Forever in our minds … Forever in our hearts.

Diane MahlstadtOn March 9th, 1956, our grandparents Vito and Violet Scudiere, welcomed an angel into the world, our mom, Diane Scudiere.  She was a whopping 9 ½ pounds of love and light.  She was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rosedale on 226th Street. Our grandparents soon welcomed into the world her sisters Doreen and Christine. She was the best role model and big sister to them.  During her childhood years, she took care of her sisters, cooked, cleaned, and made sure they had everything they needed before she would meet up with her friends. Throughout the years of guiding her younger sisters, she became the caring, nurturing, and supportive woman that would impact the lives of everyone around her.

As a young girl, she loved going upstate to visit and work for her grandfather, Victor in his pizzeria.  Mom was a hardworking, straight A student, whose teachers stated in her report cards that “she gets along well with all children, expresses herself well, and is well-mannered in all of her classes.” Even at the young age of 7, she was already developing some of the characteristics that many adults still strive for today.

In 1969, at the age of 13, on the cross streets of New York Blvd and Farmers Blvd in Springfield Gardens, she stood at a bus stop to Rockaway Beach in a purple bikini and hot pants with her best friend Tina.  Little did she know, that this moment would be the moment that would change her life forever.  A strapping young 16 year old boy pulled up in his Ford Fairlane 500.  Young Jerry asked mom and Tina if they wanted to hop in and hitch a ride to the beach.  Mom hopped in the front seat and together they spent the day at the beach. Dad instantly knew that this was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

Mom played hard to get for a few months as dad persisted in his attempt to make her his girlfriend.  Dad used to fight off all of the other gentlemen callers to make sure he would be the one that she gave her heart to. After 4 years of dating in 1974, dad proposed to mom and she excitedly said yes. A year later on September 13th, 1975 at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadow, Queens, they had an extravagant wedding with all of their family and friends. They honeymooned in Bermuda and decided that they would always want to continue vacationing there.

At this time, mom started a career at Bank of New York, where she met her other best friend, Olga. Olga described mom as “always having a tissue tucked in her hand, having the runway supermodel walk, and the famous Farah Faucet hairflip.” Every Friday after work, the staff would go out, but mom would go home to do her weekly grooming of hair, nails, and skin care.  She would never miss it.

Mom and dad got their first apartment as a married couple in Rosedale where they resided for 3 years until they rented a home in Rosedale, which would formally be known as “the party house.” Many events and celebrations took place there as mom gained her passion for planning and hosting. In 1980, mom and dad bought their first home in Rosedale. This two-family home was filled with mom and dad on the first floor and my mom’s sister Christine and her husband Jimmy on the second floor.

After 7 years of trying to conceive, mom got pregnant with me in 1982. Mom and dad welcome me into the world on May 27th, 1983. They were over the moon with happiness as they became first time parents. I screamed with colic aggression for 6 straight months, however that didn’t stop them from procreating again 13 months later in 1984. On February 11th, 1985, Jennifer was born. Jennifer was born with a hole in her esophagus and spent many months in the hospital as a baby.  Mom spent her time going back and forth between home and the hospital to care for her 2 babies. Jennifer spent her first year of life projectile vomiting.  Family members have described this scene as something similar to a horror movie and everyone would duck to try to avoid contact.

In 1987, mom and dad bought their second home in Valley Stream at the legendary 25 Delmonico Place.  Mom and dad wanted to move into the suburbs to provide a better life for their family, yet still remaining close to her parents. Mom was a stay at home mom for the next 6 years, being actively involved in the school community, PTA, and backstage dance moms. She made this home a safe haven for anyone and everyone. She made it the house of where celebrations were had and epic Christmas Eve parties as she dressed up as Mrs. Claus. She made it the house that everyone wanted to come to. On any given day, if you walked into our home, you would find mom in the kitchen in her fluffy robe and slippers, welcoming you like family with her warm beautiful smile.

In 1993, Mom got a job as the computer teacher at Carbonaro Elementary School, where many of our friends had her as a teacher. Mom managed to juggle both children and a career, while also maintaining her fabulous fashion sense and pizazz.  All of her outfits would match in color from head to toe.  At the time, we used to make fun of her fashion sense, but looking back, she dressed exquisitely.  She was always so well put together and beautiful. She was a true sight to be seen.

In 1997, mom got her next job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office.  Dr. Tsai welcomed mom with open arms as she became like family to all the patients and staff.  This was a true calling for her and inspired her to go to Molloy College for medical billing and coding.

In 1998, mom was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer.  We never even knew as children that she was fighting this disease.  She never told us because she didn’t want us to be scared.  Instead, she fought and did what she had to do in order to be with her family and take care of her little girls. She didn’t tell us until later in life about the struggles that she went through at this time.

