In the early morning hours of May 17, 2012, my mother — Mary Catherine Quinn — passed, succumbing to her fight against cancer. My mother was my closest friend and I will miss her more than any words could possibly describe.
In early February 2012 my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had spread. At that time I knew the prognosis was bad, but she looked better than she had in years. It was impossible to believe that this was the beginning of the end, but it unfortunately was. We were told that she would have perhaps 3 months if she elected not to undergo chemotherapy, and perhaps 8 to 10 months if she elected to undergo treatment. My mother elected treatment and prayed every day for the miracle she knew she would need to save her.
As I began canceling meetings, appointments, interviews, conferences and phone calls some in the industry learned about my mother’s battle with cancer. Since early February, I have made frequent and extended trips to New Jersey to be with my mother. By mid-April I moved in with my sister to be close. As my mother was quickly succumbing to the cancer and could no longer go through chemotherapy she moved in with my sister where we were able to care for her in a loving environment surrounded by close family who attended to her 24/7.
I am writing this article to honor her in several ways. First, she was the best loving mother anyone could ask for, and a truly good person who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. I want to scream from the highest platform that I loved her with all my heart and I will miss talking to her and being around her.
Second, in the final weeks my mother and I enjoyed many private, personal moments. In one moment she told me that she had a few regrets. Although I know of the other, unspoken regret, the only one she verbalized was that she was not more charitable. I told her that moving forward I would be charitable enough for both her and I, and I can’t think of a better place to start than trying to raise money for cancer research. My mother was an avid college basketball fan, so to the extent anyone might be inclined to send flowers or a sympathy card I would be eternally grateful if you would instead donate even a small amount to the Jimmy V Foundation in her name. The V Foundation bears the name of college basketball coach Jim Valvano who himself lost his battle with cancer in 1993. Thanks to an endowment and volunteer experts who review grant proposals, the V Foundation awards 100% of all donations directly to cancer research and related programs.
Being one of my mother’s primary care givers (along with my sister and Renee) was the most difficult, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done. My only regret is not putting my life and career on hold sooner, but spending so much time with her over the past month was truly special. We created numerous memories that will last me a lifetime, and I learned life lessons that have touched me deeply.
One of my fondest memories will be how I would put her to bed, whether it was for a nap or for the night. She would be sitting in the recliner I got for her watching the Game Show Network, which we spent countless hours doing. I would help her up and rather than have her use her walker or put her into a wheelchair, we would “dance” to bed. I would tell her that we were dancing like we did on my wedding day. I would hold her tight and she would hold me and we would slowly shuffle toward the bed a few feet away.
There were so many moments I could write about, and friends who have been there for me at this time have suggested I consider writing a book, which I may do in the future. Of all the special moments I was extraordinarily grateful that I was the one that my mother turned to when she would struggle, particularly in the final days. My mother was claustrophobic, and having bed rails up would sometimes lead to agitation. When this happened she wouldn’t allow anyone close to her, except me. I would take her to her recliner and then sit in front of her and she would bury her head into my chest. I would rub her back and remain there until she calmed down. In one instance she didn’t know it was me approaching her and pushed away, but then became calm when she saw it was me. The fact that I could comfort my mother during this time helps me when I am struggling over missing her. We shared a connection.
My mother really despised having her picture taken, so I don’t have all that many photos of her, but she couldn’t avoid the camera on my wedding day and on her own.
The other picture I want to share is one from Christmas 2002, which is unfortunately blurry. You can blame the photographer — me — although I always preferred blaming the camera. In any event, her children and grandchildren all around, and she is handing out what seemed like a never ending number of Christmas presents. She loved Christmas and would spend the entire year shopping to find things on sale so she could extend her budget beyond what seemed to be any logical breaking point given my parents means.
I love my Mom more than words can capture. I will see her again, although I won’t rush it. In the meantime I’ll be remembering the good times as much as I can and I will continue to speak with her daily even if she cannot respond. Of course, there will be those moments when I will breakdown. The hurt is deep, but writing this article and sharing memories of my mother has helped.
Safe trip mom! Love ya lots!
MARY C. QUINN
AGE 79 • FREEHOLD
Mary C. Quinn, 79, a lifelong resident of Freehold, passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 17, 2012, at her daughter’s home in Jackson while holding her son, Gene’s hand and surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Mary was an avid college basketball and Dallas Cowboy fan. Her favorite past times included yard sale shopping, clipping coupons, and watching the Game Show Network.
She is survived by her husband, Eugene; son and daughter-in-law, Eugene and Renee of Waterford, VA; daughter, Sara Ayers of Jackson; brother Joseph Groth of Murrells Inlet, SC; sister, Dorothy Jones of Howell; and grandchildren, Ryan and Victoria Ayers, and Joseph Compasso-Quinn.
A graveside service will be held 11 a.m. Monday, May 21, 2012 at St. Rose of Lima Cemetery, Freehold. Arrangements are under the direction of Freeman Funeral Home, Freehold.