I had the blessed privilege of giving a eulogy at my Grandma’s funeral yesterday morning. I wanted to share it here.
Memory and Hope
Today we remember Louisa DiFalco, who – either directly or indirectly – has affected all of us. She was known as – Flav’s, Maria’s, or Carolyn’s mom – Gram – Nonna – Mother – Cousin – Friend – Avon lady – and now, a member of the communion of saints.
To remember is to have memories, and, of Gram, we have plenty. Sometimes it is a difficult thing for me to think about Gram with the Alzheimer’s and how her memory continued to dwindle these past few years. However, her retreating memory also unearthed some beautiful treasures as she recounted stories from her childhood many people had never heard, providing a fuller picture of this woman who was so full of life for so many years. No matter how much she forgot, though, two of the things that she knew without a doubt until the end were these:
Her name was Louisa DiFalco, and she was 100% Italian.
Death is sad for many reasons, and today because of saying goodbye. However, remembering Gram is a joyous thing.
C.S. Lewis is a theologian and author probably most famously known for “The Chronicles of Narnia” stories. He also wrote some lesser known stories. In one of them he portrays a scene in which two characters need to say goodbye. Both are sad, one indignantly so. The response of the other character, though, provides a good perspective and, I believe, a bit of hope for us.
Here is the excerpt:
“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking…as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing… What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure… When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it…, what it makes in me all my days…that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”
Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Hyoi, p. 73
Some of the memories and stories of Gram that came to mind this past week had me imagine the following scene, so please indulge me for a moment as I share it with you:
After asking St. Peter if he has ever had Italian food, she inquires if the disciples were Italian. Peter responds, “No Louisa, they were Jewish.” She replies, “Well, I guess that’s okay, they seem nice anyway.” And then she proceeds to fill their bowls with homemade pasta and meatballs. When they politely decline thirds she nods ascent as she gives them just a little more of each in their bowls.
I remember Nonna’s hospitality and love: the ever-full cookie tins in the hallway, how she always had hugs to give, and how sometimes she would scratch our backs. In Colorado, when her arms became too weak to fully embrace, she would hold faces in her crooked hands – our faces and those of the staff where she lived – and she would give kisses on the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.
Gram’s hospitality reminds me of the hopeful reality that God invites all of us to come, receive love, and give it to others – even if we don’t think we are worthy of love or in need of love or capable of loving. Gram reminds me that all of us can love in our corner of the world each and every day, and in doing so, participate in God’s Holy work of healing the world
And so that is what we have, memories and hope. We have memories that will continue to deepen every time we see an Avon sign, hear someone talk about homemade pasta, or smell the sweet lemony fragrance of mammarrellas. And we have hope, that Gram’s story, just like each of our stories, belongs to a bigger story of God’s love for Creation. A love mirrored in the compassion and presence of friends and family in this time, and a love offered and possible to experience deeply in those dark moments when we feel alone.
Thank you, God, for allowing us to know Nonna. Please encourage us to know Your love as we remember her love. Help us to know Your presence as we now journey without her presence. Amen.