What Could Make A 1 Year Old Babys Body Shake The Other Mother Theresa

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The Other Mother Theresa

I would venture to guess that almost everyone in the world knows about Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa. Although small in size, Mother Teresa was a giant in stature. This past week brought that same acknowledgment closer to home for my family and those we know as we celebrated the life of our very own “Mother Teresa,” Theresa Russo.

I met our Mother Teresa in 1985 – became known as and called her “Mrs. Russo” until the day she passed away. For 31 years, she went from being my friend’s mom to being my “other mother” and my friend. Even at the whopping 5 feet, 1 inch she originally stood, she struck me during our first meeting as a woman who was obedient but strong in her own right, someone who lived by a set of rules and raised a family with respect and gratitude. . I was always afraid of not “doing the right thing” in her eyes and often worried if she was upset about something I may or may not have done, you know, like some of us are with our own parents.

Theresa Russo was born in 1928, the same year Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse. That was always our private joke – I would always comment that she and Mickey were the same age, calling him “her brother”. She would laugh and shake her head and we would always have a good laugh about it. I’ve always had a fascination with the stories people would tell about their lives, no matter how mundane they might think those stories are, I’ve found that people are always happiest when they revel in the stories that shaped them, good or bad. And if you remembered those stories, you tended to make a connection with them more quickly. So, I listened and learned.

Funny that the “listen and learn” comment came up here because that was an expression often used by Theresa’s husband and members of his family. But the one thing I learned from spending over 31 years in Theresa’s company was just that – to listen. As a very young child, Theresa became quite sick, so sick in fact, she almost didn’t survive. But survived she did and grew to possess willpower if not in body. She always smiled when she told her daughter Rachael and I about those childhood stories – going to the cinema with eleven cents, ten for the price of the ticket and a penny for candy, in the time when “movies were movies”; coming home for lunch, having her mom serve lentils and her refusal to eat them, and her mother tipped the bowl over her head!

She always smiled widely when she talked about her father – how she and her sister would wait by the window, looking down the street to watch their father come home so they could signal their mother to throw the dough into the water, timing the Sunday dinner. to be perfectly placed on the table when he sits down. Her father who worked his own business many hours during the day but would meet his daughters at the train station to ensure their safe return home at night. Teresa’s mother, would always say that when she walked down the street with Teresa in the carriage, people would always notice how beautiful the baby was.

During her lifetime, Theresa married, raised four sons and a daughter, supporting her husband in his business ventures while maintaining the home, as women of her era did. Having five children in six years, she quickly learned to appreciate the help and support her mother could give and she navigated all her responsibilities and charges towards “organized chaos” – a home full of activity and love.

In the thirty-one years I knew her, we shared stories, many meals, vacations, and countless hours just talking. As she watched us all become adults and start our own lives, she settled into the role of guide, mentor and friend. Laundry, house cleaning and how to save money when you shopped were in fashion she explained. Our conversations always resulted in laughter and teasing about how her daughter, Rachael, would “tell her what to do”, resulting in the two of us calling her “The Caregiver”. As the summer of 2016 wore on, Theresa became sicker and sicker. Although visits to various doctors had become the norm for her, it was much more than ever before. After four stays in the hospital, my poor friend’s body couldn’t take much more. We lost Theresa when God called her home, one day after her husband passed away twenty-five years earlier and on the same day her mother passed away at the age of 99 eight years earlier.

Rachael and I prayed with her the night before she passed (I know she must have laughed because she always shook her head at my “fallen way Catholicism”). But it gave me a strange peace, a connection to the realization that she really was my friend too, not just my friend’s parent. She welcomed me into her house and family since I was nineteen. She taught me a huge amount of things and to always be aware of people and the things they do and say. She was “old school” and traditional. She made up her mind about things and often would not be swayed in another direction. She was strong in her family and in her faith. We celebrated her life this week, where twenty-five priests concelebrated the Mass of Resurrection for her in St Mark’s Church, fully decked out in Christmas splendor – her favorite holiday. As I stood with my family during the service, all I could think about was Teresa, seeing all this and saying, “All this… For me?”

Yes, indeed, Mrs. Russo, it was all for you — you were so special to all of us!

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