Maureen Morse Ciotoli, 'Moe', was born on March 22nd, 1958 to Richard and Rosalie Morse. An 'army brat' she was the youngest of four children; a loving sister to Sarah, Richard & Rebecca. She grew up in Rotterdam, NY on Wallace Avenue near five corners. Moe was always incredibly proud of her father's accomplishments as a CWO, a true daddy's girl. She would often tell stories of how loved her father was and what he had done in his life. She regularly commended his bravery, not realizing just how brave she was herself.
Moe attended Notre Dame and later graduated from Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons in 1976. She went on to attend Schenectady County Community College to earn a degree in Secretarial Science in 1978. Upon this accomplishment, she found her true passion as an Occupational Therapist Assistant. She attended Maria college in pursuit of an OTA degree graduating in 1980. After completion of her degree, she was employed as an OTA for Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. While there she assisted a wide range of individuals, particularly focusing on head injuries in children. While providing therapy she showed her ability to innovate by making customized splints and other useful tools to help these patients.
Her other notable contributions surrounded her work with individuals in comas. On one such instance she provided therapy for a patient in a coma where through this therapy and her words she was able to bring them out of the coma. Realizing she had a true gift in this field, she went on to become an adjunct professor at Maria College. There she made great strides in the program, even designing courses herself. This was an accomplishment she took great pride in as some of her teachings are still used to this day.
Within this time, she married Nicholas Ciotoli on July 25th, 1981. They had met when they were 15 years old and were together for 45 years and married for 39 years. Another of her greatest passions in life was to become a mother; on August 8th, 1987, this dream was realized as she gave birth to Rachel Ciotoli. This dream was later expanded when she gave birth to her second daughter, Sarah Ciotoli, on October 1st, 1993. Through this time, she suffered several miscarriages, but she remained hopeful that her family would continue to grow.
However, on October 31st, 1994, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As an OTA she knew quite a bit about MS and could not help but fear for the future. At that time, there weren’t the advances in treatment that we have now. She struggled to control the symptoms of this disease through this time but continued working despite her prognosis.
A second hit came when she lost her father in February of 1996. She was devastated but continued on as she always did. Upon his passing the entire family took the train down to Arlington National Cemetery to lay him to rest. From this point on, the train became a powerful symbol to recognize the passing of a family member and them being at peace. On December 7th of 1997 she gave birth to her youngest daughter, Laura Ciotoli. She often said she was her miracle baby as giving birth to a healthy child while having MS is challenging.
Shortly after, she started to rapidly decline in her physical abilities. Moe soon became paralyzed from the waist down, needing to use a wheelchair at all times. She quickly realized she was not able to provide therapy effectively anymore. She became a stay at home mom and got the opportunity to spend time with her girls. Missing her passions, she became a loved substitute teacher in the Scotia-Glenville School District. She assumed this role between 2004-2010; at that time, she started to lose the ability to use her hands as she developed tremors. As someone who needed their hands to do their passion this was a very hard hit.
From there she stayed home for eight years, cooking, baking, reading, etc. She always loved decorating for the holidays, Christmas shopping with Sarah, baking cookies with Laura and hearing Rachel's musical abilities. Through her experience she wrote a book, Both Sides Of The Fence, describing her experience as a professional in the healthcare and rehabilitation field and then being on the opposite side, in need of these services. However, she continued to decline later becoming paralyzed from the neck down with limited mobility in one arm. She also developed severe nerve pain, vision changes, and wounds that she could not heal. This time was filled with so many joys but also so much pain.
In January of 2019 she was moved to Baptist Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center where she lived out the remaining two years of her life. Her time at Baptist included many trips to the hospital, pneumonia, septic infections, feeding tubes, and life sustaining treatments. Her time at Baptist also included visits with her daughters, decorating her room and seeing Rachel get married to her husband Alex, who Moe always talked about so highly. Again, there were many joys and so much pain.
On October 27th, 2020, she was brought to Ellis Hospital with pneumonia due to aspiration from her feeding tube. She was able to see her three children on the 28th, which had not been able to see her since before the COVID-19 crisis started and the nursing home went into lockdown. During this visit she told her daughters how much she loved them and prayed for them. She asked them to tell her family how much she loved them as well. When they went back the next day to visit, she had become unresponsive with a septic infection. She had pulled through this so many times before but this time she was ready to be done. Her daughters believe she knew her time was near, and she made the decision not to worry anyone by simply saying, ‘I love you, see you tomorrow.’
On Friday October 30th, her daughters got a call that she was in critical condition. Upon rushing to the hospital, they found out that she had passed away at around 6AM. They were shocked to say the least but also met with some relief that she was no longer suffering. They also knew she was at peace as, for anyone who knew her, they knew she was incredibly stubborn. She was not leaving if she did not want to leave. In the end she made peace, told the ones she loved how much she cared for them, and walked away.
On that morning, one of the trains that always passes through without stopping, stopped at the station, left the lights on and the train running and opened its doors. This was as clear a sign as any that her time in this world was finished and she was at peace with her parents. While carrying out her final wishes, an urn was selected for her remains. When her daughters went to pick it out, the cabinet doors were opened and sitting right at eye level was a wooden urn with a train engraved on the front. This was yet another sign that she was ready when her time came, and she was at peace. After her daughters returned home, they found footprints in dirt across their floors that simply were not there before. They believe this was a very clear sign from Maureen that she was healthy and able to walk again.
Maureen's story and who she was as a person goes to show some important lessons:
1) End-stage MS is an ugly and intrusive thing. This disease affects so many areas of your life and while wonderful treatments exist now, so much more is needed. This is something she knew all too well and is the reason for the decision to have a donation in her memory in lieu of other condolences.
2) You simply never know where life is going to take you. Your journey is not singular, and it is not linear. There will be ups and downs, as well as turns that just do not make sense at the time. Regardless, you will end up in the exact place you were meant to me. This can best be exemplified in Moe's reoccurring statement: "let go and let god".
3) Don't sweat the small stuff.
4) The people you love matter more than anything in this world. It is love that keeps you going, keeps you moving forward, and keeps you fighting.
5) Try not to care so much about what other’s opinions of you are. It is your life, not the life of someone else; you have to wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror not them.
6) Never give up fighting for something you believe in. Whether that be your goals, the people you love, etc. NEVER GIVE UP.
7) Make the best of what is given to you. This can often be a daunting task, but your life and the lives of others around you will be so much richer for it.
8) Help those in need whenever possible. Maureen dedicated her life to helping those in need, whether it was as an OT, volunteering for Hospice, supporting Scotia-Glenville Friends of Music or teaching. She helped every chance she got; even in the end she helped others by becoming an organ donor.
9) Forgive others and do not hold grudges. Your growth as a person depends upon this. Often the hardest thing is forgiving others, especially ones who don't apologize, but you will grow so much as a person for doing so. Grudges only serve to hold you back and limit your mobility in life.
10) Losing the ones you love is incredibly heartbreaking but it is important to know you did everything you could. Do not let guilt linger after loss; you were there, you loved them, and you will miss them. It will only make it worse on yourself if you blame yourself with all these 'shoulda-coulda-wouldas'.
Lastly, no matter how much you try to prepare for the loss of someone, no one is ever prepared to say good-bye. Maureen will be missed dearly by those who knew and loved her. We will continue on and live in her memory, taking with us the lessons she has taught.
Please feel free to donate in her memory or simply include a memory of Moe or a lesson she has taught you by having known her. Mourn her loss in whatever way will bring you peace; thank you to all in advance! We miss you Mom!