Memorial to Teresa Guzzo
It has been quite a long time since my mother died, and I still cannot believe how quickly she was taken from us. It started out with her feeling tired and coughing all the time. The doctors suspected some kind of respiratory ailment such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Over the prior year or so, she had been to see multiple doctors, and they even took x-rays of her chest. Nothing could be determined as they struggled to understand what was causing her so much difficulty. Mom, of course, took it all in stride. She continued to live and love, and be her usual caring self.
Roslyn visited her very often to assist her with her finances and keeping up the coach. It was a trial for Roz, but she did it out of love, so it was rewarding as well. Finally, Roz decided that enough with all the doctors that Mom had used. She took Mom to see her own doctor. The doctor suspected the same things, probably pneumonia, so they did x-rays again. This time, however, things looked much different. The doctor saw masses that did not belong in her lungs. More tests, this time CAT scans, showed lots of masses, and not just in her lungs. One more test was performed. Called a PET scan, this test gave us a whole body picture of what was going on with Mom. It was devastating news. On December 11, 2007, we found out that Mom was filled with cancer. The doctor just could not believe that Mom was functioning and active with all that was going on inside her. He sadly told us that she would only have 6 months to live. As bad luck would have it, that was far longer than she had.
Mom continued to function for a little while, she was part of a celebration in her honor at the Bay Ranch clubhouse, and even was out shopping a few times. Roz decided that she wanted Mom to come to her house to live, and started to get things set up. As the days passed, Mom's ability to function went swiftly downhill. Phases that would normally take weeks to transpire were happening in one single day. One day she would be shopping, the next day she could barely walk. Everyone in the family was notified to get down to Florida quickly. Her sister Mae and brother-in-law Phil flew down from Long Island. Children, Chris and Roslyn were by her side all the time now. I flew down from New Jersey. By the time I arrived, Mom was barely there. I arrived on December 27 and rushed to her bedside. The only person who had not made it by this time was her granddaughter, Linda. She was flying down, but not expected until later in the day.
We all believe she knew that I was coming. Although she was unable to speak or communicate in any way, we think she could hear us with her. Her only sister. Her three children. All of us were there to help support her as she eased her way into the next life. We all said our good-byes, and let her know that we loved her. Mom's breathing was very labored, and we knew she was tired of the struggle. I could hear Roz telling her it was alright to rest now. As I watched her struggling, I added my own final words.
"I love you, Mommy. It is OK. You can rest now."
I am not sure if it was my words, or if it was just time for her to go, but the harshness in her breathing eased almost immediately. It grew calmer and more regular for a few moments. Finally, Mom took one deep breath and let it out softly. We all knew she had left the suffering behind at that moment. Her gentle, loving life was over, but it will always be remembered by all of us.
On December 31st, we held a memorial service at the church where she worshipped. Seeing all her friends and neighbors, and the support that poured from them to the family was wonderful. I can only express our heartfelt thanks in words. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your kindness helped us through this time of deepest sorrow. The two eulogies that follow were read during the service.
b. November 30, 1930
d. December 27, 2007
Eulogy: Written by Roslyn Potenza, daughter.
When you take the time to reflect on someone's life and then go about trying to sum it up in only a few words, you realize that you have embarked on a virtually impossible task. When the person you are trying to eulogize is the person who gave you life and created your very flesh and bones, you suddenly realize that the gift they gave you is so beyond words that nothing you can say now can truly express it.
It's not that we didn't have the chance to say "I love you" often, and it's not that we didn't show our appreciation whenever we could. It's the simple fact that we are all standing here as examples of our parents love for each other that is amazing, and when that parent leaves us here in this physical world, we know for the first time just how special the whole process of life is.
I could tell you all about my mother's childhood, how she was a Brooklyn girl who ended up raising a family in what seemed like the wilds of New Jersey back in the 50's and 60's. I could tell you that she was a person who could make friends in an instant and still has those friends today, some of who may be sitting with us right now wondering how such a vibrant life could come and go so quickly.
I could tell you how she influenced her children to do some of the things that still shape our lives today. My brother Joe plays music and my brother Chris loves the movies. I grew up surrounded by animals and the love of the Arts. All of these simple things were imparted by my mother's influence, but as all of you know a mother's touch goes so far beyond what we do on a day to day basis and what we learned as children. Our mothers give us our very foundation. We as individuals take that foundation and build it.
