April 9, 2013

A Eulogy for Nonna

A lot of people will give you advice about writing someone's eulogy:  Don't speak too fast.  Remember to speak loud enough.  Don't worry if you get emotional.  Keep it to 2-3 minutes.  Just speak from the heart. 

What I found out from the process is that you never know where to begin or where to end or what's in the middle because summing up someone's life in front of grieving loved ones in a span of just a few minutes is not very easy. 

Like a lot of writing, your first sentence, which you might initially think is brilliant and poignant, could ultimately get scrapped.  You could end up writing a collection of anecdotes from family memories that would make very little sense to anyone but yourself.  You could search the internet and google your loved one's name and see what turns up for inspiration.  You might even find old stories that show your loved one with a well-known diplomat and wonder what it was like to be standing next to them. 

And then you could ponder how your retired and widowed, 60-something year old, white-haired Grandmother became an activist and avid rally leader when, to you, she was your sweet and loving Nonna.  You may even recall memories of playtime and cookie baking, story-reading and simple games.  You remember hide-and-seek and fruity pebble cereal, ice cream cones and Buttonwood park.  And then you see a series of yellowed-paper articles written about her that read words like "passionate" and "activist" and "rallies" and "leader" and wonder how, as a kid, you could have missed this sort of other-life.

But it makes total sense to me now.

Women are not simple creatures.  We posess an inward-outward life that makes being a lady deep and sometimes complicated.  We are warriors and leaders to the outside world but to those who know our hearts: loving, giving, and vulnerable. 

And that's where writing a Eulogy to Nonna began.

When someone that we love leaves us, we cannot help but to feel sorrow.  But today is not a tragic day.  Nonna’s long life is one to be celebrated and remembered.  It was one that was filled with happiness, love, and laughter. 

She was a loving wife, she raised an incredible son, my Dad, Dutchie, and she was an exceptional grandmother, a doting auntie, and a caring friend and neighbor.  She was a true lady, in every sense of the word.  The world is a better place because of her having been in it. 
Outside of her family life, Nonna was a passionate activist.  She cofounded the Mass Senior Action council, an organization that she was extremely passionate about.  More than 30 years later, the council now has over 1000 members with the same purpose - to help others in need.  She rubbed elbows with presidents, senators, and diplomats.

On the battlegrounds of the many legislative and grass roots committees she was involved in, she was a woman of purpose and fierce determination.  If you have the opportunity today, I encourage you to look at some of the photographs of her in action and see if you don’t agree.  She was a force to be reckoned with and a woman who fought for her rights and that of others, displaying strength to give rise to change.  I respect and admire this. 

But in her home, with her family, she was caring, generous, and sensitive, even sometimes vulnerable.  The love she had for her family was paramount, and in my opinion, her best accomplishment. 
This, I believe, is the true heart of a woman – determined and steadfast yet gentle and loving.  This was my Nonna.

She has departed us in the same way that she lived – with dignity and grace.  If she is looking on us now, she is surely overjoyed, if not a bit humbled, to see all of us together today rejoicing in her life and her spirit. 


1 comment:

  1. Alyson...Thank you so much for sending this. I was sitting in the back of the large Church and heard bits and pieces. My hearing is not the best. What I did hear was very positive rememberances of your Nonna, Madeline. I wanted to hear all of your eulogy. So now I have read it. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.....Nick Constas