Editor’s note: Chris Teicheira has Karen Ott pinch-hitting for him today.
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
This quote is attributed to Elizabeth Taylor, but it very well could have been my mother’s mantra. It is strange that this quote resonates with me so profoundly because many people would often compare my mom’s beauty to that of Elizabeth Taylor.
Like many daughters, I thought my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was beautiful in every way that one could define beauty. She had physical beauty, a beautiful outlook, a generous nature, deep faith, modesty, a sense of humor, an infectious laugh and an electric smile. These attributes were evident to so many people but to me my mom was the epitome of perfection — the perfect role model, the person I aspire to be. What most people did not know about my mom was that behind the smile was a woman who was suffering from severe pain. She was diagnosed at a very young age with Osteoarthritis. I think that I was around 12 years old when I saw my mom wince in pain only to quickly mask the pain with that beautiful smile.
I lost my mom on May 19 of this year. I fully understand that death is a part of life and my loss is a loss that will inevitably be experienced by all of us who have parents. Grief has no time limit. While processing my sometimes unbearable grief I was drawn to the memory of my mom’s last breath and her beautiful pink lips. Around 10 minutes before she drew her last breath, I reapplied her lipstick. It is fitting that that she had beautiful pink lipstick as she transitioned from this world because my mom was in pain until her last breath and pink lipstick had always been her barrier to the world – her armor.
As I had the difficult task of going through my mom’s things in her home, it was if she was speaking to me. I found lipstick in several pockets of her clothes, imprints of her lips on pieces of paper with lists for vitamins, groceries, etc. and tissue used to blot her lipstick. It was as if my mom was saying, “You will get through this, here is the way …wear your armor.”
I have spent many nights wishing and hoping that my mom would speak to me, comfort me, and help me understand how I would possibly get through the loss of her. One night I woke up out of a restless sleep and saw it….”Just smile and add a little pink lipstick.” It was a clear image of a T-shirt adorned with this quote of survival. My mom was speaking to me.
I decided that it was time to act. I designed the shirt as it had been presented in my dream and made my first order. On July the 3 I received my first shipment of 14 tees. I took a picture and posted in on Facebook. This is when it all began. I was contacted by a dear friend and cancer survivor, Glenda Wolfe Herrera, asking for a shirt. She said that the message resonated with her and symbolized how she survived her battle against cancer. It is through this conversation that I realized that my mom’s message is not just about physical pain, it is about facing adversity, in whatever form it comes, with strength, dignity, and grace. So with my cousin Broni, by my side we created a Facebook page dedication to my mom and Beyond Beverly’s Beauty was born.
When I was asked to write this article, I reached out to friends and family to share their memories. These are just a sample of the responses:
The message, “Just smile & add a little pink lipstick” means this to me…no matter how bad my day is going, when I wear the shirt it makes me feel powerful, as I can overcome anything. If I can put a smile on just one face while wearing it, then my day is complete…I have brightened up someone’s day. Just as your mom’s beautiful smile was there regardless of her physical pain. She faced EACH day with a smile. She never felt sorry for herself, and was a beautiful lady inside and out, proving that a smile can make a lot difference in how we view our circumstances.
Every day we spent together involved laughter. I knew her well, so I knew she was in a lot of pain, but she hid it well. Even as I accompanied her on her doctor’s appointments, knowing she was going to again hear news that the degeneration was progressing, she remained so positive and always smiled and found a reason to laugh. Every morning we would get out at the break of dawn for our 2 to 3 hour walks. It was a great way to start each day — spending time together. It was so obvious that the majority of time Bev was in so much pain, but she never once complained. This time was so important to me, as we discussed our kids, our day ahead, and of course beginning the day with some laughter. Our walks always ended the same…”I love you Beverly…I love you Loretta.” I miss my friend, and loved her dearly.
When I think of Bev, I recall each time she walked in to have her hair cut, I would ask her how she was doing. She always responded the same…”Hey darling, I am just fine,” with a big smile on her face (I knew different). She always made me feel so special, she always made everyone feel so special. I felt so special when she called me darling, even though I knew she called so many others the same. The thing was, when she said it, she meant it and made everyone in her life feel so special. And at that time, she made me feel like I was the only one she said that to.
