My Mom passed away today. She was 83.
Honestly, I’ve never really much liked the euphemism “passed away.”
Now I’ve changed my mind.
The idiom is particularly appropriate for people in hospice care, where Mom had been for nine days.
Hospice care is geared to help people – both the ill and their families – prepare for and face death. As Mom prepared, she definitely “passed” through a number of phases.
And so did my six siblings, siblings-in-laws and I, in preparing for her passing.
So yes, she passed away. And though I already miss her greatly, I was well prepared for it.
Now, a few words about Jeanne Marie Malloy O’Neil.
She was born around Christmas Day in 1930, the last of nine children born to Charles and Irene Malloy in Pittsburgh.
Her brother Francis would tease her at Christmas by gifting her with a right foot slipper on Christmas and a left slipper on Dec. 28 for her birthday gift.
She had great stories and memories of her dad, a well-known pharmacist on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh who died when she was 14. Charlie Malloy put at least six men through medical school or pharmacy school. He was much loved. And so was his youngest daughter.
Her dad also made sure Mom got a college education, as he felt women also should be educated to succeed in life. She was one of a handful of women in business school when she graduated from Duquesne University.
Jeanne married Jack O’Neil in 1952, and immediately set out to build a family. She had seven children in 14 years. The oldest is a girl. The other six are boys. I am the oldest boy.
Mom also started working for TWA in 1965 when my alcoholic father proved to be having a hard time holding a job. She had six children at the time, so she taught my sister and I how to cook for and take care of my siblings.
Mom was very wise and pragmatic that way. And she often bragged that even though she had seven children, every one of us had good jobs, married well and were excellent parents.
We learned all that from our mother.
Mom worked full-time for TWA for 30-plus years. She moved to Chicago when TWA closed the Pittsburgh office. I was already living in Chicago at the time, so I was very happy.
When she finally retired at 67, she didn’t stop. She lived with my sister and brother at various times to help them out. She finally settled into a small apartment in Boys Town, where she spent the day watching the news and ESPN.
And boy, did she love her sports.
She loved the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pirates. The Penguins. Roberto Clemente. She told stories about going to Forbes Field on Ladies Day in her youth, hoping to catch the attention of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner.
She was so pleased when the Pirates finally made the playoffs last year after 22 years. When I took her to Wrigley and the Pirates weren’t doing so well, some drunken fools would razz her, about how the Pirates sucked.
She just smiled and said: “I watched the Pirates win three World Series in my lifetime. How many have the Cubs won in yours?”
That shut them up.
And there’s even a CTA connection with Mom.
She never learned to drive, and always took the CTA nearly every day she lived in Chicago. Some of my best CTA Tattler stories were from her.
Now she’s on public transit somewhere, heading to her next stop.
I hope there are no slow zones.
Rest in peace, Mom.
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