Elizabeth Brewer Shannon

A Mother's Day Tribute to My Sister

Posted by Nancy Lee on May 10, 2024

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,

 for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

                                                          Matthew 19:14


Besides your mother, grandmothers, and mother-in-law, who are the important mothers in your life? The other important mothers who come to mind for me are my sisters. This Mother’s Day I have chosen to honor my oldest sister, Elizabeth Brewer Shannon, who was born to be a mother.

As far back as I remember, Liz loved children and took naturally to mothering. Perhaps this is because she is the first in a family of five children. Or maybe it is because she emulates our paternal Grandmother, Ruth Brewer, who had the strongest maternal instinct of anyone we have known. She was all hugs and kisses and hung out with the children more than the adults at family gatherings.

Some of my earliest memories are of my sister snuggling with me and tucking me in bed at night, reading stories, and saying prayers. I also remember her making a playroom in our basement and playing “house” and “school” with my other sisters and me.

When I was seven and Liz was fifteen, our parents told us they had a surprise. Excitement built as we anticipated our parents’ announcement. When we found out the big news that our mother was expecting a baby, Liz was thrilled, but I was not so sure, especially when, a few months later, our surprise turned out to be a boy! Liz loved helping our mother take care of him. She used to push him places in his stroller. People would stop her on the street and say, “What a beautiful baby you have,” assuming she was his mother.

It was only natural that Liz would take Early Childhood Education in college. After she graduated from SUNY Cobleskill, she transferred to Buffalo and earned her degree in Elementary Education. She spent her summers working at camps.

When Liz married her college sweetheart, Randy, at 24, they wanted to start a family, but motherhood didn’t come as easily as Liz had hoped. After a couple of years of not getting pregnant, she went through infertility treatments which were expensive and ineffective. At this point, she and Randy researched and began filling out paperwork to adopt a child from Latin America.

But then Liz had some symptoms that caused her to take an in-home pregnancy test. Liz remembers well the day she had her pregnancy confirmed by a doctor. It was December 8th, and she had the day off from the Catholic school where she taught for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Her pregnancy went well, and she taught until the end of the school year, though she developed pre-eclampsia and was hospitalized and then put on bed rest for her last three weeks. She gave birth to her beautiful, healthy daughter, Mary Kathryn, on August 2nd.

While Liz was pregnant, it was discovered that she did not have immunity to rubella, so her doctor recommended that she get the vaccine after her baby was born.

When Liz got the vaccine, she assumed it would be the same as any other shot she had had in the past. But she had a bad reaction and ended up sick and in pain. She figured the symptoms would ease in a few days, but they didn’t. It seemed to have triggered an auto-immune disease. 

Seven months after Mary was born, Liz again discovered she was pregnant. She and Randy were thrilled. After years of infertility, they felt so blessed to become pregnant a second time. She was due on Christmas Eve. “I just know this baby is going to be born on Christmas,” I remember her telling me.

This pregnancy was different from the first. Liz was sick and in pain the whole time, and she was on bed rest for the last three months due to early contractions.  

On Christmas, her mother-in-law came over and made dinner. Liz sat up and joined them at the dinner table. She was having pains but didn’t think it was different than what she had been feeling all along. When her mother-in-law was leaving, Liz said, “Wait, can we borrow your car to go to the hospital?” Her son Michael was born an hour and a half after they got there, fulfilling her prediction of having a Christmas baby. She and Randy were overjoyed to have another child.

Liz threw herself into motherhood. Having two babies only sixteen months apart was a challenge, but one she embraced with joy. Unfortunately, her chronic illness persisted, but through all the doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and changing diagnoses and treatments, she put her children first. She stayed involved with their school and outside activities and inspired them through her volunteer work. For years Liz volunteered with Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) She and her Portuguese Water Dog, Mugsy, a registered therapy animal, would meet with school children to promote reading and communication skills. Encouraged by her mother’s example, when Mary was in graduate school, she wrote her thesis about the R.E.A.D. program.

I may be biased, but based on her bright, strong, and successful adult children, Liz did a great job mothering. Liz’s children are now grown. Mary is a children’s librarian on Long Island, and her husband is a conductor on the Long Island Railroad. They have a seven-year-old daughter named Tori whom Liz adores. Michael lives in Brooklyn and is a software engineer. His significant other is a production accountant.

Liz’s advice to mothers is simple. She offers advice she has lived by her whole life. “Enjoy your kids. Love them and pray for them.”

More about Liz: Liz’s passion for volunteer work began as a teenager when she used to ride her bike to the nursing home to visit the residents. She continues to volunteer at her church and community as she is able. She loves to research genealogy and uses her research to find and unite family members. Liz loves animals and plants, especially flowers. Liz and Randy live in Silver Spring, MD.

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