Sue and David Cardoza
Growing up with my sister, Beverly, it was obvious just how meticulous she was at a very young age. She always wanted to be a mother, and loved everything so neat and tidy. She would come home on her lunch hour to make sure the house was picked up and perfect before mom came home, and this was when we were in high school. Bev always made sure she was put together before she left the house…always looking great. I do miss my sister…
My cousin David and I had a very special relationship growing up. Our mothers were sisters and both he and my aunt were right at my side until my mom drew her last breath. It was fitting for us to be together during this time, as we spent all our special moments together. David shared a favorite story with me recently, one that made me smile from ear to ear. He talked of how special my mom made him feel. He said that he always would plan his visits at breakfast time to my house to ask, “Can sissy play?” She would immediately smile, say yes, and ask if he had had breakfast yet. His response was always the same, “No Auntie Bev, I haven’t.” Mom knew full well he had, but sat him down and fed him. David said that he will always hold the memories of her close to his heart, and memories of the delicious smell of pounds of bacon cooking every morning.
First and foremost, every moment and every time we had an opportunity to talk was special. She had a way of always making me feel welcome. Apart from her physical beauty, there was a charm and grace about her that made her special. The first time I met her it was obvious she was in pain. I did not know the extent of the pain at that point, but found out that I was able to make her laugh, and a wonderful laugh she had. I loved the way she called me darling. I can't ever remember a time when I asked her how she was feeling, that she didn't tell me she was fine. You could plainly see she wasn’t. I don't ever recall a time that she wasn't perfectly made up and every hair in place. I often wondered what drives this woman to get up every morning and face the day. Beverly was a woman I went to see to cheer up, and she would be doing the cheering up. As special as she made me feel, I realize after her passing, and after hearing so many people speak about her, she made everybody feel special. With regards to Beverly and this pink lipstick movement, I think this is exactly how she lived her life…with a smile and a little more pink lipstick. I think it’s a wonderful slogan to live your life by. Things are going to get tough in your life - that’s a given. But, wallowing in your own self-pity has never solved anything. An example of your mom’s philosophy was like this…
“Hi Bev, how are you today?”
“I’m fine, darling, tell me what’s going on with you today? “
And she would give me a big smile and have that beautiful pink lipstick on.
“Just smile & add a little pink lipstick” translates into…”It’s going to be ok.”
I will always miss this special lady…
Art Limas, Mark
Guzman and Tony Cotta
Art and Tony were two former MHS athletes that frequented our home in the 70’s. All of them shared memories of spending time at our home. One story that I was reminded of was the summers of ’76 and ’77 when mom would cook for the football team between their two a day practices. Tony mentioned how much it meant to them and how special mom made them feel. (I, needless to say, offered to help mom cook, this was the football team after all). The guys always remember mom greeting them with a big smile, hug, and complimentary words.
These guys remained close to our family, and their visits to mom the last couple years at the nursing facility, are moments I will cherish always.
Sometimes being able to inspire comes at a price. At times for Bev, even though it was only shared with a few special people in her life, it came from physical pain. You see, Bev didn’t want to be known for the physical ailments she experienced. The Bev that I knew wanted to share so much more with people that she knew and loved. She personified real beauty on the outside. The type of beauty that you see in magazines and in the movies – but the real beauty came from the inside . . . that’s the definition of real beauty. Beauty from the heart of a lady that defined compassion, true love and a personality that was always ready to share a good laugh – oh what a sense of humor she had. My Mom was one of Bev’s best friends. They confided in each other, like girlfriends will do, and laughed until tears would come to their eyes. Bev sang Ava Maria, for the very first time publicly, at my wedding. She was nervous to do it but sounded so beautiful. One of God’s gifts to Bev, like many others that He bestowed on her, was her beautiful voice. She would sit at her piano, sing while she played and seemed to be lifted to another place. It was a sight to take in. She gave me many gifts throughout my life, but honored me the most, when she asked that I be Godmother to Karen. I will always cherish each and every one of the things Bev showed me, by example. “At the end of the day, Georgianna” (as she called me), all we have is the love that God gave us to share.” For Bev, that love was endless and shared with so many, and I am blessed in knowing that I was “one” of the many.
Walk honors Bev
Steves on Sept. 12
I would like to thank Chris Teicheira for affording me the opportunity to share my mother’s story. I would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and for sharing their thoughts about my beloved mom. While I was not able to share all of the tributes and memories, they will be posted on Facebook in the forthcoming days.
I have heard over my lifetime the comment, “you are so much like your mom” and for me it is the ultimate compliment. I am my mother’s daughter...I’m smiling through the pain with the perfect shade of pink lipstick.
There are forthcoming events to support the “Just Smile and Add a Little Pink Lipstick” movement. On Sept. 12 we will be walking a 2.2 mile walk to honor my mom and in the spring there will be a fundraiser with proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Arthritis Foundation. Please visit Beyond Beverly’s Beauty on Facebook for more details on how to obtain a t-shirt, join the movement that is now in 9 states, and for stories of courage, dignity, perseverance and strength.