Betty Fisher lived 90 years. Almost, 91. She didn't win any accolades or awards. She didn't seek the lime light. She didn't need anything as fleeting as commendations. And for that reason, you probably didn't know her. You've probably never heard of her. You most likely hadn't a chance to shake her gentle hand.
She died today leaving behind 10 sons, (yes, I said 10), a husband of 70 years, (yes I said 70), and countless grand children and great grand children and daughters-in-law of which I was one. And for some reason, I have been compelled, since I found out, to tell you all about her. It seems necessary somehow, to tell you about this woman who lived quietly but in a way that we all need to hear about so that we can learn from her, understand her...celebrate her. So without further delay, I'd like to introduce you all to my mother-in-law, Betty Fisher, on the day of her death.
Betty Fisher had ten boys, raised ten boys, loved all ten boys. And she did it at a full height of 5 feet and about 98 pounds soaking wet. But despite her small stature, she was absolutely gigantic in the eyes of those who were lucky enough to love her and be loved by her. She and the light of her presence filled a room and filled our heart and souls. The love she gave was even grander, larger, bigger and there wasn't a space in the world big enough to contain it all.
She loved red. Oh, how she loved red. At family functions, in order to find her, I would scan the room looking for that ruby color she'd always don in the form of a sweater or fleece. I swear she must have owned every darn red top that was ever sold in JC Penneys, Sears or Kohls. Every darn one. And who could blame her? Red is the color of happiness and vibrancy. It was so entirely fitting that it was her color. So entirely fitting.
Even though everyone called her "Betty" her real name was Rose Elizabeth Fisher. And true to her name, she adored roses. Her prize bushes greeted all who came to the front door and she'd light right up at a gas station bouquet. It was the simple things for her...Hope there's roses in heaven.
She made a mean ketchup goulash. She could put on a dinner for 50 as easily and as welcoming as an intimate dinner with family. She taught me how to make a turkey and I could never match her amazing apple pie. Cooking was one of the ways she showed her love. Her cuisine was the ultimate comfort food.
Betty never missed a birthday. And I mean NO ONE'S. It didn't matter how large her family grew, she always acknowledged you on the day you were born. She may send a card, but most of the time, she'd invite you down for a dinner or weekend breakfast. No matter how much her arthritis bothered her, no matter how tired she was or how old she grew, she and her sweet husband Ed would insist on bringing me to my favorite restaurant, The Harvest, for my birthday where her eyes would light up when they set down the blooming onion in front of us. Those birthday celebrations made me feel special. And truly isn't that what we all want? To know that we mattered to someone. Betty made sure I knew that. She made sure that everyone she loved knew that.
She was steadfast and loyal. Her love was utterly unconditional. There wasn't a thing that one of her sons or her daughters-in-law or her grandchildren could do that would stop her from loving them. Not one damn thing. She took pride in this, a fierce pride.
To be more specific, Betty loved me. She loved me. And there wasn't a thing that I had done in the past or that I could do in the future that would change that. And for me, that was the thing....I have never been loved that way. Not ever. It wasn't until I stood in the presence of Betty Fisher did I even know that I was worthy of that kind of love. She loved me. All of me. All of the family-shunning-introverted-overthinking-me. She did. Just as she loved her whole family. The unconditional adoration that she gave from her heart contributed to healing such deep wounds of shame and feeling of being not good enough. And what's more she scoffed at those who didn't love me that way. I will never ever ever forget that life-changing moment when bewildered and wounded by a fierce familial rejection she took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, "I just don't understand them. Logan, they don't know what they're missing. They just don't know what they're missing."
My beloved Betty loved her God just as much as she loved her boys. And let's be honest with 10 sons, she needed her God. I am not quite sure how one could put one foot in front of the other with a family as big as hers without the soothing idea that God was in charge. And what a soldier for him she was. She and my father-in-law woke up every morning and said the rosary together. And then they'd open a notebook that held the names of those they prayed special prayers for. My youngest son, Gannan was one of them. Right up until her last week, she'd bring communion to shut-ins, attend mass several times per week and sing his praises daily, hourly, by the second.
Today Betty Fisher died. That woman, the epitome of grace, the quintessential mother, the image of piety, humbleness and sacrifice left us here on Earth well-loved and full of memories that will keep her being alive for eons to come. And while I am not sure I have ever experienced a sadness this deep, it makes me smile to think of the kind of welcome she received when arriving in heaven. I am sure that this woman who lived without fanfare as an earthly being got a hero's welcome. And that God himself met her at the gate saying, "What a life you lead, Betty Fisher. Congratulations on a job well done. I am so proud of you. Now it's time to rest."
I will miss you beloved Betty. Rest easy.