On 23 May 1998, my mother passed away at the age of forty-seven, a victim of breast cancer. At the wake service on 25 May 1998, I delivered the following eulogy.
"I have come so you might have life, and have it to the full." — Jesus Christ
"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" — Auntie Mame
In forty-six years on this earthly plane
, my mom not only didn't
starve at the banquet of life, she took heaping platefuls of every dish prepared. She took Jesus at his word, and did her darndest at having life to the full. And while the fullness of life
comes only in the next world, mom attained that fullness as completely as she possibly could in the present world.
Look around. See all those who have gathered here together, and all of us
because we are in some way connected to Debra Ann Moeller Witte. This one human being
has touched so many people in her earthly life, and will continue to touch and affect so many of us in eternal life
. My mom has a big family, by blood, by marriage, and by simply being who she was, and who she continues to be.
My mom's vocation
was to married life. In this day and age, when half of all marriages end in divorce
, mom and dad are a shining example of succeeding, of beating the odds. A common joke in our family has been that the only thing mom and dad could win was a wheelbarrow fill of booze
- ask me later if you don't understand. But mom and dad won something that counts for so much more: they won at twenty-five years of marriage
. Of course, it wasn't wedded bliss twenty-four hours a day - if it was, they wouldn't be human. But they shared twenty-five years together, time spent laughing, crying, sleeping, arguing, and just being together. They knew each other intimately, and truly showed that two become one in the sacrament of marriage
. In this way, I would happily hold up my mom and dad's marriage as a 'perfect' one, with all its ups and downs, ins and outs, it quirks and idiosyncrasies.
An extension of her calling to married life was her call to motherhood
. Three boys and a girl – when she finally had a daughter, she was content to stop. Three sons to keep her on her toes, one daughter to keep her sane. Shawn, Corey, and I were diligent in our task, and Megan was faithful in hers. And, of course, mom was not only diligent and faithful in her task of being a mother, she excelled
at it; she took it beyond a science
and made it an art. A lot of people can paint, but not all painters are artists. A lot of women can be mothers, but not all mothers can be moms. Mom's only fear was who would take care of her kids when she was gone. Many people will step in to be mothers, but we will never have another mom on this earth. I think I speak for my brothers and sisters when I say our mother was an artist, that she was a mom
It is often said that the best way to learn something is to have a role model
, a mentor. For mom to have been the great mom that she was, she must have learned the secrets from another master artist at being a mom. And you need look no further than to her own mom. Grandma Moeller is an artist-mother
in her own right, a mother who was, and still is, a mom. My mom obviously thought that Grandma knew what she was doing, or else she wouldn't have left me with Grandma Moeller when I was only six weeks old while she and dad went on vacation. And she's never stopped being a mom; the maternal instinct
s kick in, and she is immediately in 'mom' mode - quite impressive, in my book. No wonder my mom was, is, and will be such an excellent mom.
Of course, we cannot forget the important roles her father and brothers filled in helping her become the wonderful person she was. Grandpa Moeller taught her just as many important life lessons as Grandma did. When so many children today lack a father in their lives, Grandpa's constant presence in mom's life was undeniably instrumental in her formation as a human being. With her brothers, she no doubt fought, horsed around, did farm chores
, and just lived. She knew what it was to be the only girl with two brothers. Maybe that could explain why Megan always held, and continues to hold, such a special place in mom's heart. Mom also knew that fighting among siblings was a reality, but that forgiveness and eventual intimacy was also a reality of siblings. And she could only have known all these things because she herself had two siblings, two brothers, two of the most loving and caring individuals
whom I have come into contact with in my life. They taught her lessons that were also instrumental in her success at being a mom.
