Marie Bilodeau

Marie Bilodeau

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Eulogy for my Mom, Marie Bilodeau

We all thought my Mom, with her diseased legs, was limping through life. We were wrong. The entire time she was actually running to heaven.

Before I delve into the last several months of her life, I'd like to tell you a story about my Mom. Some of you may have heard me tell this story in a different context. Stories like this help me to view suffering and pain in this world for what they really are: gifts from God meant to bring us closer to Him.

Many of you know that my Mom was sick for a long, long time. During this time (decades ago) her leg, which was just amputated, was a candidate for bypass surgery. When my parents were weighing whether or not to undergo the surgery, the Blessed Virgin Mary (After whom she was named and with whom she was very close in her devotion) appeared to her in a dream and sprinkled rose petals on that leg. For one reason or another, surgery on that leg did not occur. My Mother talked to me about this dream very often. And now that she has died, I finally understand this dream's meaning. Mary did not sprinkle rose petals on her leg to signify healing or even necessarily to console her at the time. Rather Mary was signaling to her that this leg would be her final source of suffering and therefore redemption, as it would be the cause of her passing from this world to the next.

This dream and its underlying reality has in many ways defined my life, helping me never to lose faith during trials because I understand that this life and its difficulties are actually gifts from a loving God meant to sanctify us.

Now. I would like to discuss very briefly my Mom's life through the lens of how she lived during the last month because I think her choices during that time serve as a microcosm of her entire life.

Just a few highlights:
  1. She could have but chose not to put off the surgery a few weeks out of concern for Christie's nursing school schedule. 
  2. When she woke up from surgery ten days ago, her first question was, "where are my kids?"
  3. At the hospital each day, she would put aside food from her tray for one of us to eat.
  4. She was able to hop on one leg and with a walker over to her chair just a day after surgery.
  5. The morning of her death, she was successfully resuscitated after she "coded blue" and her heart stopped.
  6. She waited to go home to God until we told her "you can go home to God now," in response to which she raised her arm, opened her eyes and looked intently at us before leaving us forever.
 What do these accounts show us?
  1. She cared only about her kids and not herself.
  2. She sacrificed everything for them.
  3. She was resilient and persevered in spite of all odds.
  4. She fought with everything she had until the last minute.
  5. She only left us when she knew for sure, based on our reassurance, that she could go home to God.
What a beautiful legacy.

You should know that amidst the pain felt by my Mom's immediate family, we have nonetheless received some beautiful reassurances of her being with God.
  1. After choosing a casket lining with three birds flying one way (her children) and another bird flying another way (my Mom back to heaven), songs about bluebirds keep appearing on the radio. And a bird flew up to my family in the airport the other day and looked at us. Clearly she's telling us she's in heaven no longer hobbling along but is rather flying.
  2. When she died almost immediately my sister received a phone call. Her ringtone is "I Feel Good" by James Brown. It was a comical moment and one that puts things in perspective. I knew immediately ... she was telling us in a funny way that "She feels good because she is finally out of her broken down body."
Surely God has granted her, who loved Him so selflessly, extra graces and gifts of peace to dole out to us at this difficult time.

Beautiful days were also given to us in the hospital following the surgery, which was successful, during which she was optimistic and happy; giving us wisdom; and, as always, unsolicited advice.

God also paved a peaceful road en route to her death over the last month. I was living in Washington DC, and moved home 5 weeks ago because I had a feeling in my gut that my Mom did not have much time left. The last month spent with my Mother was the most special time we have ever shared. During this time she was also able to talk to and visit with family members that she had not seen in years. That was such a source of joy and peace to her. Thank you to everyone near and far who made the last month of her life a joyful time, which she of all people enjoyed.

You know ... Not everyone here knows just how difficult daily life was for my Mom over the last 30 years, or how much she sacrificed. Imagine losing your husband before your 50th birthday. Imagine being in pain all day every day. Imagine the fear that comes from knowing your health is bad enough that you could die at any time. Imagine having to live on oxygen and going to dialysis three times a week. Imagine being disabled for decades and living on SSI and still volunteering each week to run your parish food pantry.

What do I make of all of this?
  1. I think that she was the greatest example of Christ to me I have ever encountered. She was that suffering servant we read about in Isaiah whose suffering she united with Christ's for the benefit of her children. During her suffering, she always reminded us about how she prayed to God decades ago following the onset of her illness. She asked God to let her stay alive long enough to take care of her children, even if it meant suffering the entire time.
  2. Secondly, she was also the widow who gave her last two coins. As poor as anyone she served, she went each week to run our parish food pantry (even with an oxygen tank and even on days she had dialysis).
And you wouldn't know the cross she carried  because she never spoke of her burdens. She gave from her poverty. In her poverty she was the richest of us all because she was filled with God's love. As a result my Mom was able to be joyful throughout her illness.

Now. I'm not going to say that my Mom is better than your Mom. But you can draw your own conclusions. In all seriousness, I want everyone here to think about the example my Mom gave and try to incorporate it into your life. Isn't that why we as Catholics are so enthralled with tales of the saints who exuded heroic virtue, and so passionate about the Communion of Saints? My Mom taught us to:
  1. Embrace suffering as a gift from God
  2. Offer up that suffering for your loved ones
  3. Be resilient and persevere against seemingly impossible odds
  4. Rely upon and trust in God's grace. Because she trusted God and loved her children, My Mom survived 2 heart attacks, life support and intubation, leg bypass surgery, an 8 hour major lung surgery, a code blue in which her heart stopped, and an amputation surgery. I tweaked my wrist a couple of weeks ago and complained about it. In only the way my Mom could, by the way, she said pretty forcefully "get over it!"
  5. Make God and your family the most important thing in your life
I was truly blessed to have two parents, my father who lived until age 43, and my mother who lived until age 61, who were so devoted to their children. My Mom's individual letters to me and to my siblings, which she wrote before surgery in the event she did not survive, were a testimony to that. My Mom (who was so proud of us) suffered for so long, and she knew ... because I often told her ... that her suffering was actually a gift from God. In her letter she wrote that my telling her that always gave her consolation.

Christie and Heather, my sisters, I will always be here for you. Thank you so much to my family here present and afar who love and support us so much. To my best friend Damien, who stayed with us in the ICU the entire night of my Mom's death, I love you like a brother and am so grateful for that gift.

One day, I hope to be able to say, like my Mother could, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." I know for sure that my Mom is in the Kingdom, with the Good Lord who loves her so much and welcomed her by saying "Well done, my good and faithful servant ... Come, share your master’s joy."

Mom you are my hero. And I love you.


You can read the obituary for Marie Bilodeau here