Remembering Mom

This is my mom in her garden. Every time we moved she’d bring plants with us from our previous homes. Some of these flowers have lived in four states! Before she left us she knew it had rained and her garden was happy.

My mom was an amazing woman, even more remarkable than we ever totally realized. See here for a start. The following is my remembrance that I read at her funeral at Christ Church on September 9, 2017.

Hi everyone. I’m Anne. But of course you already know that because my mom talked about me all the time. In fact, I have a feeling some of you know me better than I know myself. My mom was my unofficial PR agent, and as one of her friends pointed out, she was my biggest cheerleader. I have to admit, it’s a bit strange to reach celebrity status by attending a funeral.

While today is about saying goodbye for many, I prefer to think about it as a celebration of life. And I wanted to share a few of the valuable life lessons I’ve learned from my mom over the years.

Lesson one: Keep a database of contacts. I’m sure many of you were recipients of the annual Ditmeyer holiday letter. As you look around this room, you can see that my mom was the master of keeping up with friends. There are so many chapters of her life represented today that during the reception I encourage you to say hi to someone you don’t know and find out how they knew my mom. Bonus points if you find the ping-pongers and Aqua Ducks.

Lesson two: Always have a credit card with your name on it. I first remember hearing this story long before my first credit card. It went something like this: my parents were out for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant on Nantucket during their honeymoon and the waiter spent the entire evening catering to my dad, so when the check arrived my mom whipped out her AMEX card and paid for the meal. The waiter’s eyes popped out of his head, and he reverted into his shell. He learned a valuable lesson that night.

Speaking of gender roles, I only recently learned that going by the name “Marty” also served my mom well. While working at MIT she was able to set up a lot of important meetings because of her name. When men would arrive they were often surprised that “Marty” was in fact a woman.

Lesson three: Failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part. My mom kept that on a sign near her computer at her jobs because she was always dealing with projects with unrealistic deadlines. As I was launching my own business and dealing with crazy clients, this advice always made me smile.

Lesson four: When you travel you will have memories that no one can ever take away from you. Sometimes I wonder how I got to where I am in life, then I shake my head, and realize it’s just that I’m a product of my parents, particularly my mother who was adventurous enough to buy a one way ticket around the world, and to study and work abroad. She knew travel was too valuable to wait to do it. Heck, my parents even made it to Paris in April and my mom walked 10k+ steps a day with her two titanium knees, and a big smile with each step.

Lesson five — and this is a direct quote –: I worry about things I have control over; I don’t worry about things I have no control over. While everyone deals with things in their own way, this was my mom’s mantra. During her valiant battle with cancer she never shed a tear. When the initial diagnosis came nearly four years ago after a routine surgery my mom’s response was: “this sounds like an engineering problem, what are we going to do to fix it?” When my parents got the news just over two weeks ago that the cancer had spread, my mom’s attitude was “it is what it is.”

Throughout her entire life my mom was no one other than herself. She was an incredible human being, a champion of others, she was special, a super hero disguised as a normal person. In the past week we’ve learned she touched more lives than we ever could have imagined. She is someone who will be truly missed, but her spirit will always live on.

Thank you all for being part of her amazing life and making it even richer.

P.S. Mom, thanks for making any future presentation a little less hard after this. Love always, Anne

P.S.S. One year later I wrote about “Surviving Loss” — the lessons I learned from losing my mom, how I got through it, and resources to help others.