That Moment When Mortality Came Crashing In

I know what you’re thinking. “Today is Mother’s Day and she is going to talk about mortality???” I can just hear my own Mom gasping as she reads this! The truth is I fully planned on writing my ode to what being a Mom means to me. Then this week happened and I found myself making plans to go to a Visitation on Mother’s Day for my Mom and Dad’s best friend of 45 years.

Msgr. Duffy Gardner or, in our house, endearingly known as “Duffy,” died suddenly this past week. Oh, he’d had his health issues but seemed to be on the mend. In fact, just this past week he spent an entire evening with my folks, IMG_3176enjoying my Mom’s famous Lebanese feast (oh, how he loved her cooking!), asking about all of us and our kids’ lives and, no doubt, the three of them laughed until their sides hurt…because that is what the “three amigos” had been doing for 45 years.

When Mom told me of his sudden death, I was just numb. It honestly took a few hours and some quiet time for the childhood memories to flood in. He was there to watch me tap dance every time he came over (at my precocious insistence at the age of 5, of course); he was there in my elementary years, always calling me only by my nickname, Dee Dee; he was my confirmation sponsor and there to shed light and wisdom when I was in the “questioning years” of teen-hood; he was there with his guitar, joining my Dad for the regular “jam session” while we sang along; he was there when both of my Grandmothers passed away months apart all while I was a young teen; he was there when I thought I had married my Prince Charming and there when I realized that could not have been farther from the truth; he was there when my children were born; he was there when I got remarried to the man I was always meant to be with; he was there for my kids’ graduations and there when we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. But this week, today, he is no longer there.

As I have silently grieved in what has proven to be I think the busiest week of my entire life, I had a huge “aha” moment Friday morning and shared it with Scott, my hubby. Just as Scott had grieved when his dear, sweet Grandma Helen had died a few years back because she was such a constant, loving, stable part of his childhood into adulthood, I was now experiencing that sort of grief…for the first time. You see, as I worked thru the memories and my reaction to the memories I realized that this was truly the first constant, loving, stable person from my childhood thru adulthood that I had lost. Duffy was a part of too many of my childhood memories to even count and you know what? In EVERY memory, there was laughter. Lots of it.

For the first time, because I have not lost a parent (and feel blessed that they are both so healthy), I was experiencing that monumental loss. That loss where a piece of my childhood felt as if it was vanishing because he was such a big part of it. I took it for granted that he would always be here. And now he is gone.

So this year, I am putting my “Mother’s Day” on hold. My kids are not able to be here this year, but I will be with my Mom, as we stand together at the Visitation and Rosary of one of her dearest friends and a man that brought music, life, laughter and joy to my childhood.

Duffy Gardner, you will be missed. I am so thankful for the happiness and joy you brought so many. I am thankful for every memory, the inside jokes that only my parents and brother and sister will “get.” Thank you for teaching me how to make a daiquiri, thank you for never letting me take myself too seriously, thank you for loving me and my kids, thank you for making me laugh so hard that it hurt. Dee Dee loves you to the moon and back, now “go get your pajamas on and go to bed.” Sweet dreams.

keep-calm-and-live-your-life-out-loud.jpgSHE-friends, who is that person in YOUR life that, when you recall childhood memories, that person keeps popping up in most of them? Whoever they are, wherever they are (because I realize that person for some of you may no longer be on this earth with you), take a moment today to be thankful for them, for what they meant to you and for the memories that live inside of you. Once you have done this, go and LIVE! Live life out loud, live life fully, live life with laughter. THAT is the lesson I am taking from this loss.

To my SHE-friends that are Mommas, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. Motherhood is truly the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you will ever do.


Note from the SHE Files:

“Embrace your Mortality, Live with Vitality”

–Patrick Mathieu


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Patrick Mathieu
4 years ago

Hi Darlene:

Thanks for the ‘shout-out’ at the end of your very touching article. I didn’t know the man, but I’m sure Duffy would have loved your tribute to him.

Keep up the good work!


4 years ago

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute!