Words of Remembrance

 
Theresa Barrett Male, Esquire   Eric M. Morrison
 
Good morning Monsignor, family, friends, and all who came here today to celebrate the life of my sister Theresa (“T”), who fought her battle with cancer with such grace. I never would have thought I would have the courage, or strength, to stand here and speak about someone’s life, but the strength that I need here today, is nothing compared to the strength that T has shown daily for the past 8 years.

For those of you who did not know T as she grew up, she was the eldest of 6 children. As with most large families, we always had chores to do. For T, Judy, and I, those included washing and drying the dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor each night. When it was T’s turn, however, it involved a lengthy search for her Playtex living gloves. Maybe she secretly knew that if it took long enough to find them, Judy or I would do the dishes for her.

T traveled to Nevada, Missouri in 1969 to work with the poor, and stayed at a convent with other young people, who also had an interest in social work. She planned on returning the next summer, however, my parents told her that she needed to find summer employment, with pay. She didn’t argue, but told them she was going to visit a friend before starting a job. A few days later, after leaving for the “visit,” she called home to say she was in Missouri and was staying another summer at the convent.
 
It was here, in 1970, that she met Jon. She was probably thinking to herself: “What is a Jewish boy from New York City doing at a catholic convent in Missouri?” In a few short weeks, as she got to know Jon, T discovered that this was actually her ideal man. He could cook…….clean…….do laundry…..and grocery shop. Anyone who knew T, would agree.
They married in 1974, and after earning her master’s degree in 1976, T went to work as a caseworker for the County Children & Youth services. She became frustrated with the legal system, which would often return children to the same situation that she worked so hard to remove them from, and after 7 years, decided to go to law school, where, as an attorney, she could better help children and families.

During her time at the Dickinson School of Law, she was an editor of the Law Review, where her article: “Suffer the Little Children:” An Analysis of Serious Physical Injury Under Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law, was published. In 1986, she earned her Juris Doctorate.

After law school, T went to work practicing family law in a small firm in Harrisburg. T felt that she could better serve her clients, if she was self-employed, and in 1989 she opened her own practice ---------- Theresa Barrett Male, Esquire. Over the next 23 years, she became well respected by her clients, colleagues, and judges.

In 2003, Theresa argued before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania a case involving a blind student, whose parents were divorced, and the father refused to pay child support past the normal cut-off age of 18. Based on the case as presented to the court by Theresa, the court ruled he was entitled to child support. This ruling overturned two other previous Cumberland County rulings, and set new precedent in the state. An Associated Press article reported the case, and was published in many newspapers across the state.

Her battle with cancer began in 2009, and in that same year she fulfilled a dream ------- a home in Ireland. Her home was called “Woodlawn,” named after that street we all grew up on, and was located in County Mayo ---- the birthplace of our great-grandparents. She filled her home with photos of our Irish relatives and all the love she had for her family. I, along with my other sister, Judy, T traveled to Woodlawn as often as her health would allow. We would set out on daily trips, navigated by T, who had studied maps the night before. Each evening, her home would welcome us back to its peace and beauty. Once again, though, Judy and I would be in charge of kitchen detail, as T would light the turf fire, and we would spend the evening together, researching our trip for the next day.

In 2013, after another round of chemotherapy, T & Jon traveled to Ireland for a 2-week stay. It was on this trip that T decided she would climb the holy mountain of St. Patrick. This was quite a feat for anyone, let alone someone with stage 4 breast cancer. Jon & T spent 9 hours on the mountain that day ----- a climb, up and down, that normally takes 3 hours.

She continued her battle for the next 4 years, and her medications changed frequently, as the disease continued to be aggressive. Side effects were many, and at times, very debilitating. She accepted each and every setback with a determination to live her life fully, and never wavered in her determination to continue her work.

After a visit to Ireland in June this year, she returned home extremely tired, only to find out that the drugs were once again not stopping the cancer’s progression. This time there were no other options for her. She prepared what was needed, and attended the wedding of my son, Tommy, to Elizabeth, on September 16th. I believe that was her goal.

In January, I said good-bye to my brother, Mike. Today, I say good-bye to my sister ---- a kind and beautiful woman, who faced cancer with grace and courage. I have learned so much from her, as she is not only my sister, she is also, my hero.

So, to you T, and also Mike, I say: Slán go fóill”