On November 2, 1931, on a farm in County Mayo, Ireland, my mother, Kathleen O’Connor, was born. She was one of seven children, and she learned at a very young age how tough life can be. Her mother died when she was 11, and she, her siblings and her father simply had to do what it takes to make things work.
The family persevered, and Mom eventually came to the United States in 1955. Here, she met my Dad, built a family and they lived happily ever after – until that damn diagnosis.
She was married to a loving husband and had six wonderful kids (Mom’s very proud words) and 19 grandchildren that filled her heart with joy every day. Mom was truly loving life, cheering for her beloved Philadelphia Eagles, attending every school play and enjoying time with family and friends. She was traveling with Dad, beating the grandchildren in miniature golf and “walking the boards” in Ocean City, New Jersey – until that damn diagnosis.
When we heard the words “lung cancer,” we were all very scared, as was Mom. However, she lived every day to the fullest, was always upbeat and consistently saying, “Today was a good day.”
She “fought like the dickens” and went to all her treatments. Her doctor even commented about how feisty Mom was to fight so hard. And as Mom got sicker, she got stronger for us, leaving all of us with a lifelong lesson in dignity and love.
Mom had one final summer down the shore. She said her goodbyes to her wonderful children and gave away her jewelry to each of her daughters and granddaughters. She would miss us desperately because family was EVERYTHING to Mom. She knew there were some very special days coming that she would never see. And typical of Mom, she did what she could do to make our lives easier. She also worried about Dad and teased him about his “next wife.”
Sadly, lung cancer won, and the world lost in December of 2011. Mom was a true lady, a wonderful wife, a loving and caring Mom and a doting grandmother. She lived for her family, and we knew we simply had to do something in memory of our amazing Mom.
When Mom died, there was a constant outpouring of love that reflects the undeniable impact that Mom made outside of our family. We heard things like:
- She was like a second Mom to me
- Her focus on the family was amazing
- She brought the real Irish to the Matthews family
- She always made me feel special
- And on and on…
Mom touched many people with her class, her dignity and her razor-sharp wit. She would make people laugh, and when people saw Mom, they wanted to be near her. You see, Mom had this unique ability to make anyone feel special. She knew what mattered to you and talked with you. She would hold your hand, look you in the eye and simply have a great conversation.
Mom always stood by us, cheered at hundreds of games, stood proudly at finish lines and attended countless grade school plays. As Dad said many times, Mom dedicated her life to her kids and to her grand-kids.
So, our family has continued to fight for anyone diagnosed with lung cancer. We have done so since 2011 when we became “Kathleen’s Krew” in Mom’s honor. Since then, we have raised over $230,000 for The Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Lung Cancer Alliance to support them as they fight against lung cancer. We will not stop until we raise $1,000,000.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. And on November 2nd, Mom would have been 87. Happy Birthday, Mom. We love you and miss you every day.