Saying Goodbye and Remembrances

Posted in 7 Days of Peggy, Patient Safety, Peggy by on April 26th, 2012
Mom on back porch cropped

Two years ago today, we said goodbye to our mother, Peggy. The service was beautiful with friends and family participating in the Catholic funeral rites through readings, presenting the gifts and serving as Mom’s pallbearers.

As Mom’s good friend Maryann said, “the Church isn’t this full on Christmas Eve!” The hundreds of people who joined us to bid our mother goodbye is just one example of the broad reach and impact that Peggy had on their lives.

Since we lost Mom, so many people have come forward to share their own memories and reflections on the woman she was, the impact she had on their lives and the lives of her students. Here are some we’ve found particularly touching:

Peggy was my childhood friend and a friend to the end. I used to play with her when we were just kids and hung out with her as teenagers. We always ran into each other in Bergen Beach. The last time I saw her she showed me pictures of her beautiful children and said she was going to teach. I was so proud of her! She was a lovely, warm and loving person. – Jean

Today is 2 years since I lost my sister and best friend. It seems like yesterday and forever. Every family has a force to be reckoned with and she was ours. Every family has a moral compass and she was ours. She was my rock and my anchor, not only for me but my children too. We miss her terribly.Helen

If Peggy thought you were crazy, she’d tell you. – Cindy

Peggy’s dedication as a teacher could be seen every day, on the faces of every child, who followed her every word. She made sure they loved learning. She made learning fun. She passed her love onto each child so that their experience in Kindergarten would be the best start of their education. Peggy succeeded beyond her own expectations and that’s what makes a master teacher. – Maryann


Our dear friends at AVA Video also made this beautiful photo slideshow with Mom’s life in pictures set to some of her favorite music.


While nothing can ever bring Mom back, the work that we do in her honor and the warmth of friends and family, help keep her alive in our midst as a force for positive action against C. diff.

7 Days of Peggy: Starret City Enforcer

Posted in 7 Days of Peggy, Antibiotic Overuse, C. diff Stories, Patient Safety by on April 19th, 2012
Peggy with her sons, Liam (r.) and Christian

Peggy with her sons, Liam (r.) and Christian

In 1995, I went to England with my best friend, Cindy. And while I was in England, something happened that has long been a favorite “Mom” story.

My friend Michael, who was not a terribly butch guy and pretty slim, had been dating a guy named Christopher for several months. Christopher, who was a complete asshole, was also about 6’3, lanky but built, and had a reputation for being a badass. Michael had let Christopher move in to his apartment in Starrett City.

One night while I was in England, Michael called my house in a panic. My mother answered the phone and quickly set about figuring out what was wrong.

Michael: Can I come spend the night at your house? Christopher is being mean to me.

Mom: Why don’t you just tell him to get out of your house?

Michael: I can’t. I’m afraid of him.

Mom: Well, I’m not going to let you be afraid in your own home. Stay put. I’m coming over.

Mom told Liam what was going on and asked him to come with her “just in case.” Liam was 18 at the time, significantly less tattooed, but an actual bad ass.

When they arrived at Micheal’s apartment, my mother turned to Liam and said: “You hang back, because if I hit him it’s self defense, but if you do, it’s assault.”

Michael answered the door visibly upset. Mom told him to hang out in the hallway with Liam while she handled Christopher.

Being a single mother, mom had long slept with an aluminum baseball bat under her bed. When he was a teenager, Liam had written “peacemaker” down the side of it in permanent market. She had brought this same bat with her, “just in case.”

She entered the apartment and turned the corner into the living room where Christopher was lying on the couch in his boxer shorts talking on the phone.

Mom looked at him and smacked the bat on the floor three times to get his attention. Christopher looked up at her with his eyes wide.

Mom said: “YOU. Get up. Get your shit. And get the FUCK out!”

Christopher yelled into the phone, “Holy shit! There’s a crazy lady here with a bat. Call the police.” And hung up.

Mom said: “We don’t need the police. I’m not going to hurt you as long as you get your shit and get out.”

She watched while Christopher gathered his things and got dressed. Meanwhile, the police arrived.

With Liam and Michael now in the apartment, Mom went into the hallway to talk to the cops. With two brothers who were cops, she explained that her son’s friend was being bullied by this big guy who refused to leave his house. The cops then entered the apartment and escorted Christopher out.

Weeks later, I was out at a club with my friend Erik. Christopher was there, and Erik got nervous. (He’d never been in a fight.) When Erik suggested we leave, I said:

“Erik, he’s afraid of my mother. If she chased him out of Micheal’s house with a baseball bat, what would she do if he even looked at me the wrong way???”

7 Days of Peggy: “What Happened to Peggy?” Video

Posted in 7 Days of Peggy, Antibiotic Overuse, C. diff Stories, Patient Safety by on April 18th, 2012

Of all the videos that we’ve made, this is the hardest one for me to watch. Reliving the last week of our mother’s life is just enormously painful.

Peggy's Graduation from Kingsborough with her sons, Christian and Liam

Peggy's Graduation from Kingsborough with her sons, Christian and Liam

But, it does make me incredibly proud – as I’m sure it does our mother – to watch Liam’s determination to tell our mother’s story, despite not being very comfortable with public speaking.

