It was 8 years ago tonight that my mother passed away in her home in Toms River, New Jersey. I usually spend a fair amount of time on this day and her birthday (February 18th) reflecting on her life as I knew it; some through stories passed down, and much through observations in my lifetime.
Growing up through the depression years, money was tight, grandpa was a drunk and never around, and grandma was severely diabetic, an amputee, and virtually blind. As such, mom had to leave school with a 5th grade education to help take care of things in the house, and soon after, to begin working. I don't know much more about her early years other than she worked in a crayon factory.
By the time she met my father, her oldest sister was married to my father's uncle. I don't have a clue how that came to be. I presume however that the relationship between my aunt and my dad's uncle was the catalyst in my mom and dad meeting. At the age of 30, my mother married in December (10th) of 1955. This event finally led to happier, safer, better times for my mother.
My older brother came along in March of 1959 and all was cheerful in the basement apartment of my Aunt Josie (mom's sister) and my Uncle Carmine's house at 2016 East 28th Street in Brooklyn, New York. Soon after, mother went through a period where three babies were conceived but didn't survive the pregnancy. I don't know the details but as an adult, can scratch the surface of the emotional and physical pain this must have caused her. Finally, in December of 1964, yours truly, in a rush as usual was born into the world after an abbreviated, 8 month pregnancy. Fifteen months later in March of 1966, my sister was born completing our immediate family.
The joys of motherhood to the three of us was complicated by the onset of illness during and after the birth of my sister. Fast forward to some point later, mother was diagnosed with diabetes; which over the last 30 or so years of her life, would slowly degrade her quality of life and eventually, take it from her.
To this point, I've painted a fairly bleak picture highlighting many negative points about my mother's life. I do this only because to those who knew my mother and were touched by her goodness - it only shows the magnitude of whatever it is that drove her to do what she did and be who she was despite all the pain and suffering she endured.
Carmela "Millie" DeBella Daniele was a remarkable woman despite her flaws, her lack of education, and the pain and suffering she endured. She had the undying love and support of my father whose death a couple of years prior to hers turned her life upside down and slowly became the reason, in my opinion, for her own will to live to dissipate. Spending more than half of the last two years of her life in hospitals, my mother somehow still found the strength to ensure that her grandchildren got enough of her love in that time to carry them through their young lives and into their adulthood.
The last day of her life, as I have heard it by those who were there, was one that I can only interpret as a reward by God for the life she lived here on earth. There was a birthday party for my cousin Christine that she attended under the condition that she be home by a very specific time. My cousin Janice (Christine's mother) was living with my mom and helping to care for her at the time and dutifully delivered my mom back to her home at the requested time. My mother soon after called my sister to check in on her "baby" and two of her grandchildren and told my sister of how she treated herself at my cousin's birthday party by having not only a slice of pizza, but also some ice cream. Shortly after the phone call, my mother, my cousin Janice, and Janice's boyfriend Michael were sitting in the living room when my mom excused herself to go into the kitchen. Moments later a loud sound brought Janice and Michael to the kitchen, where they found my mother on the floor, she was dead.
I firmly believe with all my heart that God let my mother know that her time was up as a gift for the life that she lived. I also firmly believe she orchestrated the last few hours of her life the best way that she knew how. I type these last words with tear filled eyes remembering my mom through the thirty one plus years of my lifetime.
Mom, if somehow there's an Internet cafe in the streets of heaven and by some chance you stumble across this bog and read this post...I'm sorry about the curse words, I miss you, and I Love You.