She Was an Angel in the Shape of My Mom

I have stopped and started writing this post too many times to count. How do you try and put into words what the last few months (four years, really) have been like? I won’t try to capture everything in one post because I plan to share more over time and get back to posting at least two times a week, but it hasn’t felt right to post about fashion, home décor, etc. until I got this post up.

I guess I should take a step back. In case you didn’t know, my mom passed away in December after the most courageous four-year fight against cancer. I never really talked about it on the blog and only alluded to a few complications on Instagram but then started to share more as we got new updates and had all of the conversations you never want to have. It wasn’t my story to share throughout the process, and frankly it’s a lot to process along the way let alone try to find ways to talk about or make sense of it. It feels like just yesterday that I wrote this post and then there we were at the end of last year, trying to survive Christmas without Kevin and my mom.

As a side note, my mom would send me notes early in the morning when a post went live letting me know about any typos so bear with me these first few posts back as I don’t have a proofreader.

I really thought she was going to be the one to beat this ugly and unfair disease. She put up with more than one person should ever have to. I learned more from her than she could ever know, especially during these last four years.

Because everything I’ve typed hasn’t felt quite right, I thought I’d share our part of the eulogy so you can get to know her a bit more. One of my mom’s brothers (she was the youngest of eight – and everyone’s favorite) also spoke. I tweaked some parts as my sister and I switched off talking, but for the sake of this post, I adjusted some of the I and her lines.

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To put things into perspective, we wanted to briefly share what our mom was up against these last four years. During her fight with cancer, there were many bumps along the road. She had a severe allergic reaction at her first round of chemotherapy, and it took some time to find a drug that she responded positively to. Other hurdles along the way included a stroke, radiation, blood clots and more. Having said that, she never let cancer define her, and she very rarely complained. If she did, it was because one of us typically prompted her with an “it just isn’t fair” comment. She managed to infuse her sense of humor at nearly every appointment (we don’t think her neurologist knew what to do with her), and she even wore her high school dance team uniform to chemo on Halloween. Her positive energy was contagious and you could tell that she very quickly became a favorite patient.
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She was and will continue to be our role model. She led by example and taught us more than she’ll ever know.

To start, she taught us to always be prepared.

Leading up to our sixteenth birthday, our mom took it upon herself to ensure we would both pass our drivers test. Either she really didn’t have faith in our driving skills, which would have been completely fair and understandable, or she wanted to ensure we were as prepared as possible. We’ll go with the latter.

While we were at school, she drove to the Teutonia DMV location and followed three different drivers taking their tests….in Big Red, our family’s full size conversion van that didn’t exactly blend in with traffic. She proceeded to draw a map for us and brought us back over the weekend and pointed out where we’d need to parallel park and y-turn.

She did the same for our brother but in West Bend, and we found out just last week that she passed the map onto our family friend for her 16th birthday. Our mom was 4/4 as we all passed on our first attempt.

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She taught us what it meant to be selfless.

She made us flashcards while we were at school so that we could study when we got home, she learned our three hand for Irish dance and practiced with us so we knew what we were doing. She made different versions of our favorite treats because I liked Milky Ways and Allison liked Snickers. She drove hundreds of miles, taking us to dance practice and picking me up in Madison to get my haircut and driving me back to school that same night…

Not only did she take care of us, but she also took care of all of our friends. She prepared separate coolers for our Irish dance friends because we had the better snacks, made lunch for friends working nearby in the summer when we weren’t even home; she always had puppy chow ready for the masses and she shipped our roommates and us packages for every holiday, including St. Patrick’s Day.

She was the most thoughtful person we knew. Even in our last days with her, she spent time worrying about us and how we would cope with losing her. She was selfless until the very end.

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She taught us the importance of having a sense of humor and how to deliver a good one liner.

My mom received several blood transfusions over the last four years, and what we’ve told Father Tim is that she never cursed before those and that she must have received ‘trucker blood.’

Just last week, a friend visited her in hospice and delivered Red Vines. Now if you know the McGraths, you know how much they love their licorice. My sister even brought some to our wedding because it’s a favorite appetizer.

My mom wanted some licorice, and I was being a bit cautious since she hadn’t eaten in about a week and was having trouble swallowing. I broke off a very small sliver and handed it to her. While it was resting in her hand, she looked down and looked at me with quite the side eye. She looked at the piece again and said, “What the eff?”

Father Tim confirmed that we can’t use the F word in church but you get the picture. She was not happy with me but she was making us laugh during her last days.

