Goodbye, Theresa. Rest in Peace

| May 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

My aunt and Godmother, Theresa Anna Singleton, died last week. She was the last member of my mother’s family of eight to pass on. She was a kind and generous person who lived with my immediate family her entire life. Here’s the eulogy I gave at her funeral this past Thursday.

Remembrance of Theresa
May 2, 2013

Theresa was a mystery. She lived the life of a single person, a singleton, as it were, but was surrounded by family. We all felt very connected to Theresa, but there was always a distance. She was generous in every way, except in sharing her deepest feelings. She was the youngest of eight whose siblings produced brood after brood of children. Yet, she remained, in some ways, alone.

As I noted at my mother’s funeral, almost exactly four years ago today, she lived more than 80 years under the same roof as my mother. So, I grew up with her downstairs. She was my godmother. Throughout my life she was unfailingly generous to me. One of my most memorable birthdays was the one in which she brought me to lunch at the Top of the Hub in the Presidential Center. Since she worked in the Prudential, I assumed she had special access. After I got my license, she recklessly gave me her car whenever I wanted it. Even after I smashed it up at the intersection of Cummins Highway and Washington streets, she complimented me for admitting it was my fault and went right on giving me her car.

Alice shared a really good insight about Theresa, one that, for obvious reasons, would never have occurred to me. She said that Theresa offered an alternative role model for all the girls in the family. Theresa was a professional woman before that was cool. She was self-sufficient, sometimes to a fault. And, earlier in her life, she lived the life of a carefree single woman. I will never forget going down to the wharf to see her off on a trip to the Virgin Islands. It’s one of my earliest memories. She might as well have been going to the moon, it was so exotic. I remember she brought me back a pen made out of bamboo that she probably bought on board the ship, but it was my most prized possessions for a long, long time.

Despite her emotional reserve, she had such big heart, full of empathy. My brother Robert tells of his memories of the periodic battles he would have with my mother when he’d storm out of the house and sulk in the driveway. Theresa would come out to console him and try to boost his spirits. Who knew?? And how can we explain her extraordinary love for the yappy little dog, Noel?

A few years ago, I sat my mother and Theresa down, set up the video camera and interviewed them for about an hour about their lives, what it was like growing up on Mission Hill. Of course, I couldn’t find the video in preparation for this day, but I promise to share it, if I ever locate it. Among the memories they shared was lookingbout the window of the house as one after another of their brothers went off to war. It was a powerful image. Fortunately, they all came back. And it recently occurred to me that Theresa had to sort of reenact that scene as she watched one after another of her siblings pass on. Only this time, they didn’t come back. It must have been difficult for her, as it has been for you, Mary.

But I do think she appreciated the fact that she was surrounded by family, even as she kept us at bay. Again, four years ago, I committed to Theresa that, even with my mother’s passing, she would not be alone. That the family would be there for her. Then I promply got on a plane and went back to Washington, leaving it to others, people in this church, to fulfill my commitment. I’m happy to say you did. She did not lack for contact with her extended family… and with one special life-long friend. Julie, when you went up to the casket to say a final goodbye to Theresa, my daughter Bridget whispered in my ear, “I hope I have a friend like that.”

But I have to give a special shout out to Jimmy, Susan and Alice who really came to her aid, against her best efforts, and tried to help her in her final months. On behalf of all of us, I want to say thank you. I will always take comfort from the story Rita told me that when she and Susan went to visit her couple of weeks ago, she brightened visibly when they entered the room and she said to the nurse, “My family’s here.” And the last time Susan sat with her, she read her a card that my daughter Bridget sent to Theresa last week in which she reminded Theresa of her admiration, which is why Bridget took Theresa as her confirmation name. So, even though Theresa resisted many efforts to get her involved in family events, in the end, she knew she had a family around her. I, for one, am comforted by that.
So, the Singletons of Calumet Street are all together again. They lived tumultuous lives but now they are at peace. I’m assuming that where they are, there are none of the things that caused such turmoil. We’re mostly all still here, so not causing them trouble. There’s probably no alcohol, which is good. And thank God there are no tires to fight about. Sorry to some about the inside joke.

We imagine them welcoming Theresa back into the fold. Ma and Pa, Bill, Dan, Francie, Paulie, Mary, the twins Charlie and Helen, and, now, Theresa. We are their legacy and, I have to say they did a pretty good job through it all. We’re all doing pretty well, I’d say. Speaking for my generation, I hope we do as well. So far, so good. And all seems to be going OK for the one following us. Not to mention the one after that – which just had a new member with the arrival of Anna to Michael and Erin Curran two days ago.

So, the circle of life proceeds. We say goodbye to Theresa and hello to Anna. As I said at the beginning, Theresa was a mystery, but, frankly, all of life is a mystery. We can only hope that when our time comes, it is said that we lived a life of generosity and love. Theresa did. I was among those who benefited from her generosity and love, as did all of us here. We will miss her. May she be enjoying her reward of living a good life.

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