I’ll see ya when I see ya

Rose Purcell Billies, circa 1938, Breezy PointI recently watched Bill Crystal’s 700 Sundays movie. In it he talks about his father who Crystal figured he had 700 Sundays with before his death when Crystal was 15. Without his father’s guidance Crystal needed to navigate the rest of his life with only his mother’s support. Fortunately, his mother was a rock who despite being a widow at 50 managed to send her three sons to college and remain in the family house until her death in her late 80’s.

Both parents and their sons used the expression “I’ll see ya when I see ya” when bidding farewell. In fact, in his last phone call to his mother who had suffered a stroke Billy said that he would fly in from the West Coast to see her. Like most mothers she told him to take his time and closed their conversation with their familiar goodbye “I’ll see ya when I see ya”. She died an hour later.

Most of us have regrets when we lose a mother, father, a relative or a friend. Why didn’t I call more? Why didn’t I spend more time with them? I should have told them that I loved them more often.

My own mother died when she was barely 60. She died on a Sunday while her family was at church praying for her. Unfortunately, we lived in Milwaukee and she lived in Northern New Jersey. I saw her about a month before she died and she looked me in the eye and said “Take that little girl to church.” I told her that I would and we did.

The toughest thing that you’ll have to deal with in this life is the death of your parents. After all, they’ve been with you their entire life. From birth, through schooling, Marriage and buying your first home, they’ve always been there. You could turn to them for advice, help and sometimes just a hug.

When I saw my mother lying in that coffin, I just broke down and wept like a baby. I was her oldest child. I was the one who had to tell Richard Billies Sr., circa 1943various sales people, “No, this isn’t my sister, it’s my mother.” I was the one who accompanied her and my grandmother to take care of my great grandmother every Wednesday until she died at 87 (or 90, or 92, every women on that side of the family lied about their age).

Maybe the toughest time was during her funeral when one of my father’s priestly friends gave her eulogy. He remembered her as beautiful, young mother who their best friend had married 38 years before. He never really knew the women who was racked by rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

My father was a widower for about 11 years. I visited him in the hospital on a trip to New Jersey. He knew he was dying of lymphoma of the bone marrow and told me “I don’t want to be a bother to my family” as if we actually thought that. I told him that I would see him soon before I left. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. He died two weeks later.

So Mom and Dad “I’ll see ya when I see ya”.

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