In 2000, she landed a job at South Nassau Communities Hospital Wound Care Center as the Financial Operations Manager where she managed 3 departments- physical therapy, cardiac care, and wound care. Her coworkers soon became family and were a huge part of each other’s lives. They attended all major events of showers, weddings, funerals, and much more. One event recalled by one of coworkers was when a patient came in and had maggots in his wound.  They called mom in and asked what to do with the maggots that fell on the floor.  Even though mom had a giant fear of bugs, she came in with her hot pink stilettos and stomped on them. She always knew how to solve every problem.  While continuing to advance in her career, mom also became an adjunct professor at Molloy College teaching medical billing and coding. She remained in contact with so many of her students as they too saw her as family.

Throughout all of her career moves, one thing remained constant and that was her ability to care for her family. She spent her nights and weekends doing homework and projects with us, taking us back and forth to dance classes and kickline practice, attending competitions, taking us to religion, hosting playdates and sleepovers, and giving us the best childhood anyone could ever ask for.

As the years went on and we grew older, she saw us through sweet 16s,  high school graduations, college years and dorm rooms, our careers, our engagements/marriages/and homes.  She saw us through the good times and the bad, the heartbreaks and the mistakes, and the successes and triumphs. No matter what the circumstance were, she was always right by our side.  Her unconditional love was never ending and never judging, even when she gave us the “tough love.” She taught us to be strong and confident, to believe in ourselves, and that family was always the most important thing in the world.  She taught us to stand up for what we believe in and to never take for granted the things we had in life.

In 2015, she welcomed her first grandchild, Ellie Grace Underwood, into the world. She instantly gained the special name of Mema. This was a love that she never knew was possible.  She explained it to her friends who did not yet have grandchildren as “the most amazing thing in the world – as one of life’s biggest blessings.” She helped me navigate the world of motherhood and taught me everything she knew about not just being a mom, but being an amazing mom. She spent her nights and weekends making memories with Ellie and kissing her up every second of the day.

In October 2016, mom was diagnosed with stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.  Our worlds came crashing down on us and life as we knew it would never be the same. Mom called us to break the news and she remained calm and reassuring that she would be just fine. She underwent a 13 hour debulking surgery.  The hospital waiting room was filled with family and friends praying endlessly for her recovery. Mom underwent her first round of chemotherapy for the next 6 months and thankfully went into remission. Her resilience and strength was to be admired.  She never once complained as she lost her hair, lost her job, and lost the life she once knew.

In 2017, she welcomed her second grandchild, Zachary Ryan Underwood. She instantly fell in love with the first and only boy of the family.  Their immediate connection was breathtaking as they became best friends. She guided Jen through the world of mothering 2 young children.  Her losing her job due to her diagnosis of cancer leading to her retirement was actually a blessing in disguise. She spent her days with Jen and the kids and they did everything together such as shopping, dining, and making memories that would last a lifetime.

In late July 2018, mom had her first cancer recurrence. She underwent another massive surgery which again would drastically change her life.  This recovery was even harder than the first.  She learned a new way of living, medically speaking, but was thankful that she was still alive to be with her family. My dad was right by her side as her support system, her nurse, and her best friend. Every time there was a hospital stay, he slept right by her side. He recalled one night where he tied a string to her wrist on one end and the other side of the string on his wrist so that my mom could just tug on it if she needed him in case he fell asleep. It was a true dad fashion. With all the love surrounding her, she once again went through another round of chemotherapy.  She fought every single day to thankfully once again be back into remission.

In 2019, her third grandchild, Juliana Diane Barbera was born. Juliana was given the middle name Diane to honor our mother. She was a guiding light that helped mom through recovery and made her push even harder to survive.  Mom was determined to help guide Janine in motherhood and be there to make memories with Juliana. At 9 weeks old when Janine returned to work, Mom watched Juliana almost every day.  She was like a second mother to her and she couldn’t have been any happier to do so.

Mom’s happiness stemmed from spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren.  They were the loves of her life.  She loved doing things with them, taking them on adventures, buying them toys, clothes, anything they ever wanted.  Their happiness was her happiness and their eyes lit up every time they saw her.  They loved slumber parties and going out to eat with Mema and Papa. They loved going on vacation and snuggling with each other. They loved playing and wrestling, singing and dancing, water fights, bath time, movie nights, going to the playground and cooking/baking together.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, Jen, Matt, and the kids moved in with mom and dad while their house was under construction.  They spent 7 months being roommates and spending every waking moment together.  Little did Jen know, that this was the luckiest thing that could ever happen to her.  She got to spend all the time in the world with mom and mom got to spend all of her days with Ellie and Zachary. With me being remote at work, mom got to spend more time with Juliana and I.   She was surrounded by love at all times of the day.

