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Irene Condon

As far as we know, there is no one who has more compassion than Irene. A longtime Chicago friend of our founder, it was in the summer of ‘06 that Irene walked away from a big job in the Big Apple (both bigs that she dearly loved), to move back into her childhood bedroom on the southside of Chicago. There, for the next 18 months, with amazing patience and love, she served as her beloved Mom’s primary caregiver. Their struggle with Alzheimer’s ended on October 1, 2007, and we created the “You were her angel” card to honor them both.

Irene gave the eulogy for her mother and, with her permission, we are sharing Irene’s loving words here:

“My mother was a woman of enthusiasm and joy. She loved to laugh. She appreciated her health, and being able to take care of her husband, her family, and her home. She loved sipping a martini. And, oh, how she loved a good party! She never wanted to leave. Our poor father would be ready to go home, and Mom would take forever saying her goodbyes. Dad would go out to the car and wait a while … then come back in and try again! More than likely, she would have been talking to one of her ‘Sixth Grade Girlfriends,’ the group of bosom buddies she met in, yes, sixth grade, and remained close to for more than 70 years.

She was away from them – and Chicago – for only a few years in the ‘40s. After business college, and at the start of WWII, she moved to Washington to become a secretary in the War Department.  Shortly after returning home, Mom developed a severe cough that was diagnosed as tuberculosis. Her condition was critical, and she was bedridden in a sanitarium for the better part of a year. She admitted that recuperating from TB and the invasive surgeries was tough, but that the experience helped shape her attitude toward life. She said that, as she lay in her sanitarium bed helpless and exhausted for 12 full months, she thought about all the moments of her short life she’d wasted being unhappy, angry, or negative. She determined that ~ if she ever got better ~ she would never waste time or energy being sad or upset about anything trivial again.

After that sedentary year in the sanitarium, little by little, things began to improve. She got a job and paid her parents back for all of her medical expenses. And she met my father. Jack was the light of her life. For 56 years they were absolutely devoted to each other. And of course they had ‘Marcella’s girls,’ their six daughters, of which I am one. Mom put great effort into helping us grow up to be good people who look out for others. She wanted us to be happy and enjoy life. That was her one and only expectation.

One of the dearest things about Marcella was how she made a point of finding something lovely about every person she encountered ~ and saying so. In the hospital, she would compliment every nurse who came into her room with, ‘What pretty hair you have’ or, ‘Your nails are so beautiful,’ something like that. It would put a smile on the person’s face and brighten their day. They felt better for having seen Marcella!

Mom once told me she never dreamed she’d live such a long life. Her hope had been to survive long enough to raise her children and be with Jack. So, as she got into her 60s, 70s and 80s, she would look in the mirror and with astonishment and joy say, ‘I can’t believe I’ve gotten this old!’ She enjoyed all the moments she could with great enthusiasm … just as she had promised back in the sanitarium.

After Dad died 18 months ago, Mom grew increasingly ill and her mind began failing her. Yet she never missed an opportunity to say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ ‘Oh, Thank You for taking care of me,’ and ‘I love you, honey.’ Even in these last few months, when Mom’s mind was not so clear and she’d call out at three in the morning, she’d look up at me standing over her in my PJs and exclaim, ‘Oh, honey, I love what you’re wearing!’ And, just as often, she’d say, ‘I love ya, Jack.’ We know Dad’s been patiently waiting for Mom to join him. As always, it just took her a little longer to say her goodbyes.”

It was a few years later that Irene called Jodee and opened the conversation with, “Hey, I want to suggest this message for a card celebrating my friend Cynthia … she has been valiantly fighting cancer and absolutely believes that ‘hope is our best medicine’.” Done! Irene has had a lot of happiness in her life, so stay tuned for cards that capture those moments, too.

Cards inspired by Irene