Phyllis Cozzola, 1925-2009

Phyllis and MT Cozzola, Christmas 2008

Phyllis and MT Cozzola, Christmas 2008

My mother-in-law passed away Sunday, just 4 months after my mom. It’s been quite a year.

1pm on Thursday
Divine Savior
6700 Main Street
Downers Grove, IL

Open house:
Following the funeral through the evening (probably until 8 or 9)
1033 West 61st Street
Downers Grove, IL 60625

MT wrote the following on Facebook:

My mom passed away on Sunday, November 8. obituary

Mom was diagnosed in May with mesothelioma cancer, and although she was 84, her strength and resilience meant that she was remarkably active up until very close to the end.

The six months following Mom’s diagnosis were not a time of fading out so much as of reflection and appreciation — and fun. The house was flooded with visitors… first to extend their concern and sadness for Mom’s illness, but then because she was just so good to be around. So funny, so appreciative, so honest about what she was feeling at each moment. One of my favorite things she said was, “I know you’re going to miss me. Heck, I’m going to miss me, too.”

We had a beautiful summer in Chicago, lots of cool sunny days, and Mom got in the habit of sitting on her front terrace and entertaining neighbors, relatives, and friends. Laughing, remembering, singing, all of it. I can’t remember how many times I thought, surely this is the last good time we will all have. She can’t stay this strong for much longer. But although she did weaken physically, being with loved ones always perked her up. One minute she’d be feeling down, then Auntie Marie and Uncle Vince, or cousin Liz or Matt and Mary Jane would come over, and Mom would be up hunting for cold beers and serving people.

Or during the week, Mom would get her daily visit from neighbor Fran and Fran’s new baby, whom Mom christened “the Baby Dumpling.” She’d say, “It’s four o’clock. The Dumpling will be here soon. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to see him…And he shouldn’t be around an old person like me. Maybe I’m too tired today…” Then as soon as Fran pushed her stroller up the sidewalk, Mom would be waving them to come up and sit for awhile. The Dumpling always smiled for her, and seeing his little adorable face was a high point in Mom’s summer days.

The Dumpling was maybe the youngest new friend Mom made, but there were many other people she touched in her last few days. Her hospice nurses, Barb and Molly, were amazed by her spirit, her stubborn refusal to take much in the way of pain medicine, and the way she could make them laugh.

Mom grew so much as a human being during those months, and through all those visits and honest conversations with so many people. Maybe because we spent so much more time together than we had in the past, and maybe because there was no sense in holding anything back, knowing that our time was limited, I feel like each of us kids got to know Mom better and she got to know us better. She seemed to be much less interested in judging our actions – not that she was ever really bad about that, but as a Mom I know it’s part of the territory – But she seemed to want to really learn more about what made us tick, what made us happy, and what made us who we were. I feel like our friendship grew so much, and I know that was the case for each of my brothers, too.

Through Barb, We were lucky to find a caregiver to live with Mom for her last couple of months. Having Olga gave us much more flexibility and peace of mind in our comings and goings, though Mom didn’t see why she needed to have someone there. But after getting used to the affront of having someone else in her kitchen, Mom took a shine to Olga. She came to trust her and depend on her, and made sure that we knew to treat Olga well when it was all over.

It was only in her last few days that Mom began to feel the need for a stronger pain medication than Tylenol. She was never in what she considered great pain, though clinically we couldn’t understand that. She was communicative and sharp-witted until the very end, enough to pray and talk with all her kids and her adored sister Marie on her final day. Auntie Marie and my mom had a friendship that spanned 80 years. During that time they saw each other almost every day.

Seeing them together on that last day was a bittersweet joy. Marie has long been a sunny and steadfast beacon of faith. Mom had tended to be a bit more cynical, more questioning, and more doubtful of her own worth as a child of God. Marie helped Mom to trust in her faith and in her own goodness, and reassured her through her actions and her very being that we will all be together again.

Mom spent Saturday evening with our brother David, up until about midnight. David read her some passages from our beloved late dad’s journals, another activity that had brought her and all of us so much joy and surprise over the past few months. My dad observed things with so much insight, it was so cool to see our lives as he had seen them back when we were growing up. Dave also played a tape he’d made years ago of Dad talking about various things — a golf game and other everyday things, and so Mom got to hear Dad’s voice, too.

She passed away early the next morning, just a little before seven. All in all, she had a beautiful and complete life, and when I miss her voice and her humor and her honesty and her cooking advice, and all our times together, I remind myself of that. Knowing she is together with Dad and her parents and her dear brother George, and her sister-in-law Aggie, and her cousin Corinne, and whatever manifestation the divine spirit takes in the afterlife, I feel calm. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, but I believe that Mom is part of that mystery now.