A Toast To Mom: 6/20/1959 – 2/28/2010

Last night something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen for a very long time.  It wasn’t supposed to happen until I was old, until she was old, and until she had been there for all of the important events in my life.  She was supposed to be there when I graduated with my associates degree in June, she was supposed to be there to listen to me talk for hours about the excitement of speaking at Jamboree, she was supposed to be there when I got my teaching credential, when I got married and complain about how girly and traditional I am and how I should just elope in Vegas and save the money for a house, she was supposed to be there to walk me through having my kids, to be there when I call her at 1 in the morning crying because my baby won’t sleep.  After all of that she was supposed to go.

She wasn’t supposed to leave before that.  She wasn’t supposed to make me go through this.  I am only 20 and far too young to be without a mother.  I should be studying for exams and pondering whether or not I could afford a study abroad trip.  I should not be getting ready to plan a funeral.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Not now.

My mom was a very smart lady.  She loved to read nearly everything she could get her hands on, especially if it was history related. When I was a kid she always pushed me to love learning.  We watched History Channel and A&E on Saturday mornings because she always wanted me to think.  She never allowed me to accept what other people said at face value but to instead think it through and create my own opinion.  Once I was a teenager we got into a lot of political debates.  We talked a lot about philosophy and religion.  We talked a lot about world events and discussed how we could help.

She was also an adventurous spirit and a self proclaimed rule breaker.  I was the complete opposite as a cautious child who always followed the rules and it drove her crazy.  When my parents split up when I was 7, Mom and I drove to Seattle to live with my aunt and cousin.  She named us the Intrepid Explorers and we used to say that to each other all the time.  I remember when we drove past Mount Shasta and how big it looked.  It was beautiful with all of the snow and we just kept screaming “WHOA!” at each other.

One time while we were visiting my cousin at Lake Martha, Washington she dared me to swim across the lake.  When I didn’t take her up on the offer, she told me we were going to.  I complained the entire time as I dressed into my bathing suit and followed her down to the dock.  I tried crying but she wasn’t having any of it.  She kept telling me that I could do it, that she knew I could do it and that it would be a character building experience.  We got in the lake and began swimming.  I complained a lot along the way but she kept pushing me to keep swimming.  When I got tired we would just float and relax a bit.  But I did it – I swam all the way across the lake and was exhausted.  I was maybe 9.  And even though afterwards I was so mad that she made me do it, I understand now that it was to teach me that I could do anything I wanted to, no matter how impossible it seemed, if I just put my mind to it.

She also had a great sense of humor.  She was so quick witted and funny and could throw a joke out incredibly fast.  Her jokes were side breaking and we would roll on the ground laughing with tears in our eyes.

What really gets me with all of this is that yesterday started off as such an ordinary day.  But all of a sudden things turned for the worse and everything changed in a matter of hours.  I knew she was sick but things just went downhill so fast.

My mom was an alcoholic for the second half of my life.  It was one of the reasons that our relationship was strained.  She started showing signs of liver disease last September.  But she didn’t listen and ignored all of the warnings.  She went back to the hospital in January and nearly died.  But she pulled through (stubborn and feisty as she is).  She then talked of getting sober and my dad and I took care of her.

But when she went into the hospital this time by paramedics, even though I knew that her chances we slim, I really thought that her stubbornness would somehow make her pull through again.  But it didn’t work this time.  I still can’t believe how downhill everything went.  I can’t believe how fast everything happened.  In literally six hours she went from regular living and talking to 911 being called to her passing away.  I truly can’t believe how fast everything happened.  I really never expected something so quick.

So in the coming days and weeks my dad and I will be embarking on a new chapter of our lives.  We’ll be planning memorial service arrangements (I never thought this would be happening to me at 20).

I want to thank everyone for their continued love and support that has been expressed to me.  You guys really do mean the world to me and I am so blessed to have such supportive, caring, and loving people in my life.  “Thank You” doesn’t even come close to expressing the appreciation that I have for you guys.  Please keep the prayers coming because it is going to be a very long and difficult journey.

