Eulogy for Mama B

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This is the Eulogy that I delivered at my mother’s, Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” (Hult Cicala) Slocum, memorial at Madera Canyon in Green Valley, Arizona on February 3, 2014.

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My mother, Betsy, was a kind and generous woman who passed away too young.  She was a GENEROUS person and this generosity shone through during her long fight with cancer.  Even though she was in tremendous pain, she always remained considerate and strong and NEVER wanted the attention focused on her.  She wanted everyone to continue on with their lives—in fact, she was more concerned with how WE were doing and if WE were happy.

This generous and loving spirit is evident by the tremendous outpouring of love through visits, flowers, calls, cards—and SOCIAL MEDIA—throughout her illness.  It is also evident by all of you who have traveled great distances and sacrificed your day to come together and celebrate her life.

Today I want to take you on a journey that begins in the Northeast. I will share with you the journey and transformation that my mother embarked on when she relocated from the Delta South to her beloved Sonoran Desert.  Finally, I want to close by sharing the importance of her returning to her roots and what that meant for her healing process.

My mother.  My best friend.  My Soul Mate, Betsy, was born in Doylsetown, Pennsylvania on October 4th, 1947.  Her family—composed of her Father: Paul, Mother:  Ann, Brother:  David, and Sister:  Laura—moved to Tucson when she was young.  She attended Sunnyside High School, the University of Arizona, and Pima Community College.  Somewhere along the way she found herself waitressing at a little family restaurant that some of you may have heard of—Mama Louisa’s.  There she fell in love with the ENTIRE family of Cicala’s and Casadei’s—and then she met and fell in love with my father, Armin.  She raised three children:  My oldest brother: John, Middle brother: Paul, and baby: Me.  Time passed.  Hearts drifted.  Divorce followed.  Painful decisions where made and she found herself with a family divided. Two children relocated to the Southeast when mom remarried.  Paul—I want you to know that mom ALWAYS regretted separating the family.  She dedicated the last 15 years to trying to make things right with you!  She returned to Tucson in 2011.

Before I move forward with the story about a little chapter I have dubbed OPERATION RELOCATION, I want to share with you something that my mother wrote to me in 1996 while I was a sophomore in college.  She was sharing some poetry with me in an effort to help me with some research for an anthology that I would be performing in.

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She writes, 

“Mary Ann, this is one of my favorites.  It explains, to me, the calling I constantly feel—back to Arizona.  Sure, I miss the people, but it’s the land that has a hold on me.”

The Way to Understanding

Within and around these mountains,
your good fortune will be returned to you.

Within and around these mountains,
your peace will be returned to you.

Within and around these mountains,
your freedom will be returned to you.

Within and around these mountains,
your beauty will be returned to you.

All things return to those
who pray for understanding.

All things depart from those
with anger in their hearts.

Mom continues with a closing note, 

20140212-215130.jpg“This sums up how I felt after my camping trip in the White Mountains, how I feel when I think of Madera Canyon or Mt. Lemen, or when I look out on any horizon in Tucson—especially at sunset.  For some reason, I don’t feel grounded, except within the sight of mountains.”

Fast forward to 2011.  I had the great pleasure of being her travel companion in this epic return to Tucson.  And believe me—it was epic.  It was an operation that really deserves a separate speech entirely!

I digress.

I had the great pleasure of being her travel partner on this return.  Along our journey home, Mom shared with me so many stories:  Stories of her childhood.  Stories of her high school years.  Stories of love: lost, found, lost and found again.  Stories of how EACH of YOU here touched her life.

During this trek a question came up about healing.  When I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2000, my mom traveled up to Boston for my commencement.  She stayed for two weeks to help me get settled into my new apartment.  During this time we both embarked on new goals for this new phase of our life.  One goal that we shared was to quit smoking.

My Mom had seen a TV special about this quack doctor hypnotist in Brookline Village—he was known as “The Crazy Russian” and “The Puff Man.”  The appointment took place in his small office with several other smokers.  After a brief lecture on tips, tricks, and self-control, he led us through a visualization that ended with synchronized hand motions in front of our eyes and whispered something empowering -–a private message—in each of our ears.  Now, I have NO RECOLLECTION of the great words he shared with me.  However, Mom remembered what he said to her for years.  He told her that she was “a healer.”

She pondered this on a few occasions during our OPERATION RELOCATION.  And she circled back to this again when she was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer in April.  She would be struggling with the meaning over the next 6 months.  Mom hoped it meant that she would be healed of this awful disease….wondered if it meant that she could volunteer to serve the sick once she recovered.  You see—that’s the generous spirit of my mother.  Here she is riding a terrible recovery from surgery, going through the constant fatigue and nausea of chemo, and otherwise suffering—and she’s thinking about what SHE can do to ease the burden for other “more sick” strangers.

Well, I will tell you—I have been continuing the search for truth in this sentence, “You are a healer.”  And I came to an important conclusion that my mother IS a healer.  She has healed each of our souls at one time or another.

Betsy made all of us feel so special because she listened both empathically and with a heart wide open.  Countless friends of mine have reached out recently to share their condolences and credit Mom for major decisions in their lives.  One friend wrote this about my Mom,

20140212-215320.jpg“Thank you for being a great example of love for me during a time I was seeking its existence….She was  the first time I had ever witnessed a parent accepting their child as exactly who they are.  Her humor and light felt way of existing in the world was so inspiring for me.  I hoped that my mom would one day embrace our experience together the way you and she did.”

Another high school friend shared this, “Growing up, your mom was the coolest of any other friends’ parents.  Even though I haven’t seen her in years I love her and thank her for the influence she made on me.”

One very close family member wrote this about Mama B, “I love Betsy.  She makes me feel like I can actually be my insecure self and she’ll still like me, not feeling burdened by my insecurities.  During her last visit to Boston she was in a lot of pain, yet she hid it well, smiling through several engagements over the week, some that lasted until midnight.  Beautiful, beautiful woman, few people like her in this world.”

And finally, my mom even had the gift of healing small children.  My sister-in-law wrote to me, “I remember how good natured, gracious and patient your mom was even though she hadn’t been feeling well…. I remember being in awe of her well honed mom skills when she prevented [our nephew] from having a major meltdown in the restaurant.”

All this says to me that, yes, Betsy was AND IS a healer.  I learned from my mother the art of healing:  I learned how important family—both blood and chosen family—can be to heal.  I’ve enjoyed spending time with so many of you—especially her friends from high school.  I learned the importance of listening with an open heart to heal.  I learned that—with the right  approach—I could heal my relationship and distance between me and my brother.  I learned how remaining positive can help us heal during life’s biggest challenges.

Finally, I learned the power of the Sonoran desert in healing my mother.

Mom has this photo of the desert hanging in her bedroom on the wall next to her vanity.  It is really just an advertisement from Tucson Mountain Park.  It talks about the majestic beauty of the mountains, the critters of the desert—everything that we all love about this Arizona landscape.  But I hope you don’t mind humoring me by allowing me to share a few sentences that resonate with me—and that I know resonated with my Mother’s soul:

20140212-221349.jpg…More fascinating is the intangible charm and spell of this desert region where the haze of the distant mountain ranges meet the blue of the sky, and the desert impressive in its cloak of utter silence awaits the nature lover.  Here the breeze from the canyon carries the voice of an unseen power to purify the soul and tune in on the Creator.” –C.B. Brown

When we first embarked on OPERATION RELOCATION I thought it was so Mom could truly live once more.  Now…. I know that the importance and the immediacy of this adventure was for her to “COME HOME” and heal her soul in preparation to “GO HOME.”

Thank you all for being a part of this journey.  Thank you all for being a part of my Mom’s journey.

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About themacdoodle

Communications Manager, Creative Strategist, Community Builder, & Possibility Agent
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2 Responses to Eulogy for Mama B

  1. Aunt Lana says:

    THANK YOU SWEETIE, for sharing this amazing and touching tribute! This captures your mama, our BELOVED BETSY, and all that she truly loved with all her soul. She was connected to Mother Earth in a special and unique way; she was the kindest, most unassuming person and BEST FRIEND anyone could possibly have. She demonstrated God’s Love – respect, thoughtfulness, compassion, understanding, acceptance & UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Everything you have done to honor your mama has been a powerful and loving tribute. She was a priceless gift to all of us and you brought it all to light. YOU will now be the “shining light” that will continue the legacy she has left. She will forever be WITH you and as I have said before: “She will always be the VOICE in your HEAD; the LOVE in your HEART,; the LIGHT in your SOUL.

    With unconditional Love,
    Your Aunt Lana & your mama’s SOUL SISTER
    “FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS”

  2. Gwyn Anderson says:

    This is an amazing tribute, Mary Ann. I wish our family hadn’t been so divided between east and west. I remember Betsy coming to visit us over the summer when I was in 5th grade and she planned and let my sister and me help her make a special supper for my parents. She was truly a remarkable person.

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