I’ve put off writing this blog for a while because 1) I didn’t want to acknowledge it was real and 2) how do you truly capture the essence of Peggy?
John’s godmother, Peg (a.k.a. Margaret V. Philbin- she wouldn’t tell you what the V stood for or how old she was), has always been a strong force of love and laughter in the Toohig clan. When Jeanne began her teaching career on Long Island, Peg was her first principal, and a beautiful friendship began. They later owned and operated a private preschool, the Paintbox, together. When John was born, Peg was chosen as his godmother, and I’m not sure there was another role that she took as seriously, even though most of his life he has lived in Olive Branch. After she retired, she traveled the world and visited her beloved Ireland often as well. (She was half Irish and half Hungarian.) After Dr. John passed away and John moved out of the house following his MBA graduation, Jeanne and Peg thought it was time for Peg to leave behind the cold New York winters and to join the Mississippi Toohigs. She had been living in Olive Branch for the last 10+ years and thrived here with her church and neighbor friends.
Since Jeanne and Peg kept Helen Grace the first three years of her life, she and HG had quite the strong bond as well. At their house, there was no shortage of imaginative play and secret stashes of chocolate for baby girl!
She lived her life to the fullest and made the rest of us shine in her presence. Sadly for us, Peg earned her crown in heaven on November 23, 2015.
She went to Helen Grace’s horse show on the 14th and fell at home later that day. She was bruised and tweaked her knee a bit, but she was ok. That next Wednesday, the 18th, she fell again and, unfortunately, hit her head. She held on until the 23rd to give all of us time to say goodbye and Father Carl to give her her last rites, but she breathed her last breath in peace and comfort in the early morning hours with Jeanne right by her side, as always.
We had a service at Christ the King Catholic Church on the 25th, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The priests and her friends did a great job of sharing her passion for ministry for the homebound and her generosity to friends, new and old, calling her the “Patron of Generous Love.” Then that weekend, we took her to Long Island to be buried with her family. While it was a hard weekend with lots of emotions, we loved being surrounded by her friends and having time together to laugh and share memories. It was amazing to see how she brought together so many people from all parts of her life (Hibernians, neighbors, animal friends, etc.) and created a bond of friendship all through them.
We miss her immensely but feel her with us with little God-winks that pop up out of nowhere or shared smiles over an old memory. May we always honor her memory by toasting with Bailey’s, loving on our kitties and puppy dogs (and maybe sharing some Cheetos with them), giving selflessly back to our church, giving of our time and money to those who need help, and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day like a crazy Irish woman. Slainte!
John’s post on Facebook: “It's with a heavy heart that I post Peggy is with the angels in heaven. She passed early this morning peacefully in her sleep. I can only image the smile on her face as she is free of all the struggles that plagued her later in life. I was so very fortunate to have her as my Godmother. A truly amazing woman who touched so many lives. She will be dearly missed.”
Lara’s response to John’s post: “Johnny you are a beacon of joy in her life! Her face would light up and she would always be so proud when speaking about you! Your soccer days, your achievements in college, your choice in friends, relay for cancer, of course Sha, to many things to write! As if being able to watch you grow up and become the outstanding man that you are today wasn't enough you and Sha brought beautiful Helen Grace into this world! I'm so happy that Peg was able to live in Mississippi and to fully enjoy HG! I know she will be watching over Sha and your precious baby on the way! smile emoticon So as someone that loves Peg I truly can not thank you enough for all the joy that you and of course your mom have given her!!”
My post on Facebook: “While we will miss her dearly, we are celebrating Peggy's entrance to heaven and are crying happy tears that she is now healthy and whole- and I'm sure playing the violin and dancing! Peggy was larger than life. Enormously happy, amazingly generous and kind, and full of mischief with that famous glint in her eye (or 'glitter,' as HG says). We are blessed to have this feisty little leprechaun in our family.”
HG’s memories: She was very fun and silly, and she could never be mean. She loved to play on the swings with me, and her favorite flower was a rose. She liked to go to Ireland and to play with Buster and Dewey. She would run around the house trying to find the cats. She liked to talk with me, and she always had a mystery for me to figure out. She taught me Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano.
At HG’s horse show on Nov 14th. Cats always gravitated to her.
Christ the King hosted a beautiful reception after the service, and the spread was amazing, especially knowing these women all had to cook for Thanksgiving the next day as well. As much as Byhalia UMC rolls out the red carpet for these kinds of special events, even Bubba said she was going to have to tell them how well CTK did it! It really touched all of us.
Headed to Long Island. Jeanne grew up and started her teaching career there (after living her first years in New Jersey), John was born there (before moving to MS in his early years), but this was the first trip for HG and me.
Sky Club girl
Meeting her cousin, Griffin, who lives in PA (his daddy, Geoff, is John’s first cousin)
The two Graces, HG and Peg’s sister
Playing Jenga with the ladies
We had already settled on baby girl’s first name, Cressey, after Jeanne’s mother’s maiden name. We decided her middle name will be Margaret after Peggy, and John was able to tell Peggy the news in the hospital. Cressey Margaret has quite a legacy to live up to being named after these two strong, feisty ladies.