For Nana, written for my grandmother’s memorial, May 2003

Written for my grandmother’s memorial, in May 2003

What makes us human is that we know we will die.

What makes us human is that we know we will live forever, in our families, in our children, in the memories of those whom we have loved and who have loved us.

We rejoice in the life of Grace DeBacco – Grazietta Silverio. And what a rejoicing it is. Look around you. It’s Grace’s Faces as far as the eye can see. Once at one of the many birthday parties and family reunions someone who had married into the clan said to me, “I look out over this crowd, and you all have the same nose.”

I am not certain about the noses. But our blood and bone are indeed the same. I submit to you, however, that what’s really the same is that we all have the same heart. If heart means courage, and strength, and laughter, and family, we have the same heart indeed. It was she who gave it to us, in her body, in her spirit, and in her love.

I cannot pretend that I knew my Nana as a person. I knew her as my Nana – strong, loving, generous, full of stories. I suspect strongly that my own near-sacred devotion to good food comes from her, handed down directly through my mother. She had a definite sense of style, too, giving hope to all of us short, round women who manage to be stylish in her honor and in her memory.

Each of us knew her in varying ways – as mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin. Each of us were shaped by her in ways seen and unseen, across a long life.

She was a little girl who came from Chieti, Italy to Pennsylvania, a voyage by ship where she was so seasick that she asked her mother if she was going to throw up the entire ocean. She was a young girl who fell in love, and lost her love, and then found love again. She worked hard. She had ten children. She knew how to laugh, and she loved to have her family gathered around her.

In a Star Trek novel he wrote, my son Keith, Nana’s oldest great-grandchild, named the president of the Federation after her. I think she could have run a whole planet, no problem. She certainly did a good job on us.

She and my mother, her oldest child, Annie, made a life together for themselves for over twenty-five years, after my father died and my mother came home to live in that little house in Roseville. They were quite a performance, those two. It’s a part of my grandmother’s life I got to know pretty well, since it had my mother in it. It was great theater. And it comforts me more than I can say that Mom was holding Nana’s hand when she died.

It is a little scary to think of the changes that passed by her in her life. She was born after the turn of the century just passed – before either world war, and just a year after the first air flight at Kitty Hawk.

This week when she died – just after the turn of another century – much of her large and far-flung family were in constant and almost instantaneous touch through the medium of the internet, on the web site Tim has so aptly called The Grapevine. How extraordinary.

What is more extraordinary, though, is that throughout her long life, the things that she lived are the things that do not change. Wake up and greet the day. Smile at the children. Feed the family. Do the work to hand. Sow the seeds of laughter, and make sure that there are hugs and kisses in great abundance for everyone.

What makes us human is that we know we will die.

What makes us human is that we know we will live forever. And Nana will, in all those noses, and in our hearts, in our children and our children’s children, and in the heaven where I know she lives now.

About girasoleazzurra

GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido. 75+. Feminist. Flower child. Works with words. Thinks with music. My belief system involves food and family. Wrote and spoke and published about libraries, librarians, writing, editing, and reading. Now retired. Putting some of that writing here.
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