Some of you know that my nonna recently passed away. It has probably been one of the most rocking moments in my life to date. I miss her terribly. Even though, truthfully, she has been ‘gone’ for many years through her debilitating disease of dementia, her passing was no less heart wrenching.
Recently I was blessed to travel to Arizona, to be with family, in an informal memorial tribute for my nonna. We went to her crypt site and stood discussing her life and our memories of her.
I had prepared something, in case it was a more formal atmosphere, which it wasn’t, and for which I am grateful really. Because, I was too weak. Too weak to even utter more than three words without my throat closing and my chest compressing. Even my two-year old understood as she wiped my tears away without saying a word.
That is until she had to go potty. In a cemetery. Where there are no toilets. In case you were wondering- squatting over a bush doesn’t go well with two-year olds.
So I didn’t say what I had prepared, but decided to share it here. It makes no matter if the words were said aloud, as I did whisper them to my nonna before she passed. Because, you see…. I wrote them while I was with her (good ol iPhone notepads). While I held her hand. While she slowly passed.
I wrote them. I read them. I cried through them. Maybe she heard me, maybe she didn’t. But my heart reached out to hers and hers to mine through it.
My nonna didn’t drive. Her English wasn’t the best whether speaking, reading or writing.
But she was one of the smartest people I know.
She taught me so much about life.
Instead of scripture, I would like to recite a few things she taught me,
Don’t pee where you may have to drink. Yes she told me this. She said it in Italian (I guess it sounds better that way), but when translated essentially means, don’t talk ugly cause one day you may have to eat those words. Took me a while to really learn this. Actually I am still learning it…
Don’t worry about what others think. She never told me this, but her actions did. If I could just immolate even a fraction of her confidence and individuality, I think I would be a much better person.
Strength comes from within. I don’t believe my nonna had an easy life. Actually I know she didn’t. I was blessed to live with her as an adult (as well as a child) and was amazed and lucky to hear some of her life stories. I learned that not only was she ridiculously, physically strong (don’t say anything to nonno when you see him, but I think she could whip him), yet her inner strength is without words. I am not sure I could do her justice in the kind of amazing strength she demonstrated throughout her life. All the way to her last breath. She inspired me then, and still does.
Nothing, and no one comes before your spouse. This was a hard one for me. And most would probably disagree with her. I did, at the time. She told me this one night when nonno was being a stinker and all I could think was, “Is she crazy? I would knock his ass behind out”. Plus I was a single mother at the time and in all my worldly wisdom, I knew that no one would come before my son. But the truth is, all you have, when your children move out and start their own families, is your spouse. Your life partner. And you don’t want to stare at a stranger across the table. And because of this advice, I have the strongest relationship with my husband possible. I am forever grateful.
Laugh. And often. My nonna had an amazing sense of humor. You never knew if she was troubled, unless of course you made her mad…then you better watch out…but if she was personally struggling through something…she still managed to smile. To laugh. To joke.
My nonna taught me how to welcome anyone, and everyone into a home. Good lord you could never go to her house and not eat a home cooked meal. Which was always, “ah no problema, no problema”- this being no matter how tired she was, or how much her body was giving her trouble. Truth be told, you better have a second helping too.
She taught me not to put up with crap. And to expect great things in life.
My nonna wasn’t perfect; but in her imperfection she taught me that it is ok that I am not perfect either.
She taught me how to love.
I don’t want my nonna to leave. My dad doesn’t want his mother to leave. None of us want Celeste to leave. But God was ready to have her back. And she was ready. If she could have told me herself, she would have said something like this,
“Whadya do Shanna? I gotta go home’a now. You no cry’a either. It’sa time.”
If there is something else that my nonna has taught me in life, and in death, is that each moment is precious and fleeting. Because you see, I took my nonna for granted. I took it for granted that she would always be there. To ask advice, to cry to, to share joy with, to wrap my arms around. If only I could have one more conversation with her….
But now is already gone, and tomorrow will be yesterday. So I will do my best to take to heart what she means to me. To love. Today. As if there wasn’t a tomorrow.