I want to thank the many of you who prayed for me, my family, and especially my mother as she battled cancer over the past year. I want to thank you also for your patience while my brothers, sisters, and I cared for her together in her last month of life. Nothing, but God can prepare us for the loss of a loved one. I thank Him each and every day for allowing me to be the daughter of such an amazing woman. I wanted to share with you some of the cherished things written about my mother, so that you may know her better, and in turn, know me better as well.
I don't know how many of you know this, but we have a priest in the family. My brother, Father David Konderla who is Director of Campus Ministry and Pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in College Station, Tx. (Now Bishop of Tulsa) He bravely delivered this Homily at our mother's funeral Mass where nearly twenty fellow priests stood in attendance to support him and our family, as well as a church that seats six hundred, which was standing room only, full of people whose lives my mother touched.
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them.”
Given how things have gone, pretty good news, wouldn’t you say? For those of us who knew of the distress of mom’s illness, knowing that no torment can touch her any longer is very good news.
And yet, since we know this with our heads and believe it with our hearts, how do we account for the lead weight that sits right here in the middle of our chest, and why is our breath constricted in a sob when we see her picture or think of her?
Admittedly it is a rhetorical question; the answer is not hard to divine.
Mom was our nurse, our counselor, our disciplinarian, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the public works department of our family, she was our tailor, our cook, our chauffeur, our catechist and much more. In Spanish there is a term for mother, “alma de la casa,” meaning, the soul of the house. Mom was certainly the soul of our house and now we miss her.
But deeper still, why did she do these things with her life?
Among the many photos on display these past few days is one that is my favorite and it is also in the program for the Mass today. Go ahead and look, I won’t be offended. I call it the “Hollywood starlet pose photo.” It depicts her head cast sideways resting on her hands and I believe is designed to show off her brand-new engagement ring.
It is my favorite because it shows mom before she was “mom” to anyone. She was Ann Louise Hoffman, a devout young woman of 24 or 25 years of age who had already completed her training as a nurse, an occupational choice that gives us some glimpse into her thinking at that time; she wanted to spend her life caring for others. Judging by her piety, can we not assume that she wanted to imitate her Lord precisely in His giving Himself away for others?
Already at that young age she had formed a plan to have a large family. When they were dating, she once asked Dad how many children he thought he would like to have. Dad said, “well, three or four, or a few.” He asked her, “how many children do you want to have?” She immediately responded, “twelve.” And like most young men in the presence of a Hollywood starlet, he was rendered mute and could not flee, so he came along with her.
Now, a devout and pious young woman, intelligent, already trained as a nurse, could not have been so naive as to think that with such a large family she would spend her time drinking hot toddies and eating bon bons. No, she had already to know that to carry out such a plan would cost her everything. In imitation of her Lord, she would have to give her whole life to it.
She made herself like Christ. She did not do it perfectly. This is not some storybook figure we are talking about, but she did it so heroically that we all fell in love with her.
Which brings us back to the lead weight in the chest that we started with. Why is it there? It is there because we love her and now miss her.
But can you see then that the very source of our grief is itself, at the same time, the very assurance of our joy because we know by faith that those who loved the Lord now live with Him. So that every sigh of ours must surely end in a smile remembering the heroic way she imitated Christ and how faithful He is to His disciples.
And for those of us who have loved her and do not want to lose her, I am sure this is all of us, we have but to live in imitation of the Lord as she did and some part of her stays with us until that day when we will see her again.”
I don't know how my brother was able to deliver such an amazing homily without one crack of his voice or one tear shed. I know there was not a dry eye in the rest of the church!
The night before my mother's funeral, I was awakened in the middle of the night with this poem pouring out of me. I immediately arose, found paper and pen, and desperately scribbled these words lest I lose them before morning.
"Thanks for letting me..."
Thanks for letting me know you love me by your Cross and Resurrection.
Thanks for teaching all of us the one and only direction.
Passing through the generations from my mom, to me, to my child, that you are The Way.
It is because of this teaching I can say,
Thanks for letting me joyfully hand over my mom until that final day.
I love you Mom!
Your Patricia Ruth
And finally, I am posting her obituary. My brothers, sisters and I sat around the dining table together, each of us putting in our two cents about our mother. I miss you Mom!
In loving memory of my dear sweet beloved mother, Ann Louise Konderla
April 16, 1936 - January 25, 2012
In the early hours of January 25, 2012, Ann Louise Konderla, holding strong to her faith in Jesus, and with her loving husband and children around her, reached out her hand for the prize she had cherished her entire life–being escorted into heaven by our Savior.
Ann's life was one of unselfish love and service. She steadfastly raised a Christ-centered family and graciously exemplified a devoted wife, faithfully served Jesus and the Church, and compassionately provided many services to the community at large.
During her decades-long career as a labor and delivery nurse, Ann served innumerable mothers across the state by calmly assisting them with the birth of their children. She took off a few years to have children of her own, then Ann continued her career as a nurse, providing love, understanding and thanksgiving to those in her care. She even helped to bring some of her own grandchildren into the world.
In the Church communities where Ann lived, she served as a catechist, sang in the choir, participated actively in the Altar Society, held multiple offices in the Women's Guild, earned the honor of being named Diocesan Woman of the Year, and most recently, enjoyed many rich relationships while a member of Age Managers.
Among the many who loved her, and whom she loved, she is survived by her husband, David Konderla; as well as her children, Ann Hall and husband Jimmy; Fr. David Konderla; Mary Fagan, husband James, and children Seth and Sean; Nita Wilson, husband Rusty, and children Hannah, Samuel, Abigail; James Konderla, wife Jackie, and children Cory, Ashley, as well as Wesley and wife Rachel and daughter Jamie; Margaret Alexander, husband Mike and daughter Savannah; Kevin Konderla, wife Gina and children Austin and Hunter; Tim Konderla, wife Stacy and children Thomas, Gayle and Jonathan; Patricia Kahlich, husband Joseph, and son Simon; Cathy Caroon, husband Lonnie, and children Paige, Rachel and Meredith; Joe Konderla; and Chuck Konderla, wife Lori, and children Matthew, Sara, Mark, John and Erika. She is also survived by her siblings: James Hoffman and wife June; Charles Hoffman and wife Priscilla; Marynell Konderla and husband Bob; Carol Palazzo and husband Bob; and Susan Honeycutt and husband Ron, as well as her numerous loving nieces and nephews.
She is being reunited in Heaven with her mother, Mary Hoffman; father, Charles Hoffman; sister, Margaret Bindel and husband Ken; and grandson, Robert Jasmine.
Being a catechist herself and a staunch supporter of the educators of the Catholic faith, the family requests in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Joseph Catholic School in Bryan, Texas.