If we were to examine our lives at this very moment, we see people who love us and who are here for us because of who we are, and we are who we are because this amazing person carried us into existence. My mother will be missed in a million different ways. Sometimes it will be simple. I will want to pick up the phone and tell her that the Yankees signed some amazing player, and that we can't wait for the season to start. Sometimes it will be just to say hey, and ask her what new needlepoint artwork she is working on today or how her beloved dog, Rhett, is behaving.
If we are lucky, our mothers are a part of our every day lives even if we don't get to talk to them every day. When that act is no longer available to us we understand loss at its most basic level. My brothers and I know that our mother is still with us in the very fiber of our beings but we can't help but be just a little selfish and want to spend just another day talking about nothing in particular or sharing some little detail that would be mundane to anyone other than our Mom.
Eulogy: Written by Joseph Guzzo, son.
She has held many roles during her life. Daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, friend and neighbor, comforter, provider, sage, clown, and far too many more to enumerate today… the church asked me to keep this down to 5 minutes. Let me share a little about this woman with you all today.
Her faith was quiet, but ran very deep, as did everything about which she had passion. She raised us to believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church and its teachings, and she lived her life as a model Christian. Her Christian spirit was demonstrated all through her life, but one instance stands out in my memory. We lived near a family with a child that was born with severe handicaps. This little boy had no use of any of his limbs, could not communicate other than with smiles and unstructured sounds, so Mom and the family worked with him to try to help him improve his abilities. Every day she'd spend hours moving his arms and legs, trying to help him form motor skills. Although it eventually proved unsuccessful, she kept helping for a long time, years in fact.
Mom had the capacity to love without boundaries. It was not just reserved for her family. Oh no, it was much larger than that. Friends became like family to her. Even casual acquaintances knew that they had a steadfast friend in this lovely and vivacious woman. After our dad died, her love was shared with a wonderful gentleman, Ned, and I know she held him close in her heart. She welcomed into our family those people special to us, her children. Paul, my sister's husband, Louisa, my wife, Jo Ann, and of course the fruit of these unions. Grandchildren Linda and Carrie, and all the great-grandchildren. Animals, which numbered all sorts of creatures, also knew the affection of Mom. Dogs and cats, horses… and even a little mouse that came in from the cold one winter when we lived in NJ. She actually nearly domesticated the little thing. It would eat from her hand. I ask that you take few moments after the service to look at this photograph of Mom hugging a dolphin. Look at it closely. She has poured her whole heart into this hug. Her face is content, and the hug is pure passion for living at its fullest. (I hope to get the image and post this photo so that all can see this moment frozen in time.)
I can stay here for days on end talking about how funny she could be. There were times, especially when our extended family gathered for holidays and special events, she would stay up late talking and laughing. Without fail our conversations would break down into fits of silliness and gales of laughter that left people breathless. Oh Mom could say some really goofy things, and always found light in even the darkest of moments.
Her Giving Spirit
A volunteer at heart, Terri had her hands in many things throughout her life. Even when she worked a full-time job, she always managed to find time to volunteer for something. Choir at the church, participating in local politics, PTA activities, making sure her children (and others) had structured activities, Cub Scouts with my brother, Girl Scouting for Roslyn, Baseball and other sports for me, were just a few. Roz wanted a horse, so she made sure that it happened.
Humble and Modest
I do not recall mom ever bragging about her accomplishments or strutting them in front of others. She never felt the need to prove herself as being as good as or better than anyone else. I think I personally admire that the most about her. Terri did not graduate from high school as a girl. In fact, she went through the vast majority of her life without her diploma, but did she ever tell you that she went back for her G.E.D. late in life… and that she got it? Did she ever brag about singing in Greece with the Bay Ranch choir? I cannot ever recall anything that she did to bring focus on herself for selfish reasons.
As you reflect on what I have shared, please know that this was a very special person. For those of you who were close friends, we know you share in this loss, but as we reflect on her life understand that her spirit still lives here in this room today. Anyone whose life was touched by Mom can keep her alive by emulating her. All of her children, the youngest, Roslyn, Christopher the middle child, and myself, her oldest… all of us have some little piece of her that shines quite clearly, Roslyn's artistic bent, Chris's fiery passions, my love of music and curiosity for all things large and small. Look around you as we go on with life, and help keep her spirit alive.
Thank you all for helping us to celebrate Mom. God gave her to us, for which we are grateful. He now takes her to her reward for the wonderful life she led. Although we are saddened that we do not have her physical presence with us any longer, I know that she will always be around if we simply look for her. God Bless you all for coming today. Our family gives its most sincere appreciation of your support.