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Not a day will go by that we won’t miss her, and we know it hurts so much to lose her because of how much we loved her and how much she loved us. We are at peace knowing she is with her favorite child, Kevy (Yes…we all know Kevy is her favorite) and is pain free. We’ll miss you mom, but we’ll stay prepared, care for others as you did and make sure to laugh often.

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I can’t tell you how amazing the Red Vines moment was in person. It was during one of our two really good days with her in hospice. She was delivering one-liners left and right, and we had some very special moments with her.

My mom’s care was truly incredible during the entire four years, and I can’t even begin to thank the team of doctors, nurses and more that cared for her. We are forever grateful for the staff that supported her and us, especially during her last days.

All right, I feel like I’ve rambled on enough already, and if you’ve made it this far, thank you. Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive these past few years and this little corner of the internet has become an amazing community so thank you for all of the continued love and support. Like I said earlier, I’ll be back with more personal posts on the blog but for now, I’ll leave you with just a few things I’ve been thinking a lot about and trying to be more mindful of this year.

Embrace the little things, the really good little moments that you’ll treasure longer than you think.

Do not sweat the small stuff, especially when you can’t control it. It’s not worth dwelling over something for a whole day instead of living it.

Make the plans and take the vacation days. I repeat, take the vacation days.

Be patient with others. You never know what they’re going through.

**The title of the post is from Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket Flowers, one of the songs we played prior to the funeral.

Wedding photos by June & Jae Photography

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9 Comments

  1. Katie wrote:

    Perfect. ❤️

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  2. Natasha wrote:

    Such a beautiful and heartfelt post…your mama would be so proud. Thinking of you and sending lots of love.

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  3. Lois Powell wrote:

    What an absolutely beautiful post!! Carly, you portrayed Rosie perfectly and showed everyone how much love your family has for each other????????

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  4. Mary Rodgers wrote:

    This is so beautiful, Carly. Your mom sounds sensastional ❤️

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  5. Anne-Marie Papageorge wrote:

    So brave, well done Carly, it’s beautifully written and I’m sure it is an intense labor of love. Always thinking of you, Xoxox ❤️

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  6. Carolyn Ship wrote:

    Holding you and Allison close to my heart, always. You have two very special angels watching over you. <3

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  7. Susie Buchel wrote:

    My Mom also battled cancer. She retired at 80 and died 6 months later. You think she hid it from us! I learned a lot in those 6 months. Your blog is beautiful. It helps you work through it. She will always be with you. It’s been 6 years and on the way to work I heard a song that we both enjoyed…. I was suddenly so overwhelmed that I cried all the way to work. But it was a happy cry. Keep writing, keep feeling ????

    Posted 3.14.18 Reply
  8. Wendy wrote:

    Absolutely beautiful, Carly. Hugs and love…

    Posted 3.15.18 Reply
  9. Alexina wrote:

    Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty, Carly. It was a beautiful and heartfelt post (and I didn’t notice any typos!) and your mom IS so proud of you. I love the little life lessons at the end – we all need a little more Rosie advice on our lives! xoxo

    Posted 3.16.18 Reply

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  • Ainsley got to come to work with me in June for a really fun photoshoot, and in celebration of her birthday week (😉), she’s in the latest Kohler mailer that’s being distributed this week! Swipe to see some of my other favorites and shoutout to my sister who jumped up and down and made crazy noises the entire time. 📷 by the talented team at @kohler
  • I burnt my fingers while making every single party hat tonight (okay that was dramatic because I only made these four), and they fall off the animals’ heads the second you touch them but I don’t care because I love them. My mom was so crafty and would’ve totally been over helping me make these, but I like the think she was shaking her head and laughing while watching me attempt to use a hot glue gun after so long and swearing along the way.
  • Spending the day prepping for Ainsley’s birthday party next week, and by prepping I really mean cleaning. I’m trying to keep this as low key as possible and not cause unnecessary stress. Here’s the three day review of the chairs that you seemed to love when I posted them on my stories. The short answer? We are really happy with them! They’re super comfortable, and we love the stripes. They didn’t have a swatch available for this color (Cruise Adrift) so I was just holding my breath that they would look okay when they got here. One of the reviews talks about how the pillows are filled with green stuffing, and that’s true. I’m thinking I’ll buy pillow inserts to replace whatever that is. I’m 5’2” and Bill is 6’, and they’re approved for both heights. Bill says they’re still not the recliner he’s been asking for, but they will definitely do 😉 I thought I wouldn’t want the swivel feature for this room, but we’ve been spinning around with Ainsley and side rocking back and forth while reading. I’m so, so happy they arrived early! http://liketk.it/2EKhZ #liketkit @liketoknow.it #LTKhome

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