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“The kindnesses of others fertilize our soul, they become a part of who we are, and we carry them and their love. We feel this when people die, how their gifts remain alive in us.”
— Wayne Muller
How can one properly sum up an incredible life in a few short paragraphs? The truth is, it isn’t possible. Particularly for a woman as remarkable as my mother, Patricia Gillis Carroll. The true scope of how amazing she was…how many people she personally connected with … the beauty and joy she found in each day? I could write for 3 lifetimes and it wouldn't suffice. I’ll do my best…but know my words are but a small drop in the deep ocean of who my mother was. Her legacy, her beautiful heart, her kind soul, the love that radiated from every pore… was deeper and wider than any ocean.
Patricia Mary Gillis was born on June 29, 1954 in Hull Massachusetts. In 1978, she married the love of her life Dennis Carroll, dropped the ‘Mary’, and became Mrs. Patty Gillis Carroll. In 1980, she and my father welcomed me, Meaghan Carroll-Rateau and four years later my younger sister Emily Carroll. When I married my husband Carl in 2013, my mom was so happy to officially have a son, and Patty loved all four of us deeply. And the four of us loved her right back. We hit the jackpot and got lucky enough to have one of the most amazing human beings to ever live love us. And what a gift she was. Emily left the earthly plane in January of 2022. That my mother and Emily are together brings my father, Carl and I true comfort despite the deep pain of missing them both.
Patty grew up in Hull Massachusetts and was the daughter of the late James & Eileen Gillis of Hull. She was the second of their 5 children: James Gillis, of Weymouth, Jack Gillis and his wife Kathy of Sunapee NH, Michael Gillis of Palm Springs CA, and Maureen Gillis and her husband John Capellupo of Hull. She grew up surrounded by extended family in the town of Hull and loved all of her aunts, uncles and cousins. Patty was an aunt by the dozens, and she was so proud of each and every one of her nieces and nephews.
My mother loved growing up in Hull and her childhood there distilled a lifelong love of the ocean. In high school, my mom donned the pirate gear of the HHS mascot at pep rallies and football games…which would come as no surprise to anyone who knew her. My mother was perpetually peppy and enthusiastic… somehow in a way that was inspiring versus off-putting or intense. Which, let’s be honest, is generally an impossible feat when it comes to perpetual peppiness and enthusiasm…but Patricia pulled them both off effortlessly. She radiated love and joy and people were naturally drawn to her. A hug from Patty Carroll felt like a warm sunbeam on your face during an afternoon nap: warm, safe, wrapped in comfort.
Patricia worked in the dental field, both as a dental assistant and at the front desk. My mother truly forged meaningful connections with each patient that came in the door. She would remember everyone's name, their kids’ names, their last vacation… She made everyone feel special… because she genuinely felt that everyone *was* special. Patty made everyone she encountered feel seen, and important, and loved.
What made her happiest was seeing other people happy. She was the type of woman who rooted for everyone to ‘make it’. Her empathy, her depth, and her ability to connect with everyone in her orbit was extraordinary. Whether you met her for five minutes, then never again… or you were one of the lucky ones like me who knew her for a lifetime… every person who had the serendipity to know her was better for it.
Patty made magic in her kitchen, her creations rivaled feasts served in The Great Hall at Hogwarts. She loved cooking. Her Swedish meatballs could start a riot in a nunnery, Delighting in her Delmonico potatoes was tantamount to a religious experience. She had a beautiful singing voice. Some of my earliest memories are driving in the car with my mother and Emily, listening to her sing along with the radio. In these moments, Emily and I always grew uncharacteristically quiet …so we could listen to her exquisite voice dance up and down the notes. Clearly, I am biased, but as a child I thought Julie Andrews paled in comparison. She passed that gift and passion of singing to Emily and myself, and came to every one of our concerts, plays and vocal recitals...and beamed with pride at each and every one. My parents were deeply involved with the Abington High School Drama department… ‘The Drama Parents Crew’. In this group they forged lifelong friendships through years of building sets, manning the concession stands, helping with costumes and the always hectic ‘hell-week’. Patty cherished being a part of such a loving and fun extended family. She also did a tremendous amount of volunteer work and event organization for the Abington High School Scholarship fund. My mother was a part of the Abington community for over 40 years, and she truly loved the town and people in it. There was no such thing as a ‘quick errand’ for my mother. Inevitably, at Trucchis or local bank, my mom would often find herself in one or more 20-40 minute conversations. She was genuinely a friend to everyone she met.
Emily and I were so lucky to have had her as our mother.
In lieu of flowers, and to honor my Patricia Gillis Carroll: In the coming days, choose kindness and lean into love. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while - let them know how awesome you think they are. Pat a dog. Skip down the sidewalk. Wear a ridiculous hat. Finally try this pickleball thing that everyone is going wild about. Sing in the shower. Order the lobster. Play hooky. Compliment a stranger. Start a conversation in the grocery check out line. Bury a hatchet. Make a new friend. Choose the fun thing versus the practical thing. Leave an absurdly large tip. Give a hug to someone you love. Get a hug from someone you love. Laugh. Then laugh again.
…and as the months turn to years…as they inevitably will… Think of my mother from time to time. And in those moments, radiate that joy and love that comes when you think of Patricia Gillis Carroll out to the world around you, just like my mother did each and every day. And if we all do that? Oof. I know what my mom would say, “That’s pretty neat. Pretty cool.” Yes it is mom, yes it is.
Visitation will be held at the Quealy & Son Funeral Home on Wednesday October 4 from 3pm to 7pm.