Sizzling sausages, buttery pancakes, and fresh brewed coffee – the smells of breakfast at Nona’s awoke me this morning and for a very brief moment I felt that all was right in the world. I would descend the stairs of her sunny Cape Cod home and there she’d be in the kitchen, smiling and cooking happily for her family as she had done her whole life. Love is to will the good of the other, and on this morning my beloved brother and sister-in-law got up early to make the weekend breakfast that we’ve all come to know and cherish. While Nona may not be here physically, she is certainly here in spirit through her children and grandchildren who carry on her legacy of selfless giving.
What would inspire folks from so many states, backgrounds and interests to stand in line for hours on a busy Wednesday night in September? They lined up by the hundreds to pay tribute to a woman who always greeted them with a smile and kind word and left them better than when they met her. She gave herself – it is that simple. They stood in line for hours because this woman exuded unconditional love in the presence of all she came in contact with. They waited patiently because this woman touched their lives in a way that few people can or ever will in this world and they wanted a chance to have one last moment with her.
It is the people in this life who fulfill us and make our existence meaningful. My mom knew this and was grateful to love and spend time with so many extraordinary friends and family members from her hometown in Barre MA to Utica NY to Peabody to Plymouth to Woodstock NY to Yarmouth ME to Ridgefield CT to Holliston and back home to Cape Cod. As my brother so beautifully shared in his eulogy, “Nona’s personal treasure and only definition of worldly wealth was her family, and the crown jewels were her grandchildren.”
My brother Joe, sister Liz, Aunt Sue and I are counting on our children to carry on all the beautiful virtues that Nona instilled in each of them and use them to make our world a better place: Andrea – courage, Sarah – empathy, Grace – natural charisma/inner beauty, Emma – unwavering faith/compassion, Isabella – Renaissance woman with natural gifts of music & discovery, Tasha- unconditional friendship, Josef – unabated curiosity of natural world, Andrew – inner humility/treasured peacemaker, Julie – smart /focused and tenacious, Johnny – unconditional love!
Yesterday unfolded like a gentle breeze. We spent our morning reflecting on the love WE received from our many hometown, college and neighborhood friends and work colleagues who traveled a far distance to pay tribute to our beloved mom. It was a moment to share stories, smile and even laugh – Joanie would have wanted that for all of us. We found ourselves driving toward the beach in the afternoon and without any planning at all, turned into the cemetery around 3 pm.
At approximately 3:05 pm, our family gathered around mom with the late afternoon sun spilling through the trees. It was exactly one week to the minute since her going home to God. We decided to pray the Glorious mysterious of the rosary. Our collective voices were lifted in prayer to God, amidst tears and sadness, but with mom’s faith. Even if we didn’t feel anything at that moment except sadness, we made an act of faith knowing that mom was at peace, was happy and was with us in this quiet moment of prayer and togetherness.
We then continued on to our original destination of the beach and took a very long walk down a picturesque walking trail surrounded by the shore on one side and beautiful coves on the other. As we made our way down to the tip of the peninsula, our minds were thinking of one person – our Joanie. When we finally reached the spot where mom and dad had frequented, we all found a place to stop and reflect. For me, it was a time to give thanks to God for the gift of an incredible mother – a person who gave love rather than consumed it, a person who sought the good in everyone, a person who loved without boundaries – like the vast ocean before me. While the sadness is deep I know I am blessed and with time, I hope that I can fly like the birds of the air above the sea – free and confident in God’s love for me. That is what Joanie would want.