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47 responses to “A Toast To Mom: 6/20/1959 – 2/28/2010

  1. Polly Kimmitt

    Dear Elyse,
    I’m so very sorry for your untimely loss. What a poignant memorial to your mother you have written. She sounds like a feisty woman who only had your best interests at heart. Her memory will accompany you throughout your life and she will be with you through all of the things you mention. I often think of my mother when my kids reach a milestone or even if I do. I know she would have been so happy to see how life is turning out for her children and grandchildren. I’m sure you’ll make it through this, just as you made it across the lake. I’m sending prayers your way.
    Polly Kimmitt

  2. Dear Elyse,

    I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. She has prepared you well for life and that is a gift you will always cherish.

    When I was 21, I lost my father – we really don’t expect to lose our parents at such a young age but somehow we go on and become the people built stronger through hard times as well as good times.

    Hugs to you!


  3. No words suffice, consider yourself sufficiently hugged by all your GeneaBlogger friends.
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..91st Carnival of Genealogy, A Tribute to Women! The Biography =-.

  4. Hi Elyse,
    You write beautifully, as always. I remember in high school when we would always tell each other, “You know, you should write a book. I would totally buy it.” I still think you should, but later on in your life, of course.

    My heart goes out to your mother and do your family. I had only met her a few times when we bumped into each other at CVS or at your 16th birthday party. Your mom was very funny and always did seem very smart. I admire her for that.

    I’m deeply sorry for what has happened and even though we don’t see each other as often as I would like to, I want you to know my heart goes out to you and if you ever need anything, you know where to find me :).

    I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again, you are one of the strongest people I have ever met. You may not feel like it right now but you are.

    I’ll stop rambling now.

    P.S. Take all the time you need to recover, death is never an easy thing to accept. All your loved ones will be right here waiting when you’re feeling up to par as much as you possibly can.

  5. Beautiful tribute to your mother Elyse. My heart goes out to you.
    When the comments were turned off and I couldn’t reply to your post, I wrote a post at my blog…Please, if there is anything I can do, just let me know!


    May she rest in peace.

  6. Elyse,

    My most sincere condolences. Losing a parent is NEVER easy, I lost my Dad three and a half years ago, when I was 61, and it still hurts. Hang in there girl, you are strong and will weather the pain of your loss. Remember, your mom will always be looking after you as long as you live, and appreciated your help these past few months.

  7. Elyse, what a beautiful toast to your mother. I lost my father “early” as well (I was 27 years old). It really did sting, but I realized that sometimes all of those supposed to’s are really in our head and made up. Perhaps she was already here for all of the supposed to’s that she was to be here for. She gave you a lot and you to her. I am sure she was very proud of the time you did have together. I have realized over the past 17 years since my dad died, that our relationship continues, it’s just changed a bit. He was the lover of genealogy and handed me tons of stuff that sparked my interest. He is here with me as I work on this stuff. I think of him often and get little “visits” from him from time to time.

    Your mom is still here, you just have to listen for her and listen differently than before.

    I am sorry for your loss and know you will make it through, and (as I did) grow as a result.

    Best to you.


  8. Elyse, this is a wonderful tribute! I too lost my Mom at way too young an age, only 63, from liver cancer. While I am glad that she is no longer in pain, I miss her every day. You will get through this, and one day you will be able to think of your mom with a happy smile. She sounds like a very unique lady!
    .-= Ruth Stephens´s last blog ..Amanuensis Monday: James A Matthews plea =-.

  9. Elyse,

    I can’t begin to put into words how sorry I am for your loss. My daughter is a year or 2 younger than you and I am your mother’s age. I can’t even imagine going through what you are going through. My heart is breaking for you.
    .-= Michelle Goodrum´s last blog ..Geneabloggers Winter Games final status =-.

  10. Words cannot say how sorry I am for your loss. I’m amazed that you could write such a beautiful tribute to your mom at this time. But good for you…it will be something you cherish all your life, that and the memories. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time.

  11. Your eloquent words brought back memories of how I, too, felt when my own mother died far too young and far too suddenly. My thoughts are with you, Elyse.
    .-= Stephen J. Danko´s last blog ..The Birth and Baptism of Józefa Eleonora Chodkowska – 1834 =-.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. You’ve done a lovely job of honoring your mother. It’s truly difficult to put such things in words so soon after such a lose. Keep those wonderful memories close and your mother will remain with you throughout your life.

