Life, in Rita’s words
Earlier this month Lizanne and I lost our beloved mom, Rita. She passed away peacefully at home after a debilitating decline from dementia over the course of several years.
There is much to say about Mom’s “three acts” – first as a young TV star, model and student, then as a wife and family-centered mom, and finally, how she gracefully handled her illness.
But in her honor (and because she loved to talk and loved words so much!), Lizanne and I thought we’d celebrate Rita’s vibrant approach to life by each sharing a story inspired by her own words of wisdom and affection.
L: Young Rita, modeling in Philadelphia R: Mom and Dad on their way to honeymoon
Patti: I wanted to share something so transformational for me– what Mom memorably advised during my bout with breast cancer, about a week or so before my first chemo appointment:
try to see it as an adventure
An adventure? Oh mama, you don’t understand.
There I was engulfed in an existential crisis, about to start the long road of chemo, surgery and radiation to fight a most aggressive form of breast cancer, and her motherly recommendation is to adventure through it?
It was all so overwhelming, and though I didn’t understand or accept her advice at first, the powerful concept stayed with me. I didn’t realize at the time that adventuring was an option (aren’t we supposed to “fight?’). But I would come back to her words, and soon, I began: through the loneliness and fear of treatment to moving more like a heroine making her way out of the dark woods. I came to know my wholeness and could summon the power within me to rise time and again after getting knocked down by the drugs. Deeply alive and full of life force, I emerged.
Like Mama did throughout her life, I rose in acceptance with what I had to do. The shift in perception that her example and words gave me enabled a rush of the grace I’d need to get through treatment as well as I could.
Our Mom really loved the good times. But she also really knew how to move through the valleys of life bravely, and still find a way to live. And did she! Right up until the end, she always showed us how to get on with things, to accept everything, even the hard parts. And to have fun, and smile, because: this is life after all, and what’s the alternative?
Lizanne: What’s in a name?
Baby. The nickname my mom gave me. Yes, it’s a name I earned being the baby of 4 children. And she often referred to the other siblings as baby, like my brother who she affectionately called her “baby boy.” She had nicknames for all 4 of us, but I always felt special when she called me “baby.”
By no means did she baby me (unless I was sick). If she sensed I was nervous at a swim meet, she would tell me to put my big girl panties on and go out there and kick some butt. And when I did something stupid, she would sharply say “what did you expect, you dumb s@*t!” At that time, it seemed like tough love, but she was teaching me to be strong and the best version of myself.
As I grew older, she’d volunteer to join me at important doctor appointments. I would tell her, “I’ll be OK, I’m a big girl.” But she would insist and say, “you’ll always be my baby, I’ll go with you.” She was always there, no matter the age or circumstance. She was there for all of us.
Mom with her “baby” Lizanne (L) and Patti (R) at the grand opening of our Waxing Poetic Summerland boutique back in 2012. Cheers mom! We will never stop celebrating your spirit and your unconditional love.
Over the years, I’m sure I didn’t notice all the moments she called me “baby.” Three years ago, she became ill and this past year her health had gotten even worse. I started to pay much closer attention. I had the privilege to care for her, to give back a little something for all the love she gave– to return the unconditional love. She called me “baby” up until the very end, as if she knew it would comfort me.
What’s in a name? For me, Baby is everything.
Matriarch Rita with Dad and our extended family. Mom, you are so loved and missed by all!
We appreciate that we have this chance to share with you a glimpse of the love mom showed us: to let every encounter be an opportunity for expressing the kind of love that makes life more felt and alive– and to come closer to one another in doing so. In her words,
try to see it as an adventure…
… my baby
Thank you for sharing in this legacy of our beautiful mom Rita. She nurtured and inspired us, loved our mission and delighted in our jewelry so much. She was so proud of how we touch people with our work. We are grateful that you are on the ride with us, as we continue on this grand adventure with Mom in our hearts forever.
With love always,
Patti & Lizanne