In Memory Of

**As some of you may know, I lost my grandmother, Martina, this week. I was asked to write something to read at the funeral and thought I’d share a little about the great woman she was.

My grandmother, Martina—my Nonnie—had a pretty good life. She told us so on one of our last visits to see her while she was in the hospital. While in her final days, she was but a shell of the vibrant person she used to be—old, run-down, unable to do a lot of things by and for herself. I ask you not to remember her this way, as she wouldn’t have wanted that. I ask you to remember her through the eyes of a child.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. After school, I would walk to their house, and was always greeted with a smile, a hug, and an offer of food. We would watch TV, play in the garden, and sit on my favorite spot—the kitchen radiator—to just talk about our day. The house smelled of sauce and rising bread, and there was no shortage of breadsticks with cream cheese – unless my brother, Chris, got there first. There were always hugs and kisses good-bye, and plenty of “I love you’s.”

On Sundays, the entire family would gather and have a home-cooked meal—pizza, spaghetti, sausage, veggies, you name it, it was probably there. Enough food to feed an army, and in those days, we were an army! Cousins and uncles and aunts, all running around in the yard, talking in the house, and gathering in the kitchen. It’s one of my fondest memories.

After my grandfather, Frank—my Nonno—passed, it seemed we didn’t get together as often. Still, after school, I would venture to Nonnie’s. And when I was in high school, I would drive there before heading to work, just to see if she needed anything. And do you know what she’d tell me, every time?  “What can I do for you?” Every. Time. It didn’t matter that I was there to actually help her; she wanted to do something for me. That’s just how she was, always caring and generous, giving no matter what she had or didn’t have, so that her family didn’t need to worry.

And it didn’t matter who came over, or who we brought over; the other offer she always had ready was, “Can I get you something to eat?” She’d follow up with offers of cookies, crackers, ice cream—until you finally broke down and ate something. I know where I get my persistent stubbornness from, and it’s that women there. The kitchen was her domain and she would never let you leave her house hungry. We joke that it’s the “Italian way,” for I see the same thing in my mom and aunt, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I remember stories she told about her younger years. About her love of roller coasters, her daring adventures with her girl friends, and her courtship with Frank. One thing was always clear—she loved him very much. She also missed him greatly.

As time passed and everyone grew into their separate families, she often commented that it wasn’t worth getting old because she needed so much help. She hated to be a bother—probably the only thing she’s ever hated in her entire life. Anytime we’d call to see if she needed something, it was always “I don’t want to be a bother.” I had to drag her to the car on a few occasions just to get her to the store. We didn’t ask just to ask—we wanted to help her as much as she helped us. It was not a bother at all.

I’m not going to end with the later years of her life—I don’t believe she’d want to be remembered that way at all—it would be bothersome, after all. Instead, I’m going to rely a story.  Bear with me.

After Frank passed, my mom and my cousin, Lisa, always said that butterflies were what reminded them of him. Those pretty, colorful bursts of color would just brighten their day, knowing that he was looking down upon them. The day before Nonnie passed, my mom took my daughter to see her at the home. On the way to the car, several butterflies flew about. Annabelle laughed, pointing them out to my mom. And while she smiled, mom didn’t think anything of it.

When they got to the home, several more butterflies flitted about the yard. Again, Belles pointed it out and mom smiled along with her. After a nice lunch with Nonnie—Belles tried to share her nuggets and weaseled a cookie out of her—they drove to mom’s house. While outside, several more butterflies flew in the yard.

Looking back, it’s so clear. Frank was calling her home. But not just that. He was trying to tell mom that it was ok, not to worry. They were going to be together again and he would take care of her.

So, while we are sad today, please remember: she is at peace, home at last with her loving husband. She did not suffer like she could have, and for that I am thankful. She knew it was time by the small actions she took—the only ones left to her—and she was ready. She got to see the family one more time at the reunion, and even if she couldn’t remember your names, she still loved you. She would not want us to dwell on her passing—she wouldn’t want to be a bother. Instead, remember that she loved her family very much and is now looking out for them from above.

She had a pretty good life.

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