  13. Chuck Courtwright

    I’m very sorry read of your loss Elyse. I will be praying for you and your father.

  14. I am so very sorry for your loss, Elyse.
    .-= Terri ´s last blog ..Simon Peter Sumner – O Ye of Little Documentation =-.

  15. You have a great strength. I do not know i I could have written such a moving tribute when I was your age. My mother died in 1995 and I miss her still, guess it will always be like that….
    .-= Claudia´s last blog ..SMALL MYSTERY =-.

  16. What a beautiful testimony to your Mom… and to the young woman she birthed. Keep telling the stories of good times and bad. They are the sacred memories that carry us forward and help us know more deeply who we are. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Elyse,
    .-= Bart Brenner (GeneaPopPop)´s last blog ..New Page: Fireplace Mantle =-.

  17. Oh Elyse,

    I don’t know what to say. Sorry seems just the wrong word to use.

    Your words are an amazing tribute to her and I am sure she has read it and is giving you a hug.

    I lost my dad suddenly back in May last year. And i still think i am in shock.

    Don’t rush yourself, take your time (take time to think ‘what would my mum would say to me’). Just don’t hesitate to use one simple word – help.

    This is when you need your family friends. They can help you with everything, just ask them

    You know where we are if you need us


  18. Elyse – I am profoundly sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my Dad when I was 18 and we, too, had a difficult relationship due to alcoholism. Nevertheless, I can now see all the positive things he contributed to my life. You have the mature perspective of a person far older than 20, and you are the living testament to all that was wonderful about your mother. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  19. Michael Auger


    Even though I just discovered your blog last week – you have already inspired me twice. The first time was as I searched for solutions to organize my mountains of files and your very helpful videos and e-book showed me the way towards genealogical sanity. The second time is obviously today as I witness your incredible strength in the wake of your mother’s untimely passing. You & your Dad are in my thoughts.


  20. Dear Elyse
    You are wise beyond your years. Clearly your mother has prepared you well and she will most definitely live on in you. I commend you for talking openly about her alcoholism, it is often hidden in families and continues to live on in future genearations because we fail recognize it openly. You are a brave young women. You have my thoughts and prayers.
    .-= Lynn Palermo´s last blog ..Monday Madness: My Love Hate Relationship with the Microfilm Reader? =-.

  21. I’m very saddened by the sudden loss of your dear mother. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to her. You can be proud that she helped you become the strong and capable young woman you are. You and your family will definitely be in my prayers today and for a long time to come. Blessings to you, Elyse!
    .-= Becky Jamison´s last blog ..Phyllis Margheim: Gone 13 Years =-.

  22. My heart aches for you. You are to young to loose your mother. I’m sure her spirit will follow you through those important milestones ahead of you. I pray you will be able to feel her presence when your heart needs it. She’s not really gone, just in another place. You are in my prayers.

  23. Elsye,

    I am very sorry for your loss. I won’t try to pretend I know how you feel. But know this: 1) One day you will be reunited with her. 2) Her spirit lives on inside of you, with all those beautiful memories and anecdotes you shared 3) Without even knowing her, I can guarantee you she is beaming ear to ear, while reading your post in her honor.

    All I can offer you are prayers and this scripture:
    Matthew 5:4
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

    -A. CAIN

  24. I am so very sorry for your loss. It is never easy to lose a parent but it is heart wrenching that you have lost your mother so young.

  25. Elyse,

    So sorry for your loss.
    May your Mom, finally find the rest and peace she searched for.

    Stay strong, young one!
    .-= George Geder´s last blog ..Family Tree Maker 2010; Does it Handle the Non Traditional Family? =-.

  26. Oh, Elyse, I am so sorry. You have written a beautiful tribute. What a difficult time for you, and I can say I know what you are experiencing. Have faith, and keep the wonderful memories you have shared with us, and be sure to share them with your children, when the day comes and they want to know about their grandma. You will have many treasures to share with them.

