Sunday, November 13, 2011

I MISS MY NANA

Since I normally don't post on the weekend and since this means lots to me, I'm leaving this up as my entry for Monday.  It needs to be posted on Saturday......November 13


If my brain has failed me in the math department, I will stand corrected..... 


Today, November 13, would have been my Grandmother's 100th Birthday.


She passed away exactly ONE MONTH before I began my journey in Cancerland with the first inkling of a problem on a mammogram.  Oftentimes during the beginning of this Cancer Crap, I remember thinking, "I am so glad Nanny isn't here to watch this."  I am the oldest grandchild, so yes, I AM special.....  


My grandmother was one of strongest women (if not THE strongest) I've ever known.  And it wasn't that she was my grandmother, it's just because she WAS THAT STRONG!


She passed away on March 17, 2006.


What follows is a eulogy that was written by me and one that the Catholic Church allowed me to read at the end of Nan's funeral mass.  

Today, it is with heavy hearts, that we bid a fond and sorrowful farewell, to a woman who has meant so much, to so many, for so long. At the age of 93, I remember laughing when my grandmother told me she was old. She wasn’t old in any of OUR eyes, but SHE was beginning to wonder why God still wanted her here. Nana, God wanted you here because none of US, was ready to let you go. I know he did it for us. And I thank him today, for the gift that you were to all of us in this life, and for the mercy he bestowed upon you, as you slipped painlessly and peacefully into his arms.


While we mourn her loss, today is a celebration of her life, of who she was, how she marched to her own drum, thumbed her nose at the dumb stuff, and above all, how she taught THREE subsequent generations, what really IS important in life.


All of the memories I cherish from my early childhood, are somehow connected to her. We all lived together on 87th Road and Laureen and I ALWAYS seemed to find our way Nan and Poppy’s apartment. It didn’t matter if she was getting ready to leave for work, or if she had just returned from a long day, we were greeted with hugs and smiles and given her undivided attention. Nothing was more important than her family.


And then there were the times my grandfather would just show up with a gang of buddies and within minutes, there was a feast on the kitchen table. She ALWAYS managed to do that, and always on a moment’s notice. No one was more important than poppy.


She endured heart wrenching pain when she was widowed, just as her life with my grandfather was really beginning. I can still remember the first time I saw her after Poppy died. The image of her walking through the door being steadied by my dad is one that is burned into my memory. Her vibrance was gone. I can still see how terrible she looked, how obvious it was that she had been crying for a very long time. I never felt sadder.


Yet, while she may never have understood his reasons, Nana never questioned God’s will. At the most difficult point in her life, she taught us all the truest meaning of faith, in its purest form. She was a survivor, a strong and determined woman, who continued to live a full and rich life. From her earliest days as a young girl, helping HER mom, who was widowed while pregnant with Nanny’s youngest brother, to her days as a young bride and new mom, taking my dad to church to serve as an altar boy, and over the course of many decades, she became the family caretaker. I will be eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to thank her publicly for all that she did, when my parents celebrated 50 years of marriage. Before my grandfather died, together, they took care of our young, growing family so my dad could finish school.


They helped my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Joey start a beauty salon on Jamaica Avenue. And after Poppy died, Nanny carried on that legacy by herself for the next 40 years. As her own mother got on in years, she moved in with Nan, so that Nan could tend to her, until her death just shy of 100 years old. When Uncle Larry passed away, she moved in with Aunt Cathy to make sure her baby daughter would survive his untimely death. Somehow, she even became the caretaker of Uncle Mikey’s rather large Saint Bernard.


She was wildly protective of all us. More than once, I can remember her helping me, as I’m sure many of you can too, over some rather rough patches. When I was upset or frightened, she knew exactly how to provide comfort and support. She was the finest example of grace under pressure when she was forced to calm me as a ten year old, on my very first plane ride, when a certain someone, simply HAD to ask what would happen if the plane fell from the sky. “Whatever will be, will be,” she said and within minutes I forgot how scared I was, as she was singing to us, teaching us the words to Que Sera Sera.


If I was angry, she would manage to validate my feelings, and diffuse the anger at the same time. During those moments, she had this inclination to say things that one might not expect to hear from this petite woman who was getting on in years. She had some pretty colorful ways of expressing herself. And the same way she calmly transformed herself into Doris Day lovingly singing Que Sera Sera, Nan could just as easily turn into a fierce lioness, standing her ground fearlessly, ready to do whatever SHE thought was necessary to protect any one of us.


I still laugh when I remember her sneaking out back to have a smoke with the girls, at about 90 years old. When I asked my dad how he could possibly expect her to go outside to have a cigarette, he laughed at me. “She’s the boss,” he told me, “she can do whatever she wants, she won’t smoke in the house because of all the little ones.” That was the essence of nanny…. It was never about HER… it was ALWAYS about the welfare and the well-being of all of us, her children, her grandchildren and her most especially, her great-grandchildren. She truly was the epitome of selflessness.


Today, as much as it hurts me to say goodbye, I STILL remember the way she looked so adoringly at my grandfather. There was this sparkle in her smile, and a twinkle in her eyes, that I only remember through my tenth birthday. I know she lived happily, VERY happily, for these past forty plus years, that she found immeasurable joy in watching her family grow. But I know, too, there WAS this tiny hole that none of us could ever fill. Today, I am certain that the sparkle is back, that she is smiling down upon all of us, watching over each and every one of us, just as she promised. Protective to the very end, her words have brought me much comfort through these difficult days. “When I’m gone,” she told me during a conversation we had just a few short weeks ago, “don’t you EVER forget that I will be praying for you, for ALL of you.”


But above all else, and what comforts me most, is that I have NO doubt, her eyes are twinkling once again, as she is reunited with my grandfather, in the presence of God, for all eternity, after a lifetime of waiting.


CHEMOBRAIN Strikes again.....  the editing is getting exhausting!  Saturday, November 13?  Not THIS year.... it was SUNDAY.  This is why I just laugh my way through everything!!!!

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely tribute. Grandmothers are something special aren't they? I still miss mine and think about her so often. They love us completely unconditionally and that's why they are so dear. I understand about being relieved your grandmother didn't know of your cancer. I'm grateful my grandmother and my mom didn't know about mine, still I miss the support I know I would have received from them. Thanks for the lovely post and I'm sorry for your loss.

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