My Italian Grandmother was a wonderful woman. “Nanny” had a loving, vibrant soul that she carried around in a short, heavyset body. She had a passion for life that expressed itself in so many ways. It was in the hugs she gave, the meals she cooked, and the flowers she grew. It was even in the temper she lost from time to time. I think one of the reasons I was never taught Italian by my Dad was he was afraid I might learn the meaning of some of those words Nanny said when she was upset.
Nanny raised four sons and then helped my Mom and Dad raise me and my two brothers as well. I always felt blessed growing up in her home as a boy. She worked hard, laughed loud, and was never afraid of what life threw at her. Life wasn’t that easy on her either. She suffered from health problems all her life and even survived an operation for a brain tumor. When she fell and broke her hip in her eighties, my Dad was forced to admit that he could no longer take care of her at home.
It was with a heavy heart that Dad moved Nanny into a nursing home. She lost weight and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet, even as her body shrunk and withered her spirit stayed strong. The nurses there loved her and her zest for life. Even her Italian temper brought smiles to them as they learned a few “choice” words of Italian from her as well. Our whole family gathered together for her 90th birthday in the nursing home dining room. It was a wonderful celebration of her life and the love we all had for her.
Shortly after that birthday, however, life gave her the toughest challenge of all as age and illness started to take her mind from her too. The Dementia grew worse and worse over the last few years of her life. At times when I visited her she didn’t know who I was. It was heartbreaking to see her this way. She spoke less and less and stayed in her bed more and more. Sometimes all I could do was just sit by her bed and hold her hand.
During one of these visits I was holding her hand while she slept and remembering the person she used to be. My soul was in mourning that life could take everything from her like this. At that moment she awoke. Her eyes gazed up at me and I could tell she didn’t recognize me. She looked down at my hand holding hers and instead of pulling hers away, she smiled at me. Then she closed her eyes and went peacefully back to sleep. I could see then that even though her mind didn’t remember me, her spirit still remembered love and that was enough.
In the end this life takes away everything we have except our love. Our love can never be taken away. It can never be destroyed. It can never be forgotten. Our love is eternal. It makes us one with God. It lives in us all through this life and it lives on into the next. It was my Nanny’s love that made her the special soul she was. And it is your love that makes you the special soul you are. Always remember to love then. It is who you are. It is what you are meant for. It is what life is all about.