Leah Gibbs

For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, I’m sad to announce that my mother, Leah Gibbs, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.

It was a long time coming and we were (more or less) prepared.  None the less, it was very hard.

The funeral was held last Thursday and, despite  bad weather, there were a tremendous number of people in attendance … they even had to open up the partition in the synagogue to accommodate the number of people. It was a heart warming testament to the number of people who’s lives intersected with my moms.

Although I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it, I did speak at the funeral service … here’s what I said:

Leah Gibbs is many things to many people.

  • Friend to many
  • Aunt to a few
  • Grandmother to a very few
  • Mother to five (two of those by acquisition)
  • Wife to one

To me, she was …

  • Mother
  • Teacher
  • Friend


Obviously she was my mother … I wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t.

She was caring and loving.

She helped me with my school work.

She made sure I had lunch for school.

She took care of the scrapes, bumps, and bruises that young boys are prone to acquire.

She was a key part of the supply chain when I decided to be a budding entrepreneur with a lemonade stand.

She was tough when she needed to be.

She was there for me whenever I needed her to be.


She was a teacher by profession … but she taught many by the way she lived.

She taught me so much … much more than I can count … probably more than I can remember.

She taught me how to drive … spending more than an hour in a parking lot just letting me get used to how the brakes feel … And encouraging me to go faster than 15 mph on Western Ave.

She taught me to love to read … and to be curious about everything. Which, I believe, is one of the reasons I work well with computers.

She taught me to judge people based on what they did … not the color of their skin or what they believed in.

She taught me how to love … so that, when I met Ginny, I knew it was the real thing.


How many people can claim that their mother was also their friend? I suspect it’s a rare thing.

I certainly treasure it.

I didn’t realize she was my friend until I was older … specifically after I met Ginny.

Ginny, my mom & dad would go to the theater, movies, and the Art Institute together … although her motherly aspect did show itself when we went to an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Art Institute, and she told me that my photographs were at least as good as the ones on display.

And she wasn’t just my friend … before I introduced Ginny to the family, she confided in me that “She hoped that Ginny and she could be friends” … I told her that she didn’t have to worry about that in the slightest … and I was right. This extended to Ginny’s family when we all went out to Colorado for our wedding. She became fast friends with Ginny’s mom and sisters.

Speaking of Colorado … I’d like to share a short story. When the family was out in Colorado for our wedding … we were all staying at this big, rambling, bed and breakfast … while we were waiting for the ceremony to start, mom and I were sitting on this big overstuffed leather couch. We were sitting there in silence until she said “I think this is where I’m supposed to say something profound”. I replied “You already have” and gave her a big hug. A few years later, when she had been diagnosed with cancer (I don’t remember if it was the first instance or not), Ginny and I had just gotten back from a trip to Colorado and stayed in the same B&B that we had gotten married in. While there, I had taken a picture of that same couch and titled it “The Profound Couch”. I gave mom a picture of that couch just before she went into the hospital and she took it with her. She loved that picture … and loved telling people of its meaning when they were curious as to why she had a picture of a couch.

In closing … I would ask you to “Go in health and come in health” … which is what my mom told me every time I traveled.

Although I will miss my mom tremendously … I’m glad her suffering is over.  Mitch, Gloria, Dan, Ginny, and I will take care of my dad … and each other.  We will get through this, because life goes on.  This is what my mom wanted.

My mom was not an overly religious person … and neither am I.  I participated in the Jewish funeral service out of tradition and respect for my dad.  I wore the traditional torn black ribbon, which represents the ritual of K’riah, but I doubt I will wear it after the 2nd Shiva that we will hold at my dads house … except that I will wear it when I ride in the Tour de Cure on Sunday the 10th.

Everyone dies … it’s the price of being born.  Anyone that tells you that they know for certain what happens after you die is either lying or deluded.  As an agnostic, I will tell you that I have no idea what happens … and I won’t venture a guess.  I’ll find out eventually.  Hopefully a good long time from now.

For me, the best way to honor and remember my mom is to be the person she taught me to be … treat people fairly and honestly, love my family & friends, and help people when I am able.

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