I had the honor of delivering the eulogy for 96 year old Ann Riccardi, blessed mom of our friend Joy Murray and her husband Jim. It appears below. Indeed, we said goodbye to another of the Greatest Generation. If you know one of Ann's fellow greats who still blesses us with their presence, give them a hug and a big thank you for all their generation did to set and preserve values that still make America great. And tell them you'll share those values with those who are following after us. ... and now, the tribute to Ann Costantino Riccard:
ANN (COSTANTINO) RICCARDI
Greetings to everyone. Thank you for your attention.
Joy and Jim Murray asked if I could say a few words about Ann, the mother of Joy and Bobbie. How could I resist? Because if we were to entitle this eulogy, perhaps it would be… ANN (COSTANTINO) RICCARDI, A MOTHER FOR ALL OF US, A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS.
In the way of full disclosure, don’t believe that what I will share are all my thoughts. Rather they’re a compilation of so many that came from her children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews, and friends of all ages.
Ann, “a mother for all of us”—Joy and Bob, she was the one chosen to bring you guys into the world, with a little help from your beloved dad, Ricky Riccardi. Of course, I don’t have to remind anyone that this was Mothers’ Day weekend in our great country; indeed, God has a sense of humor and a sense of timing, doesn’t He. And so does Ann!
You know, one of the most celebrated of all mothers in recorded history was Ann, the mother of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. Now, let me make this perfectly clear, … we are not making any comparisons of Joy to the Virgin Mary. None whatsoever. But her mother Ann, on the other hand, epitomized the greatest of mothers, … loving, honest, practical, wise, moral, caring for all, expecting nothing in return. Yes, Ann was the perfect name for her, with her example being Ann of the time of Mary and the Lord.
Ann, “a mother for all of us”—to all of the friends of Joy and Bobbie, did she not become a mother figure for each of us? After all, most of us are now orphans. So, we yearned to get over to Jimmy and Joy’s house to see them and their kids, and the many who would be their guests. But so vital was it always to be with Ann—to sneak away from the crowd, to sit with her, to answer her loving concerns about our families, to hear her discerning take and advice on all that was happening around us, to tap into her timeless touch with days gone by that would teach us a lesson, to observe her marveling over the crowd in the Murray house, just like the ones back in Jersey City at her humble home with Ricky. And after a short time with her, did we not feel better about ourselves, … and in an emotional moment, were we not closer to our own moms, now long gone?
What were the lessons that this mother of all mothers shared with us, … in fact, suggested to us with the intent of a tough coach, but the gentleness of an angel on assignment from on High? She’d say, “Forgive, … please forgive all; … forget, remember only the good; live in the moment, don’t regret the past, and forget worrying about the future; be kind by doing for others; and don’t sympathize, but empathize, … get into their shoes to find the power to give to the less fortunate, expecting nothing in return.” By her totally lucid and articulate ninety-six years, … that was the life-giving medicine she suggested to us for long life.
But in addition to being a mother to all of us, she was a friend. Yes, she was older than all, a member of the Greatest Generation. However, she made you feel her equal, … like she understood all you were contemplating, talking about, or going through, … because that Greatest Generation had gone through it all, and tougher times. While Ricky preceded her to their eternal reward in Heaven, how could she not think of him every day as she’d watch and listen to the multitudes of friends visiting at the Murray house? Isn’t that just how she and her husband fashioned their home? … for friends, relatives, strangers… the door was always opened, coffee perking on the stove, cake ready for unknown visitors, … perhaps a little different from today, but not wherever she was living. And in her watching the 21st Century crowd come to visit her, she had to feel Ricky’s presence next to her. She and he were… “friends for all seasons.”
Many of us know of her passion to brighten our days with greeting cards for all occasions. Well, I, too, was a recipient of those sincere thoughts. With her deep Catholic culture always with her, the name day of Saint Joseph was not an ordinary day to her. And it would be in mid-March, since I came to know her that she would order her daughter Joy all over creation to find me a St. Joseph Day card in honor of that great Christian and in remembrance of me, … just a friend of her daughter and son-in-law Jimmy. From her hospital bed this year she scolded Joy for not getting me that card on time. And her card to me was the only one I had been receiving these last years with my wonderful family having passed long ago. This I can guarantee you: for as many St. Joseph’s Day as I have left, I will always be thinking of Ann Riccardi, and I have a funny hunch that my mother will find her on the other side to thank her for her motherly interest in me.
Oh yes, she was tough. They just named a hurricane after her the other day! But her toughness was full of love. After all, the best of friends tell you the truth, even when it hurts. She was also saavy and hip, … who can brag about sleeping with Derek Jeter every night since the kids delivered the Captain’s blanket to her bedside.
In the end, Miss Ann, we have shed a few tears for you in the past couple of weeks. But the good Lord is prompting us with good advice: not to cry for your having left us, but to smile for your having been with us for so many years.
And so, we do not say goodbye, but rather “… until we meet again.” But before that, I have the blessed suspicion that right about now, the Good Lord is sitting with a smile on His face, saying “Job well done, thou good and faithful mother, thou good and faithful friend, thou good and faithful servant.” And his smile is broadening as he watches you and Ricky dance together, again. Indeed, that is our wish for you, Ann: “We Hope You Dance.”