Although she took time off to raise a family, mom was just as dedicated to her task of teaching as she was to her task of mothering. Her involvement with Saint George
School went beyond a seven to five job; she totally immersed herself in being not just a teacher, but a role model of Christianity
for the many children whom she taught over the years. Her dedication to and love for the children she taught went above and beyond the call of duty
of a normal teacher; she really cared for those kids, each and every one of them. It was not a rare occasion that mom would come home from school with complaints about this child or that; at face value
, one would think this a sign of not caring, but not with mom. Her complaining showed the depth of the love for every kid she was worked up about; it was because she cared that she was exasperated, as she wanted so much for each child to succeed. She strove to instill in her students the values of a true Christian and treated each child with respect in order for that child to feel self-esteem and to treat other students with the same level of respect. I remember the many times I would be in her classroom as the kids would arrive, many of them lining up to tell 'Mrs. Witte' about something they had done the night before, or show her something they had brought from home. Mom realized how much each thing meant to each child - from something as simple as a new pencil to as elaborate as a new video game
- no matter what it was, it was important to the child, and so it was important to mom. I can still picture her standing in the middle of her classroom, a pile of papers in her hand, kids milling about and chattering because they'd just walked in, and three or four kids standing around her, each one trying to get her attention. When one child did manage to get her attention, which sometimes took a few minutes considering the chaotic state of the classroom at that moment, her entire focus was on that child: the noise around her seemed to fade away, the other children disappeared for a moment, and it was her and that one child, one on one
. And she did this every day of every school year for as long as she taught. If that isn't going above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher, I'd sure like to know what would be.
All of these aspects of mom's life here on earth - being a wife, being a mother, being a sister, being a daughter, being a teacher - all of these are enveloped by one overarching, all-embracing reality: the faith she confessed as a Roman Catholic
Christian. All of her many facets flowed from and had their source in the creed
that she not only professed, that she lived
. The church was, and still is, a home for her. She raised her children under the guidance of her faith, she enjoyed a marriage under the guidance of her faith, she taught her students under the guidance of her faith, and she lived her life
under the guidance of her faith. Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary
' to God, so too did my mom say 'yes' to God when one of her sons felt the call to serve the Church as a priest
. Her faith was strong enough that she was comfortable in saying 'yes', in giving one of her sons to God, an act of faith which speaks so loudly in this day and age when many parents frown on a child's potential vocation to priesthood or religious life
. She served in the Church as much as she could, giving her time to being a lector, being a Eucharistic minister
, being a choir member, and many more ways. Her strong commitment as a parent to Catholic education led her to be one of the founding members of the Education Funding Support Organization
, more commonly known as EFSO, which is dedicated to raising money to help defray the cost of tuition at Saint George School. One of the primary fund-raising events of EFSO is the annual Summer Festival, which mom was also instrumental in launching. Her commitment to Catholic education extended beyond the classroom during the school year, as she was part of the group responsible for starting a summer Vacation Bible School
program, which she helmed for several years.
What is most awe-inspiring about her involvement in the local Church is the fact that she was never one to toot her own horn, never demanded recognition for what she did, never involved herself in petty power struggles which could divide rather than unite. She did all these things - ministering at the Sacred Liturgy
, working with EFSO, working with Vacation Bible School, saying 'yes' to God - quietly and humbly. She sought no praise for the work she did, and would have been quite embarrassed if she had been recognized. For her, involvement with the church was not a matter of prestige, it was a matter of faith
. She knew the creed she professed, and she embraced it with enthusiasm and fervor; this embracing manifested itself in the many ways she was involved in the Church of the Risen Savior and Saint George School. She was filled with the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, which drove
her to do all that she did for God and his Church.
What I find most amazing now is the fact that mom will no longer have to divide her time between family, school, and church - she is now with God, and so she, like him, is in all places, at all times, forever
. She is with her family completely, she is with the school completely, and she is in the church completely. She is right now
experiencing every birth, every death, every marriage, everything
that we as a family - both blood family and family 'at large' - are going to experience. We now have someone to intercede for us with the Father
, someone to watch over us and to be with us now until the day when we are reunited with her, when we will know the infinite love of God and join with her in the everlasting praise of the Almighty.
Jesus came so that Debra Ann Moeller Wife might have life, and have it to the full. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving, but not mom. She feasted at the earthly banquet, and now is feasting forever at the heavenly banquet. She had a full life here on earth, and now we can rejoice that she has the fullness of life in heaven.