Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am Jim Gorman. I am Peggy's oldest cousin on her mother's side of the family. And it is at once, my great honor and my great burden to bring you a eulogy--a good word-- about Peg at the occasion of her funeral mass. It is at once the easiest thing I will ever have to do and by far the most difficult.
For to bring a good word about a good woman, a good daughter, a good sister, a good wife, a good mother and a good friend, is no real challenge. Whatever eloquence I have to offer this morning is merely the marvelous eloquence of her all too short life.
But to bring any word at all on this occasion, to speak a word publically when my grief is painful and as private as yours, is, as you all can imagine a task to which no one would aspire. But for Peggy and for those she loves, I would do anything.
When her family tried to find a photo of Peg--of just Peg by herself--to give to the news media for that marvelous article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, they had an almost impossible job. For in every family picture, she is holding children or embracing her brother and sisters or hugging friends or holding on to her husband, Carroll. It did not occur to her to have a picture just of herself because she didn't see or understand her world in that way.
Peggy's life was a family-centered life. Her lover for the last 18 years, Carroll, was her closest friend and confidante and together they built a family of such rich and wonderful heritage that included their children, but also included her extended family and a network of other families and neighbors that she did much to nurture and encourage.
Peggy's approach to life was so innocent. Her smile had an incandescence about it that could light up the darkest recesses of the deepest caverns. Her life had a kind of brilliance that could put all things in perspective. And we most desperately need that light now that she is no longer with us.
She believed, perhaps without ever having to say so, in a good God whose creation was wonderful and all the created beings therein were good. And she believed that in the very center of her being. She didn't have to read books by Robert Schuller or Norman Vincent Peale to come to that conclusion. Her optimism and hope were just a part of her constitution; knitted as it were into her very DNA. Her trusting ways were ever child- like. She thought that the world was good and that people were good and if someone was mean to her, her first worry was that something must have gone wrong in that person's life to make that person that way.
One of the most troubling things about Peggy is that we had to explain all of our jokes to her. Because all of our humor is pretty dark, she would have to transform her way of looking at the world in order to get our humor. When we explained, she would say with a smile, "Oh, now I get it." And then her optimistic view of the world would snap back in place as if made of rubber. She was just so much fun to tease because of that. She would believe almost anything we told her and so we told her outrageous things just to see what she would do.
It might be tempting to say that she was naive. But that misses the real import of what Peg brought into the world. She brought a fresh and hopeful sense that anything is possible and that people in the main were trustworthy and honest. Every person in her view was God's creation and was therefore innocent until proven guilty.
That makes her death all the more ironic and troubling. And it makes all the questions that we cynics have about life, all the more compelling.
But the world doesn't need more cynics like me. The world needs more Peggys who see in every event, no matter how dark and troubling, the possibility for good. In fact, we-- each of us--need Peggy right now, in our own mourning and pain. For she would bring to this moment a sense of perspective and hope right when we are most ready to give up.
We need Peggy in the photos of our lives, embracing us, kissing us, holding us, comforting us and understanding our own pain in ways that we ourselves can barely grasp.
She was generous and kind in all things. Sharing her household with those she loved, working hard to give to everyone all that she had. She became an occupational therapist just so that she could help people find the resources within themselves to put back together their broken lives. And Carroll could use her now more than he ever did before.
To the kids, Tom, Bridgid, Meg and Patrick I just want to say that it is a good thing that you were born into a family of great story tellers, both the Heatherlys and the Cavanaughs. For there will be no shortage of wonderful stories about your mom. I trust that you will, through those stories, know her as we have known her and will have some sense of how deep and broad the love is that we have shared all these two score and two years.
On the other hand, Tom, Bridgid, Meg and Patrick, you know her better than we do. You know her as a mom who picked you up when you fell, who nursed you when you were sick, who talked to you about things that no one else could talk to you about and who loved you no matter what you had said or done. And you are beautiful children because of the things both your mom and dad have given you. And what your mom and dad have given you can never be taken away.
On behalf of the family, her parents, Mary and Tom, her brother and sisters, Carroll and the children, let me just express to her friends and neighbors how grateful we are for all you have done in Peg's memory. She was a good woman who will live greatly in our memory and in our hope. And all of us will be better human beings if we can take from this moment a small measure of the way she viewed her world, her faith, her optimism, her generosity of spirit, her hope, her unconditional love for all things.
Goodbye dear Peggy. May you live in us all in a way that makes our world less perplexing and the more hopeful.