    Peace and healing.
    .-= Karen Packard Rhodes´s last blog ..The Games are Over =-.

  27. Elyse, you have my deepest sympathy. My heart goes out to you at this very difficult time in your young life. Your tribute was lovely. Your mother would be so proud that your memories of the life events you shared are so poignant and meaningful.God bless you and yours.
    .-= Jasia´s last blog ..Woo Hoo! Yippee! Yahoo! Hooray! =-.

  28. So sorry to hear of your loss. I couldn’t possibly understand how you feel at the moment, but I’m sure your mom is at peace and smiling down on you. She will never leave you. I’m also sure that she will come to you in your dreams – I dreamt of my dead grandfather soon after his death, and it was such a lovely, warm, wonderful and reassuring feeling to know that he was still ‘around’.

    From a fellow young genealogist (I’m 22)

    Take care x

  29. Elyse, I am so incredibly sorry to hear about your Mom passing. You are right, you are far too young to be going through this and I wish there was something I could do to make it better.

    Your tribute to her is so touching – you are such an excellent writer. Your future children will love having being able to access their grandmother through your words.

    You and your father are both in my prayers.

  30. Elyse, so sorry to hear of your loss. Your tribute to your mother is lovely. Take care and know the geneablogger world is thinking of you.
    .-= Joan Miller´s last blog ..Quebec: Eastern Townships Resources =-.

  31. Elyse,
    What a wonderful tribute to your mother. You have great memories of your mother to cherish. I will keep you in my prayers!

  32. Elyse: So sorry for you loss. I can’t even imagine losing my mother at that age. You wrote a beautiful tribute to her. I’m sure your mother was always very proud of you.
    .-= Tennlady´s last blog ..A Zabrack Follow-up. =-.

  33. Elyse,

    I am so sorry for your loss. My mom passed away this past September, so I can truely identify with your pain. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. You are stronger than you know.

    .-= Sandra Taliaferro´s last blog ..A Call To Action For African American Researchers =-.

  34. I’m sorry for your loss. I know my grandfather had to do through a similar thing when he was 20 years old in Navy training in 1941 and his mother died suddenly. He had to scrape together enough money to travel back to Milwaukee from Pensacola, Florida.

    Hang in there. The geneablogger community is here if you need anything.

  35. Elyse,

    My condolences. Your mother’s gift to you was the ultimate – LIFE.
    Already your grief is supported by so many based on the number of comments here! My prayers are with you.


  36. Elyse,

    My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to you and your family in your time of sorrow.

    .-= Al Wierzba´s last blog ..Baptism of Jan Nowak (1865) =-.

  37. I’m so sorry, Elyse. Thinking of you. ~ Daphne
    .-= Daphne Garrison´s last blog ..Goals and getting my **** together =-.

  38. Elyse – At first reading your post I wanted to enfold you in my arms, like a mother would. That’s before I recognized the astounding wisdom in your post. I know what a family alcoholic can put you through. For you to be able to see, so soon, the the strength in your mother, and how she made you who you are, in spite of all of the uglies that must have been there at the end of your life, is nothing short of astounding. I see also see the signs in you, that were certainly in me at your age — don’t be too grown up, don’t take care of too many people, allow yourself to be carefree. And, now that you are mourning the lost of your mother, take tender care of yourself. The best to you! Peggy

  39. Elyse- Your post about your mother would make her very proud. As a mother myself, I know that she was so happy to see what a strong and caring person you became. She will always be with you. I lost my brother two weeks ago and am still taking time to absorb it and think of the good times we shared. It was even a question for me if I would talk about the loss on my own blog. But when I did, I received comments that helped me. I think my sharing my feeling also helped others. Your post was especially thoughtful and well-expressed. Hugs to you, Nancy

  40. Ann Carrington

    Elyse-My deepest condolences to you on the loss of your mother. My own mother died when she was only 56……and I still cannot face it……even though my father remarried and has since died also. My step-mother is still alive (although I do not communicate with her). I am really amazed that I did not die at the age of 56 but have lived longer than that! You certainly wrote well of your Mother so that is something you can look back on and share with your children. Be happy for them! They will recall you as you recall your own mother! Thinking of you, Ann

  41. Elyse,
    I am so sorry about the loss of your mother. You and your family are in my thoughts.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Can You Document 10 Generations? =-.

