Phyllis Eileen O'Malley's eulogy on July 18, 2014 titled, "My Mom," at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Mound, MN
On behalf of the extended O’Malley family, I want to express our heartfelt thanks to all of you for coming today, as well as, all the prayers for Phyllis.
My Mom, was never one to be short on words. Whether the topic was bridge, politics, religion, education or something I had foolishly done on a Friday night to get in trouble, when my Mom got wound up for a conversation…you better pull up a chair...because you were going to be there for a while.
Found in all those words, was my Mom’s lifelong quest to help. In politics, she believed that public policy could make a positive difference in people’s lives and create a greater good. In education, she felt there was no greater responsibility for a community than enriching the minds of its next generation. In the case of her children, she simply wanted us to be our very best and gave us all nothing, but unconditional love, encouragement and, every now and then, she’d heap on a mountain of guilt to fit our crime.
One thing that never seemed to come up -- was anything about Phyllis Eileen O’Malley herself.
She was amazingly selfless and humble even though she had achieved much in life and carried many crosses along the way.
To share a little bit about my Mom...
She was born in Oyster Bay, New York, which is a town on Long Island’s north shore. Her father fought in World War I and became an accomplished landscape architect. He did the landscape designs for Jones Beach (which is a famous beach on the south shore of Long Island), as well as, President Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill estate. Sadly, my Mom’s family lost most of the business they’d built during the Great Depression and her father died very young. My Mom’s mother relied upon Phyllis to help lead the family under these difficult circumstances. This was a pattern that would be repeated over and over again in my Mom’s life.
Regardless the weight of the cross put upon her, my Mom would pick it up and follow in Jesus footsteps with neither a word of complaint nor a request for affirmation. Her desire to help was ever present, her love was always unconditional and her will to prevail was always unbreakable.
All three of her brothers and her future husband...which she had met at Oyster Bay High School...went off to fight in World War II and Phyllis herself volunteered to stand watch at night on an abandon school building searching the skies for possible enemy aircraft.
After the war, she married my father, Thomas Ronald O’Malley, who became a professor in industrial psychology. They had three children while living in New York...Deirdre, Sean and Keith. My father’s desire to both teach at a college and work in the real world…which in the 1950s was very rare…led them to Minnesota where the University of Minnesota was honored to have my father under any circumstances.
In 1963, I came along to be part of the family. Unfortunately for my brother, of all the days that I could have arrived, I picked the day of his sixth birthday. He wanted a bike for the summer and he ended up getting me for a lifetime.
All was well….until a year later when my father passed away and soon thereafter my brother, Sean, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
My Mom was now a widowed mother of four, 1200 miles from the closest relative, no job, within six short months our house would be hit by a tornado but, even with all that, the most difficult challenge my Mom faced was that she was a diehard Republican living in the state of Minnesota. Even St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, would have cringed at the thought.
But, just as she had done when she was growing up, she picked up her cross, did what she needed to do, never complained and never, ever gave up.
I learned a lot from my Mom as the years passed.
If you spent any time with her, you knew that Phyllis couldn’t carry enough water for the elephant that is the Republican Party. She was a campaign manager, fundraiser, local delegate and strong advocate for educational needs. I was amazed as a child at how connected she became in political circles through all those efforts.
When I was very young, I tagged along with her to a political event that was attended by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. While at the event, Senator Humphrey, the former Vice President of the United States of America, a man that ran for President of the United States of America walked up to my Mom and, said, “Hey Phyllis,” gave her a big hug and then teased her that he had good news. The Democratic Party was willing to forgive her misguided beliefs and accept her with open arms.
From that conversation, two things struck me. First, how in the world does Senator Hubert H. Humphrey know my Mom by her first name but, more importantly, how are we going to get all those Democratic germs off of my Mom before we get home?
Phyllis, obviously, taught her children early in life the "importance of being Republican."
My Mom clearly understood the critical need of a father in son’s life. In my case, that wasn’t an option in a physical sense. She found a way spiritually though by telling endless stories about my father making him bigger than life in my eyes. She also made a point of encouraging other people, which had known my father, to do the same. By the time my Mom was done with me, I thought my father had landed on the moon, cured cancer and pitched a no-hitter all on the same day.
I have no physical recollection of my father, but my Mom loved us both and found a way, in her magic, to connect us spiritually.
My Mom was member of Our Lady of the Lake parish and sang in the choir for over 50 years. My Mom’s faith was always demonstrated in her actions. When my brother, Sean, died unexpectedly, I was witness to the incredible courage in her faith. Just hours after Sean passed, my Mom came here to the chapel at Our Lady of the Lake to pray for his soul. I watched as she dealt with the incredible loss of her son. She came here with no questions in terms of God’s will and only asked for mercy on her son’s soul and a place for him in heaven with his father.
On that day and the months that followed, she showed me the courage in being truly faithful and, in return, the grace God extends to those that truly believe.
Literally, from the moment of Sean’s passing, just as she had done with my father, she became dedicated to keeping the memory of Sean always near to our family.
No matter what life had in store, my Mom’s laugh or a joke were always close at hand. She felt blessed for all God had given her. She never felt a need to complain and she was always quick to offer thanks. She loved us all and she loved us in all that she did. She was, in every way, a beautiful Mom.
I’ve been having this dream over these last few days that my Mom is up in heaven trying to convince the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost that the Republican Party is the one and only true political party. The debate rages for some time. I’m guessing there must be at least one Democrat in the three persons that make up the Holy Trinity, but, just you wait…give my Mom some time.
Meanwhile, over flies Senator Humphrey joking in that high pitched voice of his, “Oh Phyllis, won’t you ever give up? My Mom looks over at Hubert and gives him that big Phyllis O’Malley mischievous smile and says, “I’ll never give up.” And that is my Mom.
Dear God, I pray that You look fondly upon the faith filled life my Mom has lived and the Christian work my Mom has done. She took good care of us and, now, we pray that you will take good care of her. Please have mercy on her soul.
I love you Mom.
My Mom and Dad together for eternity. Please pray for the repose of my Mom and Dad's souls. God bless.