I like to think that in watching how close her death brought me and Liam that Mom is smiling and filled with pride. When we would fight as kids, Mom would settle us down and then make us sit right next to each other.

“All you have in this world is each other”, she would say. “One day, I’ll be gone and you don’t have 7 other siblings to choose from like I did growing up. You have to love each other and take care of each other.”

While I’m certain she expected it to matter much later in our lives, Mom’s commitment to Liam and I having a close and strong relationship has certainly paid off.

Please do watch this video and share it with others. It’s full of potentially life saving information.


7 Days of Peggy: Be All That You Can Be

Posted in 7 Days of Peggy, Patient Safety, Peggy by on April 17th, 2012

Memories of Mom: Be All That You Can Be

When I was in first grade, my mother was asked to come up to school and see the principal. Mom was 25 years old at the time and waiting tables to supplement welfare because our father didn’t help us financially.

Peggy with Liam and Christian

Peggy with her sons, Liam and Christian (c. 1979)

I was really scared, because I had never been called to the principal’s office before. Throughout Pre-K and Kindergarten I was a model student but often picked on for being too girlie.

Mom, who knew that I got good grades and was never in trouble, couldn’t figure out why she had been asked to come.

Eventually, we were ushered into the principal’s office where she was sitting with the assistant principal. They asked us to sit and told my mother that they wanted to discuss a sensitive issue so maybe I should wait outside. Mom said that she didn’t keep secrets from her kids, so they might as well say that they had to say. The assistant principal began to speak, outlining what he saw as a real problem.

Basically, during recess and lunchtime, I wanted to pretend I was Wonder Woman. He felt that while kids accepted it at that age, soon they would begin to pick on me for it. (Actually, some already did and others were totally accepting.) He suggested that my mother “make me” stop pretending to be Wonder Woman.

Mom turned to me and looked me right in the eyes: “Christian, don’t’ you ever want to pretend to be Superman or Batman? They’re pretty cool, too.”

I excitedly responded: “Not as cool as Wonder Woman. She can stop bullets with her bracelets, and she has an invisible jet. And she has a magic lasso which makes bad guys tell her the truth. And she’s an Amazon. The Amazons were from Greece but now they live on a magic island that no one can find and where men aren’t allowed…” I must have extolled the virtues of Wonder Woman for 5 solid minutes.

When I was done my mother looked at the principal and AP. She pushed a piece of her dark brown, waist length hair behind her ear and said: “My son can be whoever he wants to be. If he wants to pretend to be Wonder Woman, he can. And it’s YOUR job to make sure that he is safe and other kids are accepting of him. If I find out that you tried to get him to stop being Wonder Woman or that other kids are bullying him, you’ll find yourselves with one hell of a lawsuit! Come on, Christian, we’re going.”

And with that, she took my hand and we walked out of the office.

While I did get picked on, mostly the administrators and teachers tried to protect me. And, though it was tough to be a queer kid in a Brooklyn public school, my mother’s early and steadfast support of me gave me the courage to, not only come out when I was 16, but to spend my career fighting for the rights of others.

Introducing the “7 Days of Peggy”

Posted in 7 Days of Peggy, Peggy by on April 15th, 2012

This coming Saturday, April 21, will be the second anniversary of my mother, Peggy’s, death from a clostridium difficile infection. It’s hard to describe our world without Mom. When she first died, we were in shock and the grief

Peggy with Christian & Liam

was vast, like an unfamiliar landscape fraught with danger.

Being surrounded by others who loved and missed her helped; the benefit having Mom’s large family around is that we were never alone in our grief. Over time, the pain has become less acute. Often it feels like a strange absence. At family gatherings, I find myself scanning the room for her to share a nod or funny facial expression. When I’m holding my Godmother’s grandchildren, Emmitt and Madeline, I look to pass them over to her so she can make them giggle.

All I have to do to feel really happy, is think about all the children in our family, among friends and in her classes whose lives Mom made better.

All I have to do to feel inconsolable is think about all the children who have come into our lives in the past two years who will only know her through pictures and stories.

But Mom wouldn’t want me or anyone to dwell on her death and her loss. In fact, she always told me and Liam that when she died she wanted us to celebrate her life instead of mourning.

And what a life it was!

So for the next 7 days we will be sharing stories, pictures and videos that celebrate our mother’s life as we recognize this painful anniversary and recommit ourselves to keeping her memory alive through the foundation’s work. I encourage you to join us by:

  1. Sharing your own stories and pictures of Peggy in the comments section of this blog
  2. Adding the new “Peggy Lillis Memorial Foundation” banner as the cover photo on y0ur Facebook timeline/profile. (To add the banner click here, download the photo and upload it to the “Cover Photo” section on your timeline. You can find Facebook’s directions for adding a “Cover Photo” here
  3. Watch our public service announcement and share with your friends and loved ones on your social networks.

I hope those of you who knew our mother will enjoy reminiscing and sharing your memories. For those who didn’t know Peggy, I hope you enjoy learning about her over the next week.