  42. Elyse,

    I don’t know if you remember me but my sister Lisa always considered your Mother her best friend. They have memories of growing up together mainly at your Grandparents home on Pearl St. in Santa Monica. Your Grandparents were so close to our family that my mother Nana aka Janet Gallagher asked Grandma D. to watch her three children when she gave birth to ME! Mary Gallagher Ortega.
    I had the pleasure of meeting you at my Parents home on Pearl Street about two years ago. Your Mom attended my wedding and Uncle Larry even sang at my wedding. After that somehow our lives got busy raising kids and we put most our friendships on hold.
    Our hearts were always thinking of your Mom and wondering where she was and how she was doing. Thank God approx. two years ago she came out to Lisa’s in Rancho Mirage to meet up with her old G/F’s from grammar school and I had the pleasure of reuniting with her. I was so excited that I even went to the fwy. exit Gas station to be able to see her first. I am 5 1/2 yrs. younger then Lisa and Your Mom and I always looked up to them both. Your Dear Mother Sharon was such a bright light in our lives. We never had a dull time when we got together.
    I loved her laugh and smile and just being in her presence. She will be greatly
    missed by myself and the entire Gallagher Family. We send our deep love we have for your Mom on to you and Prayers of strength during this very difficult time. Know that you can call us Gallagher’s to talk in time of need.
    Much love and Prayers, Mary Gallagher and the entire Gallagher Family

  43. Elyse,
    What a gift it was to have known your mother, Sharon since we were in the playpen together. She was truely a lifelong friend. Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind. She was a constant memory to me. Pass words “Who is your best friend”, SHARON. Everything from going all thru school together (even Catholic) were great memories. The silly things from standing up to answer a question, which the other classmates would laugh at us to running away from home and going a block away to eachothers homes. (Parents would always call, because they knew where we were) Your mother was amazed at the life she brought into the world, so proud. She was a beautiful, caring woman and will be missed. God bless you and yours! Lisa

  44. Mary is sending Jesus from Hawthorne, CA. to you Elyse,





    When He gets to your PC, escort Him to the next stop. Please don’t allow Him to sleep on your PC. The message He is carrying is very important and needs to go around. I asked him to bless you and yours with peace, happiness and abundance.

    Say a prayer, and then pass Him on to bless others as I sent Him on to bless you. Our assignment is to spread love, respect and kindness throughout the world.

    Have a blessed day and touch somebody’s life today as hopefully I have touched your life. He’s walking around the world via e-mail!! Please pass it on so He can get there….
    Be sure and put your town in the subject box to let others know where he is leaving from.

  45. I know this is a tad late but wanted you to know that I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. Prayers are going up for you and your family.

  46. DeeDee Snyder Hunkapillar

    When your mother was a teenager she was one of my best friends. We laughed, skipped school, talked on the phone about boys and clothes and Friday nights. We spent lazy summer days at the beach. She was a great friend. She had a great laugh. Your writing was beautiful, and you truly honored her. I knew her a long time ago, but I’m going to miss her. I got the chance to see her a few years ago at Lisa G’s house in Palm Springs. We debated the competencies of George W. Bush while grocery shopping; I’m from Texas, and I had fun defending ol George because he was not her favorite person and her passion was so sincere. Her wit and ability to communicate her feelings and thoughts made for excellent conversation. Sharon talked about you too. She said you were the best part of her life, I could tell how much she loved you, she was so proud of you. My thoughts and prayers go out to you. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I enjoyed the time I spent with her. I will miss her, I’m so sad she is gone.
    DeeDee Snyder Hunkapillar

  47. What a shocking thing to happen! I know I’m a bit late, but I am so full of admiration for you being able to write this so soon after the event that I had to let you know. No one can fill your mother’s place, but we are all with you whenever you need us.
    .-= Carole Riley´s last blog ..Doctor Who in an underground vault in Utah =-.

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