Yesterday, I delivered the eulogy at my Mom’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery where she was interred with full military honors, including a funeral service, a procession to the gravesite with horse-drawn caisson and marching band, and a deeply moving interment ceremony with the flag folding and expressions of gratitude for my Mom’s service to her country from a representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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The ceremony itself was impressive enough, but the level of appreciation conveyed by the nearly 50 uniformed military personnel involved was even more impressive. As I spoke with the Monseignor who delivered the funeral service and the gravesite ceremony for Mom, he told me “We have 32 funeral services to perform today. I’m sorry, but we can give you only four minutes to help us all remember your Mom.” And indeed as we moved through the cemetery I saw at least three or perhaps four other services underway and I assume the honor guards from the various service branches stay busy all day, every day. I can’t express my appreciation for the honor paid to my Mom any more than I already have.
Here’s how I used my four minutes:
Hello. My name is Ed Tittel, and I’m here to talk about my Mom. Let me start by thanking all the friends and family here for this ceremony.
Why are we here today? Let’s try two important things: to remember, and to celebrate. We’re going to hang onto all that we have left of Cecilia Katherine Kociolek Tittel by remembering what we can of her life, and we’re going to celebrate because she made the world a better place by her passage through it.
As her son, I see this woman as a very special person—my Mom—but as a student of humanity I also see that she filled many roles throughout her life. First child, then parent, then finally grandparent. Also, daughter, sister, wife, and friend. Professionally, she was a student, then a student nurse, a registered nursing professional, a military nurse, a school nurse, and finally, a private duty nurse.
Here are the things I remember best and most fondly about my Mom, Cecilia K. Tittel:
- A tremendous zest for life, with a strong appetite for new place, people, and experiences. She always loved to travel, and visited as much of the world as she possibly could.
- A fabulous cook and entertainer with a great ability to put people at ease and to fill them up with choice food and drink. Most of what I learned about food and hospitality came from her.
- A person with a great sense of humor and a love of the absurd, who delighted not just in jokes and wordplay, but also in clowning around and horseplay as well. I remember some of the crazy head gear and socks she would don for Christmas, and all I can do is laugh.
- The years we spent as a family in Germany, mostly in Heidelberg, still bring back sweet memories of travel year around to interesting places, never-ending activities, and spending time with friends and family. In many ways, I think that period represents her “good old days” as well.
How can you say goodbye to someone who’s been a part of your life since the day you were born? In my case, I say it reverently, and sadly, and with some relief that the pain and confusion that Mom suffered during her final years is finally over. I’m sorry she’s gone, but I will always be glad that I knew her and that she exercised so much influence on my life and outlook. I imagine each one of you here can say something similar. I hope you’ll join me in wishing her well and in saying “So long, it’s been good to know ya.”
That’s it for today’s blog, as I continue to remember Mom and celebrate her life with my family in northern Virginia.