In a too short 2 months, my family has lost both our Mom and our Dad. The short answer is that this really sucks, we are shell shocked but there is a much more complicated answer that holds forth as many questions as answers. The next shortest reply I have is that we have been blessed to have Mom and Dad as parents; we have each other and our children and our extended family; and we have a wondrous legacy to carry forth. Yet even so only the continuous of Life will ease their loss. So on that note, tonight I would like to share in memory of our Mom, the remembrance my sister Mary DeMarle gave at our Mom's funeral.
Gertrude Anna Biehler DeMarle
September 20, 1931—October 5, 2013
My mother—Gertrude Anna Biehler DeMarle—was born in Rochester in 1931, in the middle of the Depression. She was the firstborn child and only daughter of John and Gertrude Biehler. In addition to her two younger brothers, John and Lou, she had a big extended family – her mother was one of 16 kids, which meant that, when she was growing up, Mom spent a lot of time with her younger aunts and uncles, the youngest of whom, our Aunt Jeannie, was only 4 years older than she was. Mom loved playing with her aunts and often said the days spent with them were the most enjoyable memories of her childhood.
During the Depression, Mom’s mother—my Grandmother—used to raise parakeets and sell them. My Grandfather made all the cages and Mom would get up really early to feed the birds… clean the cages… do her chores. She loved to read. Mystery stories were her favorites, but she was very picky about the type of mysteries she would read. Mom once told me she didn’t like to read mysteries written by men. I don’t quite remember why.
I wish I could tell you more about her childhood, but the truth is, mom didn’t like to dwell on the past. She lived more often in the moment—possibly because with eight children to corral, she was too busy to do anything else. And she kept us busy, too. My cousin Patti Reese once told me how, during family get-togethers, while many of the other adults would be sitting around and talking with each other, Mom would be at a picnic table with all the kids, organizing some new art project for everyone. She loved children. She loved holding them, and talking to them, and taking care of them. Even after her own children had grown up and moved away, she kept a basketful of toys in the living room, waiting for her grandchildren to visit.
Of course, children weren’t the only ones she loved. She met the love of her life in 1956, while attending a Friday luncheon mass service with the Mass for Peace Catholic youth group. They were married June 16 at St. Charles’ Church here in Greece. Like any couple, they had their moments. They fought. They bickered. They had their stony silences. But their marriage survived the eight of us, several miscarriages, six years of taking care of Grandma during the final years of her life, and finally—in these last few years—a bug bite, strange blood diseases, and a multitude of hospital and doctor’s visits. Through it all, they loved each other with a strength and a grace that was inspiring to see.
But then, Mom was inspiring. She was a survivor. She wasn’t afraid of facing the hard stuff. She fought for the people who mattered to her. I can’t even begin to count how many people there were. My mother had this amazing capacity to invite people into her life and make them a part of her family. Over the years, our family Thanksgivings grew to include friends, relatives, and in-laws, eventually getting so big we often struggled to find a house large enough to hold everyone. Mom believed that people should always come first. If someone had a problem or an illness or just needed a shoulder to cry on, she would be there in a heartbeat – with her tender smile and those loving hands that knew just how tightly to hold on to yours.
Last night, my niece Tegan called Mom an “epicenter for growth and comfort.” I think many of us here today feel that way about her. She has touched so many of our lives, in so many beautiful ways. And right now it may feel as if a truly wonderful gift has been taken from us. But Mom’s greatest gift was the example she set for us… the memories she gave… and the love that lives and breathes in every one of us.
I love you, Mom. Keep smiling.