Toni Toler. Any words used to describe her are necessarily inadequate. She was selfless, kind, tenacious, gracious, a truly extraordinary individual.
So insightful, she had a keen sense of others’ needs that made her invaluable to everyone she knew. Her advice was always spot on. Everyone who knew her can tell a story of how she helped them at some time, in some way … with her words. A fanatic for exercise, she reminded all who would listen of the value of taking care of their body. She had body at 65 that many a 25 year old would envy.
She was a gentle giant. She knew how to disagree softly and express herself clearly. She was able to make herself heard without hurting people with whom she disagreed. She never raised her voice nor uttered a harsh word. When you spoke of someone else’s faults or failures she would say, “We all have weaknesses and needs.” Then she would explain how something like that could happen even to the best of us in a way that always made sense.
She neither carried anger nor harbored grudges. She seemed to intuitively know how others felt often saying, “Be slow to judge. Everybody’s got a boatload of crap they’re trying to get through.” These are the lessons we should all carry with us and pass along to the next generation when a woman like her moves on.
Mom was beautiful, from beginning to end, inside and out. She loved music and could really dance. You never saw her sitting down when a Tom Jones song came on.
Not only was she a master of her own emotions she was a great manager of others. My father a brilliant, but mercurial, man was a force to be reckoned with. She worked with and around him in a way that made this good man with an explosively unsettled mind productive, happy and secure.
Selfless, she once described herself as a wheel greaser and Australian Sheep Dog. She enabled others to be the best they could be with her unrelenting focus on and love for her family.
If my father was her tour de force, her daughters where her raison d’etre.
Our dining room table was covered with workbooks and flash cards ever since I can remember. I am a Harvard graduate, a retired judge with my own television show. My sister, a Board Certified Neurologist, is a Dartmouth Alum. Our degrees may have our names on them but she’s the one who put them there.
My mother took such good care of her body. She exercised daily well into her 80’s. For her to die of ALS was such a difficult thing for her to endure. As her muscles, the ones she had honed and stretched for decades, betrayed her she was introduced to a helplessness she found hard to comprehend. My mother had never met a problem her emotional acuity and indefatigable nature could not, at least, make a little make better.
ALS notwithstanding, she never felt sorry for herself. She kept her sense of humor even as this unrelenting disease disassembled her, one voluntary motion at a time.
People who knew her well were delighted by her upbeat nature, her honesty, fidelity and steadfastness. She was a class act and an uncommon caregiver. She also had a wicked sense of humor. She remained that person to the very end.
On August 30, 2016, Kathy gave her a Pepsi that wasn’t quite cold enough, mom pointed at her in feigned disgust and said, “You’re fired.”
She died at 8:30 the next morning.
Well done, Mom, Rest in Peace.