She was born the 13th of 13 children in 1937 in Lockhart, Texas.  Antonia Mojica, last named changed to Merrell by marriage in 1963.  She is Toni to most, Gran Gran to her beloved grandchildren, and she is my mom.  

She passed away peacefully Friday morning, January 19th at the age of 80 in Lufkin.  There are no words that can convey my and my family’s heartfelt thanks to all who have offered prayers and condolences to us.  There are no words that can properly thank the staff and nurses from Hospice in the Pines who made Toni’s last few days peaceful and comfortable.

There are no words that can properly paint the picture of what Toni Merrell meant and did for so many.  During her upcoming funeral, I will take to the pulpit for few minutes to try my best to scratch the surface explaining who Toni is and was.  Of course, I will fail to achieve that fully, but, I owe it to her to try, and I thought I would share the gist of that eulogy here…because I love my mom.

Rejoice! My mom is Home.  Rejoice! Antonia Mojica Merrell is Home.

Antonia…Toni to most, Gran to Gran to her beloved grandchildren, mom to me; such a wonderful, beautiful person.

Many of us have a favorite athlete.  These are folks that take a sport and perform it a very high level, and the great ones make it look easy.  Michael Jordan, Troy Aikman, Jose Altuve…they take a difficult task and make it look smooth, fluid, and easy.  In today’s society, living your life as a true Christian is getting more and more difficult.  There are so many negative influences and oppressive and incorrect views on Christianity from leaders, governments, and society as a whole.  It makes being a Christian harder and harder.

Toni Merrell, made it look easy.  She made being a Christian look smooth, fluid, and easy.  She was a pro at it, and her big payout will be a great reward in Heaven with Jesus, her Lord and Savior.

My mom was a servant to so many…and she did this humbly and proudly and with a beautiful smile on her face.  She was a teacher’s aide for many years with the Lockhart ISD.  She gave so much of herself to help teachers and the children.  She sacrificed of herself for her son, her husband, her family, friends, and strangers.  If she couldn’t do something for you 'hands on', she would pray for you.  I think the thing that made her heart light up the most was being a Eucharistic Minister at St. Mary’s of the Visitation Catholic Church.  She especially loved going to nursing homes and to the homebound and feeding them the Holy Body of Christ.

In 2011, my family brought my mom to Lufkin to live with us.  She had broken her leg in a terrible fall and she was battling stage 4 cancer.  We wanted to take care of her and give her rest.  Immediately, she started doing dishes, doing the laundry…we would tell her that we brought her here to take care of her, and that she didn’t need to be doing any of this.  Toni, is a servant, so, of course, this fell on deaf ears.

As the years went past, she became more and more frail, and more and more forgetful. I recall one recent day when I went to our home to check up on her.  There she was asleep sitting upright on the sofa.  I woke her and in a stern, yet loving voice I reminded her that sweeping the floors was just too dangerous for her.  “I wasn’t sweeping the floors!” she exclaimed.  I looked at her and pointed downward.  There on the floor by her feet was a small collection of dust and pet fur, and there across her lap was a broom.  “Oh, maybe I was sweeping.”

One last point I want to make…my mom WAS a servant to many, but, she IS a servant.  That which made my mom who and what she is continues on in Heaven, just as it does for your loved ones.  We are left to grieve with the shell of the body that for 80 years was home to my mom.  We are left, thankfully, with the wonderful memories.  But, all that truly makes my mom who she is continues on with her soul and conscience.  My mom IS beautiful, Gran Gran IS loving, Toni IS a faithful servant.

REJOICE! My mom is Home.