumonia, but instead lived a full, complete life, and shaped many hearts and souls along the way.
- Rita was a loving and generous aunt to thirty-some nieces and nephews, all of whom are at least thirty-something years old … at least the younger ones. Many of these nieces and nephews were touched by Rita’s influence.
Rita generously took in her sister’s children, for days or even weeks in times of need.
These same nieces and nephews ate the food she prepared during a Memorial Day picnic, or spent a vacation at the Pocono mountain house.
I grew up loving and respecting all of my aunts and uncles. And I know in my heart, my cousins grew up loving and respecting their Aunt Rita.
- Rita was a devoted member of the Legion of Mary for exactly one million years. The fact that she squeezed those into forty-plus years is a tribute to her devotion.
She regularly prayed the rosary, visited the sick of the parish, welcomed new parish members, and helped at school.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was a guiding influence in my mother’s life.
My mother had many dear friends in the Legion of Mary … and the energy and devotion that she brought to the Legion will be missed.
- Rita was a devoted member of the Light of the World Charismatic Prayer Group.
On just about every Wednesday night for the past twenty-two years, Rita and the world’s greatest accordion player [my father], would join their many friends in prayer and praise at Nativity of Our Lord Church.
The members of the Prayer Group knew Rita as a steady, caring person … unshakable in her faith … and maybe some of the newer members considered her the accordionist’s greatest groupie.
- Rita had a variety of other roles and interests …
Rita served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War …
She was a Cub Scout den mother.
Rita was a caring sister-in-law …
And she worked as a volunteer in this parish’s school library.
Rita was an inspiring mother-in-law …
She volunteered at the Southampton Youth Center snack stand while we kids played on the various sports teams.
Rita was a godmother many times – a role that she took very seriously.
Rita participated in the Food for Friends – a group that brought meals to the elderly of this community.
Rita was a devoted mother-in-law, selflessly caring for my father’s mother, my grandmother, in her twilight years …
Rita loved to read.
Rita had a talent and love for sewing and quilting …
She made many of my brothers’ and sisters’ clothing when we were young.
And just earlier this year she made the beautiful drapes that now hang in the family living room.
Rita enjoyed doing the newspaper’s daily cryptogram.
When skipper Jack took the family boating, it was Rita who made and packaged the sandwiches, the apples and oranges, the sodas.
As builder Jack constructed the mountain house, it was Rita who managed the finances, the mess hall, and the variety of logistics necessary to send a family to work.
She was committed to supporting Jack. Jack would dream up all kinds of projects … but it was Rita who would provide the support and resources that allowed those dreams to become a reality. They were a good team.
Less than nine months ago, many of us gathered in this very church as Rita and Jack renewed their wedding vows … fifty years after they first took those vows. Those vows were taken very seriously. Rita was committed to her marriage and blessed with a good life. We are all blessed to have known her.
If you knew that you only had two months to live, wouldn’t you love to go on an exotic vacation with your loving spouse?
- Exactly fifty-nine days ago today, Rita and Jack flew from California to Hawaii. They toured Pearl Harbor, visited the War Memorials and National Cemetery, walked on Waikiki Beach at the foot of Diamond Head, they swam in the Pacific Ocean, toured the islands of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii by foot, car, helicopter and small plane. They ate roasted pig that was cooked in a fire pit at a beach luau.
- Forty-eight days ago, they left Hawaii.
- Thirty-nine days ago, Rita visited the doctor and first learned of the seriousness of her illness.
- Three days ago, God called Rita home.
I believe in a merciful God.
In the last weeks of Rita’s life, she said that she wasn’t afraid to die … only a little scared of the process.
In passing, she said she would be reunited with all her friends and family who went before her. She would sing, dance, and praise the Lord all the time … and she would wait for Jack in heaven.
Rita had a favorite song that was frequently sung with the Prayer Group … This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Thank you, God, for giving us Rita … and for giving my mother a wonderful life. Amen.
Editor’s Note: The formatting has been edited from the original printed version. My original digital copy was not found. Some grammatical and sentence structure changes were made for improved readability. The content and descriptive language has been left almost entirely the same as the original.
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Steve Weber is a Forrest Gump tribute artist, speaker, event maker, blogger, and aspiring author. He uses the simple, yet powerful, truths of Forrest Gump to turn meetings into events. You can learn more at SpeakingGump.com.