In October 2020, mom and dad finally agreed to buy a house closer to her children. They signed contracts on their dream home in West Islip and they were beyond ecstatic. As soon as she walked into the house she said “Jer, I need this house” and he responded with “It’s yours.” One evening at Sunday dinner at Delmonico Place, we got the phone call that their offer was accepted.  Mom turned to dad and said “Jer, we just bought a house!” She was excited and frightened all at the same time.  She instantly started thinking about furniture, paint colors, and décor.

A few weeks later, mom got the news that her cancer was back.  She underwent cyberknife radiation to target one lymph node, however after her treatment, her bloodwork numbers started to increase instead of decrease. At first the doctors thought it was just a side effect of the radiation, so we waited anxiously for the numbers to start dropping.  In the midst of possibly devastating medical news and buying and selling a home, mom insisted on hosting her last Christmas Eve at Delmonico Place even though she wasn’t feeling well.  She even mentioned that she wanted to do it just right “in case this was her last Christmas.”  She made her 17 pounds of cavatelli and 12 pounds of meat for 9 people.  She had the house packed up in boxes, yet still made Christmas feel as special as ever.

On December 28th, mom went for a Ct scan and she was told to immediately go to the hospital.  She underwent 3 surgeries to try to once again beat the disease, however this time, the surgeries were unsuccessful and there was nothing else they could possibly do.  Her third and final surgery would be to make mom comfortable and be placed on hospice. We received this devastating news and were determined to make our remaining months more special than ever, however the disease became overpowering and the months turned into weeks.  Mom’s oncologist stated, “Your mom had a 15% chance of a 5 years survival rate at the time of her first diagnosis. Your mom fought and lived for 4 ½ years, when anyone else probably would’ve never made it past the first year.  She was one of the strongest patients I have ever had and I am very proud of her.” Our mom never gave up, but her body could not fight any longer and she reluctantly came to terms with her prognosis.

We set up hospice at home and we stayed by moms side through every waking hour.  Dad went weeks without sleep as he tirelessly cared for mom and her every need.  Dad was her safe space and her comfort.  As long as he was by her side, she felt like everything was going to be alright. Her love for him was undeniable and his strength and compassion helped her feel at ease.

As her days grew slimmer, we rushed to make her dream home come true. We put together all of her visions as fast as we could. Mom got to take one look around the house upon arrival on a hospital stretcher as she moved into her new dream home.

Even in the last days of her life, she was constantly checking on everyone else’s well being.  She would check if her grandchildren ate and if everyone was ok.  She would tell us not to cry and that we would be ok. She made us promise to always take care of one another, especially dad. She made dad promise to keep their dream home, so that their grandchildren could grow up there. She would constantly remind us of how much she loved us and how we are her entire world. On February 5th, mom took her last breath with both of us and dad right by her side.

Our worlds have been shattered and our hearts have been broken. There is a deep sadness that will never go away, but we will continue to honor our mother and continue her traditions. We will continue to love her for all eternity. She was our best friend, our rock, our confidante, our cheerleader, advice giver, partner in crime, shopping buddy, cleaning buddy, psychologist, problem solver, doctor, and our whole entire world. She was my dad’s soulmate and the love of his life. She will be missed forever and always. Life without her seems impossible and unbearable. What we would do to hear her voice and her laughter just one more time, just to feel her embrace and her warmth.  She was a ray of light and had the soul of an angel.  May she now watch over us and guide us as she is now at peace in heaven.

Sometimes in life there are losses. Losses that can never really be replaced. Losing you has been the hardest thing we have ever had to live with. We weren’t ready to say goodbye. We weren’t ready to let you leave. We would give anything for just one more day, just one more second. But we’ve learned to trust in unconditional love. Because the one profound thing about death is that love never dies.

Some bonds cannot be broken. Because even though you are not physically here, your heart is – it lives on within us. We carry your heart inside ours. We carry it on days where we discover something new. We carry on days when beauty unfolds in the most unexpected places. We carry on days where we find the courage to heal and grow. We carry it with us always. Some day we will meet again and will no longer be separated by time and space. But until that day, we’ll find comfort in knowing that you are still with us. Your heart is tucked safely inside ours. Some hearts just belong together and nothing will ever change that. We loved you then, we love you now, always did, always will, forever in our minds, forever in our hearts, we will carry you.

Mom, you truly are an angel now.  We thank god for you each and every day. May he guide you, protect you, and watch over you, we pray.  There is no mother in the world more loved than you.

We love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and always.

In honor of our mother, we are looking to “pay it forward” to anyone and everyone who has dealt or is dealing with an Ovarian Cancer diagnosis. We have raised close to $40,000 so far for the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) and have worked with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to help with the annual walk. We are determined to help raise money, raise awareness, and help find a cure so that no one else has to suffer the way our mom did.

We do it all for you, Mom