Maggie Daley had a saying, Fr. Jack Wall told a church of mourners on Monday: "No one is going to take this life from me, I'm too busy giving it away."
Indeed, Mrs. Daley's contributions to Chicago education and the arts were felt far and wide in the attendance of hundreds of Chicagoans and dignitaries to her funeral at Old St. Pat's Church.
Among those spotted in the packed audience were U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Speaker Michael Madigan and Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin.
First Lady Michelle Obama flew in with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden. During the funeral service's sign of the peace, Mrs. Obama embraced former Mayor Richard Daley and personally gave her condolences.
The former first lady of Chicago lost her nine-year battle with metastatic breast cancer on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 68. On Sunday, thousands of Chicagoans joined former Mayor Daley for visitation at the Cultural Center. The sentiment was exceeded on Monday.
"Maggie was just somebody beloved in this city," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky. "This outpouring of grief and sense of just missing her smile and her leadership in education and children and the arts, it will really be felt in the city."
"It's a sad day," said Kirk, "because Maggie Daley was a cultural powerhouse for the city."
Bagpipes led Mrs. Daley's procession from the Chicago Cultural Center to the church, where an overflow room was needed to accommodate guests.
Francis Cardinal George and Bishop Tim Lyne presided over the service with Fr. Wall as the main celebrant. Mrs. Daley's daughters read Bible passages, and her son Patrick Daley delivered a family reflection with his sisters, Nora and Lally, by his side.
"Mom set powerful examples in her everyday life," said Patrick Daley, remembering his mother as a woman with a yearning for travel and adventure who often reminded her children to think of others without the education they had. He recalled her infectious smile and her love of life, saying she was always first on the dance floor and last off it.
"While she was the first lady," Patrick Daley said, "she was our mom."
There was laughter, humor and good spirits during the service, from stories shared about her life to her young grandson, Jack, skipping between his grandfather and parents in the first pew.
Fr. Wall said during his homily that he tells anyone he meets in Pittsburgh that Maggie Daley, a native of the Steel City, was the greatest gift the city ever produced, not a sports team.
"She saw the potential and talent of every child in the city."
Wall said her life should serve as “a life lesson for what life well lived looks like, feels like, tastes like. She is a life lesson for all of us.”
Fr. Wall was with Mrs. Daley during her final hours on Thanksgiving. On Monday he told the funeral congregation his last words to her.
"Maggie you were a great teacher, and we got the message."