In 2008, I decided that, at the end of the awards season (The Golden Globes, The Oscars, The Grammy’s, etc.), I was going to give out a single award here at Irishman For Hire called the Blarney Stone Award. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone atop the Blarney Castle in Ireland and it is widely believed that anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone (different link) will be endowed with the “gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery).”
The criteria for the Blarney Stone award is simple, “Thank those who have had an impact on my life before it’s too late to express the gratitude that I have for them.” I cannot guarantee that the recipient will become eloquent or a great speaker but the fact of the matter is that it was the eloquence of their actions that has spoken volumes to me in my life. We always intend to tell those important people in our lives what they have meant to us but more often than not, we never get the chance to say to our friends and family members what we truly feel in our hearts until it is too late.
This year, the Blarney Stone award goes to my beautiful wife, Stephanie!
I could write about Stephanie being a great wife, mother and friend but I have covered those aspects of her life in four years of articles at Irishman For Hire. She truly is an amazing wife, mother and friend. But Amazing barely scratches the surface of her commitment to the people in her life and yet, she is so much more than that to the rest of the world. To so many people, she earns the rare distinction of being a Hero!
Stephanie spent the early part of her career working with Head Start families. Her stewardship of the Head Start Family Services component in Quincy led to the creation of many vital programs that benefited families throughout the entire South Shore region of Massachusetts. She successfully led an annual program to collect gifts and food for her families so they had the basics at the holidays. She worked with business and community leaders to link up families with money, clothes, housing and other necessities that so many of us take for granted but these families depended upon to continue to fight in a world that had so easily cast them aside. Stephanie was even known to twist the arm of our own minister when she had a case that was so dire that she had no other place to turn. No stone would be left unturned when Stephanie had a family in need.
Stephanie was a beacon of hope to families who had seen their world crumble around them and she was a reliable source for community leaders to lean on when they too had a family in need.
Stephanie was in the early part of a very successful career at Head Start when her mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. Without a second thought, Stephanie left her job to take care of her mother. And even though it meant that the community would lose a staunch advocate for families in need, Stephanie knew in her heart that God needed her to be there for her mother in her darkest hour.
Stephanie single-handedly assisted her Mother for the final four years of her life. Except for her Aunt Millie who drove up to Boston every week on her days off in those final months to give Stephanie a bit of respite each week, Stephanie was by her Mother’s side for four years of doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, and surgeries. She made sure that when and if everything went wrong, her Mom would have a loving family member by her side.
When Kathy was in the end stages of her battle with cancer, Kathy moved in to our home and for six months Stephanie provided the most amazing care I have ever witnessed. Even when Stephanie was tired, frustrated and brokenhearted over the progression of her Mother’s cancer, Stephanie treated Kathy with love, kindness, compassion and most importantly, unwavering dignity. When most people would have relied on the services of a nursing home, Stephanie made sure her Mom was surrounded by a loving family until the final moments of her life. And in the end, heaven provided a miraculous angel to stand by Kathy’s side.
Stephanie made the decision, after her Mom passed away, to continue her career in Hospice. After one interview, the Director of the program knew the kind of extraordinary person she had sitting across the table from her and Stephanie was hired. Choosing a career that requires a person to spend each and every day surrounded by death takes a special kind of resolve to go to work on a daily basis. Stephanie immediately made an impact on the people and the families that she worked with at Hospice. Every terminal patient was given the same kind of love, dignity and respect she gave her Mother.
Stephanie made her biggest contribution to the Hospice community by working closely with the family of each terminal patient. Stephanie had been there. She knew how they felt. She knew their emotions, their pain and the unresolved questions these people had over the battle their loved ones were fighting. Stephanie could relate to them on a personal level and in the darkest hours, she was able to help so many people find peace in the final stages of their loved ones battle. She didn’t take away the pain that death inevitably inflicts upon all of us, but she was able to help them come to terms with what was happening in those final days. In the face of death, Stephanie had a positive impact on so many people who were in pain.
Then in the middle of another successful stage of her career, Stephanie and I decided to move several states away and create a new chapter in our lives together. The Hospice community understood but knew they would have huge shoes to fill when Stephanie left and headed south because she had touched so many lives.
Within months of being in our new home, Stephanie was hired to work with preschool special education students and their families. In the past twenty months, once again, Stephanie has worked with business and community leaders to link up families with money, clothes, housing and other necessities that so many of us take for granted. Stephanie has taken on an added mission, though, to do anything and everything possible to make a difference in the lives of the children she works with daily. Stephanie has created a network of donations from private families around the County to provide house wares, lightly used furniture and basic necessities for families in need. And as usual, Stephanie will leave no stone unturned to find whatever a family needs so they can live with dignity and respect.
As an advocate for preschool special education students, Stephanie is a leader in her field. She has become an integral partner with foundations, government agencies and nonprofits in the area who rely on her expertise in the field. And Stephanie has been tapped many times by her supervisors to work on highly visible projects and to create trainings for teachers so they can deliver the best possible education outcomes for the kids she advocates for daily.
And when her work day ends, her love for making a difference in the world doesn’t stop when she walks through the door. She is the first one to support friends and neighbors in crisis. She finds volunteer opportunities in the community and she is always visible at Josh and Chloe’s schools as well as with their sports teams and extra-curricular activities.
This week Stephanie was honored to become the Godmother to the son of a friend. Cam will never have a greater person, outside of his parents, to help him grow as a person, a student and a Christian.
Twenty years ago, Stephanie kissed me for the first time under the apple tree in my front yard. Sixteen years ago, this week, she became my wife. She is beautiful, humble, has a great sense of humor, and for twenty years, she has continually inspired me to be a better person and to make a difference in the lives of the people in our community.
Stephanie is a Hero to so many people. She is a social worker and even though the job description calls for her work on behalf of her clientele, Stephanie goes above and beyond her job description and follows her “GODescription! … Minister to the world and when you feel you have done everything you can and it still isn’t enough, find a way to do more. And do it with dignity and respect.” Stephanie is constantly changing the world, one family at a time. And she has always been able to find a way to do more for everyone she has ever known and in doing so, has proven to everyone just how important they truly are! I refer to Stephanie as “mi angelita.” Truth be told, Stephanie has been an Angel to everyone who has had the honor and privilege to get to know her through work or friendship.
So without further adieu, I am giving the Fifth Annual Blarney Stone Award to one of my Heroes; my best friend, “Mi Angelita,” my beautiful wife, Stephanie!