The best kind of tribute to the best kind of mom

I wasn’t expecting to hear from my sister-in-law until some time next week. So I was surprised to learn that she was waiting for me to pick up one of our office lines.

Judy is in Wisconsin. She flew there on Wednesday, on the most difficult of journeys, after learning that her beloved mother, Evelyn (Lynn) Milas, had died last Saturday at the age of 85. Her husband (my brother Bob) and their children, 14-year-old Ben and 11-year-old Mandy, followed a day later.

When I picked up the phone, I was trying to anticipate the reason for Judy’s call. “Are you okay?” I blurted. She must have heard the concern in my voice, because she immediately laughed.

“We’re fine,” she said. And then she explained her dilemma.

Former Maggie's Place staff member Dayna Pizzigoni laughs with baby MacKenzie. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

One of the charities that Judy, her sister and two brothers have designated on their mother’s behalf is Phoenix-based Maggie’s Place, a nonprofit organization that creates homelike communities for young women who are pregnant, alone or homeless and in need of support. Following Catholic social teaching, the organization welcomes women who intend to keep and parent their children as well as those who decide to place their babies with adoptive families. Judy wrote a story about Maggie’s Place for our November 2009 magazine.

“Maggie’s Place: Building Communities of Hope,” became much more than a writing assignment to Judy. She was profoundly moved by the time she spent in the Maggie’s Place communities, listening to the women’s stories, absorbing the atmosphere of love and caring, seeing for herself the deep commitment and spiritual strength of the staff.

Judy was calling from an Office Max in Grafton, Wis. She was picking up the programs for her mother’s Memorial Mass on Saturday and decided to make some copies of her article so that friends and relatives of her mother who were unfamiliar with Maggie’s Place would know more about it.

But the staff at Office Max wouldn’t make copies of copyrighted material (as they certainly shouldn’t) without the written permission of the publisher. That would be me.

“I told them it’s a good thing my sister-in-law is the publisher!” Judy said jokingly, her voice sounding cheerful and strong. I could tell she was okay.

I quickly scribbled a note to Carrie Chronis at the Office Max, attached my business card (a requirement for authenticity) and faxed it off with a hand-drawn heart and smiley face for Judy.

When Judy first told me that she and her siblings had designated Maggie’s Place for donations on their mother’s behalf, it felt like exactly the right thing to do. Judy’s mother was loving, compassionate and devoutly Catholic. It seems only fitting that the grief of  losing the best kind of mom should be channeled toward a positive new start for one who’s just getting started.


5 responses to “The best kind of tribute to the best kind of mom

  1. The article made me smile ~ and the video brought a tear of joy that this young woman and her beautiful daughter found help at a time when she needed it. To hear all her positives is such a blessing. How wonderful that in memory, a beloved mother will continue to bless others here on earth!

  2. Karen, Please extend my condolences to your sister-in law and family. Her November 2009 article about Maggie’s Place inspired me to contact them around that time. I’m not Catholic, and am most certainly Pro-Choice. That being said, once a woman makes the choice to continue her pregnancy despite the odds being stacked against her already due to stressors such as homelessness, lack of financial resources, lack of family support, etc., she and her unborn child require adequate pre-natal care. Having experienced two high-risk pregnancies, as you know, I immediately thought to myself, what could be more high-risk than having a medical complication at the same time as being faced with these other high-risk situations. So, I contacted Maggie’s Place as well as the other homes that they sponsor. I described briefly my acquaintenance with HRP, specifically pre-term labor and extended bed-arrest, and offered my contact information if they ever had a woman present with this complication. A few weeks later, they asked me if I would please communicate with a young woman in one of their homes. She and I exchanged emails and I helped her define and request some accomodations that she needed in order to follow her doctor’s instructions. Following a successful full-term delivery, she placed her baby with loving adoptive parents. I have no idea about their lives after that, and for a while felt sad. Through my previous volunteer work with Confinement Connection as a support parent for women going through HRP, I always enjoyed the follow-ups from the women who chose to stay in touch. Then it hit me. I was just a peripheral player, how must this mother feel not knowing details about her child once having left her arms. And then, I smiled because I realized that I had helped this mother navigate ‘the system’ through my personal understanding of HRP and what was helpful for her to do to reach full-term. It was your sister-in-law’s article that created the opportunity for these gifts. ~Debbie

  3. Oh, Debbie–thank you! I will certainly make sure Judy sees your response. What a beautiful story! Particularly inspiring to me is the way you looked past differences — in religion, politics, values — to find the common thread of humanity that enabled you to reach out in this very specific, compassionate and unconditionally loving way.

  4. THESE kinds of stories need to be front page news. While I extend much sympathy to Judy Davis and her family, I am thrilled to see this kind of legacy happen.

  5. Karen and Debbie:

    What a lovely surprise it was for me to return from my mom’s memorial services and read this beautiful comment from Debbie posted about the article I wrote about Maggie’s Place for Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Thank you, Debbie. Your sharing of how you offered your help regarding high risk pregnancy issues to the women at Maggie’s Place deeply touched me.

    During the months I interviewed and researched for my article I would often say to my husband, “If just one person is affected in a positive way because they now know about Maggie’s Place, I will be pleased.”

    What a gift you gave to each and every one of us, Debbie– to me, to the Maggie’s Place mother whom you offered guidance, to the baby, to the adoptive parents, to the Maggie’s Place Staff and Community who work 24/7 to care for these moms.

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


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