I was reading the online condolences this morning and came across one from Gina’s College Speech class instructor. The instructor remembered how Gina was hidden from the class by the podium she was to deliver the speech from, but Gina laughed it off and spoke to the class from the side of it. I remember her getting an A in the class.
Thank you all for coming to witness the Lord’s acceptance of Gina into his hands today.
In 1994, my sister, Julienne, went through this very same Catholic Mass at the age of 38. Less than a week later, I went into Evelyn’s Tavern for a beer. The bar was empty except for the bartender and a 20 something woman perched upon a barstool sipping at her beer. A few minutes later she lit up a cigarette. I had to use the men’s room and had to pass behind her on my way. As I passed I said “Hi, you realize smoking is bad for you.” I kept going, did my business, returned to my seat, grabbed my drink, and took the stool next next to her.
I told her stories of my sister and how quickly the cancer tore through the body of a still young vibrant woman. I told her how her May diagnosis led her to death in July. I said the official cause was lung cancer. And then we went on to inevitable everyday chat where you are trying to determine if the person is a good match. In other words, sizing each other up. I came out to be the taller one on the podium scale .
She told me later in life that she called Vicki Dean that very night and proclaimed to her that she was going to marry me. Gina generally gets her way, so our courtship in a sense began. It would prove to be long and difficult for her. To get an Irishman to commit is not the easiest task for a woman to accomplish. We broke up often, but we both loved each other so we always got back together again and again.
For my side of the story, I once told her that “It was my sister’s doing that we met that day, because she was the woman who watched out for me when she was healthy and she was passing that duty onto you, Gina.” Gina ran with it and as her health faded during this ordeal she was more fretful of who was going to watch out for me when she passed then that of the actual death she was headed for.
Gina and I got along amazing well when we traveled. The everyday drama of South Portland was erased from our minds when we visited another city. There were many trips to New York City, a St. Patrick’s Day weeklong trip to Washington D.C by train, an anniversary trip to Boston for a stay at the Four Seasons, but most memorable was the New York City trip for St. Patrick’s Day 2003. Planned months in advance, I purchased her an engagement ring to propose to her atop the Empire State Building. Three months later we were married here at Holy Cross by the co-celebrant this morning, Fr. Frank Morin.
For obvious reasons Gina couldn’t survive giving a natural birth, so we talked surrogate, adoption, and foster care. Ultimately we decided that we really did a great job raising our pets. We knew she would have been a tremendous mother but the injuries to her body were piling up and it would have hampered her in an emergency situation with a baby. She was over the top excited when her niece Ashley delivered a baby boy Riley into the world. For the brief periods with him she felt the joy of motherhood. Photos of him begin appearing in frames throughout the house and took the wallpaper position on her electronic devices.
For the past ten months, I have been and still am asked “How are you handling all of this?” Many times I answered that I took a vow which included these words, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” It was my duty to honor that vow. More than once during this tragedy Gina said I could divorce her and each time I laughed and said you know me better than that, I’m with you all the way. So that in a nutshell is how I got through it. To all of you who are married or thinking of getting married and you run into a problem in the relationship just try a little harder because it certainly can’t compare to the problem Gina and I faced together.
In the obituary, I thanked the key members who helped Gina and me along this toll road. I inadvertently missed one key member who provided invaluable support to Gina and I. I’m sorry for the oversight Gale Murphy.
I am now going to use this opportunity to thank everyone collectively who helped. People like Mark and Diego who took care of Gina’s dog Seamus the days and hours I couldn’t be there. Scott Parker who held fund-raisers in his bar for her. The people who donated or sought out donations for her benefit and the choir of which Gina was a former member. No matter how big or how small of an effort, if you feel you made any slice of her day better please stand now so I can offer you Thanks.
Finally, there will be a reception and “Irish Wake” at the Griffin Club. Keep following Cottage Road past Legion Square Market. It will be a green building on the right. It is open now so if you are not going to the cemetery, someone save my seat at the bar.
Thank you from Gina and I.