Celebrating My Mom With Small Blessings

Celebrating my Mom

I celebrate my mom, Fran Pizzillo, who died of cancer on July 24, 2017. She was a strong woman who inspired so many people and was beautiful inside and out. I am the youngest of her four children. She has a brother, Vince, and a sister, Marion.

What a Difference One Life Makes!

Mom married my daddy, Bob Pizzillo on September 21, 1968.

This was both of their second marriages. Both Mom and Dad had children from previous marriages. Dad adopted Mom’s three children from her previous marriage and Dad’s children call Mom their “Texas Mom.”

Mom made everyone feel welcome in their home. She always had some snacks to munch on, a game to play, a story to tell, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, whatever you needed, she had it. She had a way of making you feel special. You knew when you talked to her, your secrets were safe, your words were not judged, and if you only wanted someone to listen, she would do just that. If you wanted some ideas on solutions, she could help with that too. And if you wanted some out-of-the-box ideas on just about anything, she was most definitely the person to go to! My mom was my very best friend.

Christmas was her time of year. She prepped for months in advance. She was always going through catalogs and websites, picking up things here and there. She seemed to have a present for everyone. She would “Open Santa’s Workshop” when it was time to gather everything she had purchased throughout the year and get out all of her wrapping paper and ribbons. She would spend all day wrapping gifts and making sure they looked nice and most of the time had a little trinket attached.

She was also known for her story-telling. Her tales of Snodgrass, Santa, and the Elves would have adults believing in Christmas magic. Every year, she would read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The last time she read it, we FaceTime video chatted her and my nephew recorded her on his phone. I am so glad he did! Although it is not the best recording, we still get to have Mom read to us every Christmas Eve.

Mom was one of my bridesmaids at my wedding on October 20, 2012. She looked so beautiful.

Handling Treatment with Strength and Humor

After Mom was diagnosed, I was very involved with her treatment and care. I helped Dad by coming out and bringing her to every other chemo treatment. She called it her “spa-day.” The drive to Texas Oncology in Tyler was about forty-five minutes from their house. Depending on how she was feeling that day, we would either listen to music, talk about how she was doing, talk about what was going on with me, or just quietly enjoy each others’ company.

When we arrived, we would watch Grace and Frankie on my phone, giggle and have more fun than we probably should while she was getting her treatment. She could always make the best of any situation. This is probably one of the best lessons she ever taught me. 

Celebrating Mom by Giving Back


The four of us kids started taking a picture in this pose over 25 years ago. We took this one the night before mom died so we could show it to her. She was in and out of it at the time but I saw the smile at the corners of her mouth and the light in her eyes when she saw the picture.

Mom was my very best friend, so, to celebrate her on the one year anniversary of her passing, I took the day off of work and drove to Tyler. I bought ninety bandanas and scarves and cards for the staff of Texas Oncology in Tyler. They had taken such good care of my mom, I wanted to hug them and tell them in person. They appreciated the “blessings” I brought. They even asked to take a selfie with me.

I told them this is how I would like to celebrate and honor my mom every year, and I asked them what I could bring next year. They said simple things like lip balm and hand cream in addition to head coverings, are always appreciated since chemo takes so much out of the body.

This inspired me to put together and deliver mini packages for patients at Texas Oncology in Tyler each year. This feels so right to me, and I know my mom would be so proud of me for giving back.

Every year, on July 24, I will put together and deliver 100 small packages with things like lip balm, lotion, hand sanitizer, head cover, ginger chews, surgical face mask, travel pack of tissues, and a handwritten note on a card with a picture of Mom.

Loving and Letting Go

Mom passed away on the morning of July 24, 2017. My dad and all four of us were there. We held her hands, told her it was okay, and told her how much we loved her. Here is how I remember her when I think of her: smiling, silly, and ready to listen. I do miss her but I remember everything she has given me and how much she taught me about love and hope and strength and family. I will have these things forever. Thank you, Mommy. I love you so much!

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4 comments on “Celebrating My Mom With Small Blessings
  1. I had ovairan cancer and it was a long emotinal ride for me. Being told that i would never be able to have kids and thats all i ever wanted due to being in a broken home. Finally i was able to have 2 beutiful kids but haveing cancer while pregnant made it 10x worse. After having both kids i had to have a full hystrectomy at 23.

    • Jozi Longley says:

      I am so sorry to hear about your struggles but so happy to hear that you were able to have two children. What happiness that must bring you after coming from a broken home. I hope you are doing well and have positive, loving, supportive people around you! 🙂

  2. Jozi, what a beautiful tribute to your mom. Knowing you personally, I can tell you that the beauty in which you live your life, giving to others – physically and emotionally – is the biggest testament to what a lovely and loving woman your mom was. I am so proud to know you and I thank the heavens you were brought into my life. HUGS.

  3. Sara Polendo says:

    What a wonderful way to remember and celebrate your Mom. I lost my Grandmother Marie in March of 2017 to cancer.This lovely tribute really captures the unique bond you two had and how much of a wonderful influence she made on you Jozi. She is in your smile and in your memories and you have her ability to just sit with a friend and listen without judgment so she lives on with you.

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