My mom, Helen Moyse Borst died on March 11th after battling Alzheimer’s for several years. I never give the year but simply say 3/11 because she died exactly six months before the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She was in her early or mid-seventies when she started to show the initial signs of dementia. At this time, I was raising my family out of state. My father, who had resisted leaving his only residential home because he thought it would hasten his own demise, broke his hip, not once but twice. This necessitated that my extended family move them to a nursing facility much closer to us in St. Louis.
Though my father did enjoy his stay in St. Louis or as he used to say, made the best of it, Dr. Adam S. Borst died on April 18, 1989 of pneumonia, just months shy of his 92nd birthday. I always laugh at that date because it was Tax Day that year. During the part of his life that I shared with him, he had spent much time in a fierce battle with the IRS. At the age of 48, he retired from active medical practice because he reasoned that government was too intrusive. This was 1945 and I was just two.
My mother, on the other hand, slowly declined until just a few weeks short of her 91st birthday. I presented her eulogy at the gothic-style Annunziata Church in Ladue. The Church, which we still attend, always reminds me of my parish church in Forest Hills, New York. Though not too many people came, three priests were on the altar, including St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Naumann. I used to call Father Joe when I worked for him when he was the Pro-Life Director of the Right to Life Apostolate in the Archdiocese. He currently serves as the Archbishop of the Kansas City, Kansas and also chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-life, much to the chagrin of Democrats.
I have only written just two eulogies in my life. The first one resides below and is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. You may have already read the second one I gave for my first wife on this site. (Judy Sent Me, October of 2016)
On behalf of my mother, I first want to thank all of you for being here. My mother would have been deeply honored by your presence and humbled if she had known that a bishop of the Catholic Church had preached at her funeral. She was always in awe of men of the cloth but a bishop! I think the closest she ever was to one was when she bought me a chess set.
I ask myself why am I up here talking! It is not for personal therapy. I feel that there are some things that need to be said to bring her life to an absolute close. Many of you did not know her or even see her. That is a real shame. (As an aside to Bishop Naumann: You knew her better than I thought you did!) In the few minutes available I want to give a brief profile of my mother, Helen Borst
Helen Moyse was born in New Jersey, in 1910, the same year as Mother Teresa. My mom was basic, fundamental, and modest on all levels. She was steady, firm but not hard, decent. She was generous…to a fault….. Simple, but not simple-minded. She did not stand out in a crowd nor did she wish to stand out. She graciously sacrificed herself daily for her husband, her home, her son and her faith in God, not necessarily in that order. Her womb is where my life began and in those days it was a safe haven, a place of warmth and protection, unlike the cultural battleground it is today. Had my mother been offered a choice, in 1943, she would have been offended and upset that women could even think that.
One story will suffice to explain her role as my mother. The date was April 17, 1961. You may know it as the date of the Bay of Pigs invasion. For me it was the day that shaped my entire life. It was the day my letter from Holy Cross came in the mail. My parents had wanted me to go to Fordham and day-hop. I wanted to go to the Cross in the worst way. My mom was under strict orders NOT to open the letter. I can still see her, standing at the door as I traipsed home. Nervously waving the envelope for me to see. I dropped my bag …ran to her. As I fumbled with the envelope, she kept reassuring me. ‘It will be alright. I think you’ll get in.’ Well I had to read just three words from Dean of Admissions, Fr. Miles Fay…We are happy. I was too!
I found out later that she had steamed open my letter, not because she was nosey but because she knew I don’t take rejection well. She wanted the time to prepare herself to help me through another possible disappointment. That was my mom and I think that says it all. Thank you all for making her day.