I dedicate this blog to my grandmother, Molly Angelo. She was one of thirteen children born to Polish immigrant parents, growing up during the Great Depression. What she lacked in money and education she made up for with the most unconditional and abundant love you could ever dream to imagine. A love so deep and vast that the ocean would be jealous. I was blessed enough to receive that love first hand every single day. Now she is gone, yet that love lives inside me.
|Matilda H. (Molly) Angelo – 2nd from the right
I had the distinct honor of eulogizing my grandmother at her funeral on Saturday December 7th, at Holy Angels Church. She passed away on Thanksgiving night 2013.
“Loving, like prayer, is a power as well as a process.
It’s curative. It is creative.” – Zona Gale
This was my eulogy to Molly Angelo:
I would like to begin by thanking everyone who is present here today. It means so much to the Angelo family that you are with us to celebrate the long and loving life of Molly Angelo.
Let me tell you a little bit about Molly. I met my grandmother when she was 65 years old and by that point she had experienced enough to fill two lifetimes. Molly’s life and love was always focused on her family and the second half of her life was all about her granddaughters, and eventually her great grandchildren, Nick and Alyssa.
Michelle, Annie, and I were her entire world and her happiness. She would have fought through a blizzard to be at the hospital for our births, and she did.
My father recently told me a story about how, on the day I was born, my grandma held me when I was just out of the womb, still bloody from birth and a nurse told her that she needed to take me away to clean me up. But grandma wouldn’t leave my side. Knowing her she probably didn’t trust the nurse to be as gentle with me as she was. She may have even suspected that someone would kidnap me or switch me with another baby, that was my grandma.
For those of you that knew Molly well, you know that she wasn’t an overly joyous or happy person, but when her granddaughter’s were present, she was all smiles.
However, none of us could make her laugh quite like Annie could. To Annie, grandma was known as Mertle and together they were partners in crime. They would stay up until all hours of the night playing cards and joking around. And I know that my sister definitely inherited the one of a kind phrases that grandma would come up with like her most famous “Stop Monkin Around”. Now we can always count of Annie for a one of a kind phrase that gets everyone rolling on the floor laughing.
In Molly’s eyes her children and grandchildren could do no wrong. She blamed herself before she would condemn anyone in her family. I can tell you from my own experience that no matter how many times I would wet her bed, or make a mess with my toys, or incessantly knock on her door, just yearning for her attention, not once did she get mad at me, turn me away, or even get annoyed.
She showed the greatest Esprit de Corps to her family. A phrase that I learned during my 8 years in the Marine Corps, it means having feelings of loyalty, enthusiasm, and devotion to a group of people. And THAT was Molly.
Never have we met a stronger, feistier, more opinioned, and nurturing human being. She took care of me and loved me everyday when I was a child, and when it finally came time for me to go to Kindergarten, she walked me into School #3, just a few blocks away from here, and as she triedto drop me off… I just lost it!
I started crying uncontrollably, to the point where the teacher yelled at me and told me to go into the bathroom and collect myself, but I couldn’t, I tried so hard, I just couldn’t stop the tears from coming out of my eyes.
I’ve only been that upset a handful of times in my life. I can still feel how hard my heart was beating and my stomach twisting in anguish.
Looking back on it, I now realize how philosophical that moment was. I think part of me wished to live in those moments with gram forever, if only I could have found a way to bend time, because after I walked out of that bathroom I had to grow up, loose my innocence, and face the harsh realities of life. And my grandma knew that. She obviously didn’t want our time to end either, because she somehow talked the teacher into letting her become the teachers assistant so she could come to school with me every single day.
This was not an isolated incident. Children crying in the wake of her absence was Molly’s unique talent. The same exact thing happened to Michelle, the second grandma would take out her suitcase and start to get ready to leave, Michelle would scream and cry, all the way from the house, to the airport, and into the terminal… as if the world was coming to an end.
It was never easy for us to see her go; because when she was gone you quickly realized that her unconditional love and presence was like a supernovaoccurring in the Milky Way. In other words it was far from common.
It was the way you felt about yourselfwhen you were around her that was so intoxicating.
When it comes to grandma there are so many words of wisdom that she instilled in all of us, most of which had to do with studying hard and getting good grades. And of course we all have our own wonderful memories of her.
But for me it’s all about the unspoken and subconscious details that stir in my mind, like my grandmothers hands, when I close my eyes I can see her hands. They were the hands of a woman who had worked so hard and loved so much that she had worn away the prints on her fingertips. She had peeled and cut so many potatoes that she had permanent lines from where the knife pressed against the cushion of her thumb. When I was a child I memorized those hands; the way they looked, the pressure of her touch, the strength of her grasp and of course, cold hands warm heart.
The only thing I can possibly compare her to, at the end of her life, is the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. I know this story so well because it’s one of my aunt Tee’s favorite books. The moral of the story is that in loving others and in others loving us, we become real and find the true meaning of life.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Well, I can tell that Molly looked like she had been relentlessly lovedafter 94 years of life, and in becoming real she is finally free from the restraints and boundaries of her frail body. In the last 5 years she was so beautifully loved and cared for by my aunt, with the help of her wonderful aids, which include my mother and two sisters. I would like to thank you all on behalf of our entire family. Because of your gracious care my grandmother was able to stay in the comfort of her own home that she lived in for past 70 years. And ultimately passed away peacefully in the very apartment that I grew up in.
Thank you Lord for showing yourself through the love of Molly Angelo, which made us who we are in your reflection.
Because God IS Love.
And if there is one truth, it is that… Love, never dies.