This is a eulogy that I wrote for my grandmother, Caroline ‘Lily’ Lobozzo, died April 16, 2009. I included it in this blog since it talks about continuity of relationship after the death of a loved one and it bridges legacy and spirituality.
Caroline ‘Lily’ Lobozzo Eulogy: Read May 23, 2009
There are so many beautiful things to say about my grandmother. So much so that I have been pondering the question: “Is there always this much to say about someone who lives for 91 years?” And then I typed this question in the computer to prepare for today and I accidentally put an “o” in “lives” and typed “loves”: Is there always this much to say about someone who loves for 91 years? Since this new question is so fitting for my grandmother, I wonder: Was this typo really an accident, or was it one of the many signs we have felt since our Gi Gi passed on April 16th?
Signs from Grandma
Signs that help us know everything is OK in this world and everything is OK in the next world. These signs have brought me comfort everyday. One of the most significant of these signs was at brunch after the funeral, a few people were telling stories about our Lily. And all the power in the restaurant went out for a good three to four seconds. Some of the cousins quickly asked the staff why it happened but no one had any explanation. Shortly after, my father asked my cousin Andrew if he wanted to say a few words and he said; “I have my sign, I am good.” I thought to myself: this is a family of believers.
Another of these signs was strange feathers my aunt and some of us found around my aunts house the few days just before and after grandma died. More curious because, my aunt has allergies, so she does not have any down pillows, or blankets in the whole house. Another fun sign happened when Ted was driving on the thruway and I was the passenger. I was looking down doing some work and tending the kids, and that one time in a couple of hours, I look up and catch a sign that says ‘Caroline St.’
Also the other day on the phone when I was telling these stories to my sister in law, all the power in my house went out. I guess Grammy’s power is increasing, because half the homes in Irondequoit went out! We hear you! It turns out a crane hit a high voltage power line. Grandma, this is awesome. It doesn’t take a ton of bricks to fall on our head. We hear you. Life is good but heaven is REALLY good. Everything is going to be OK for each of us.
A few weeks ago, my father said to my aunt: If you ever need advice just take the thought and hope to bed with you and by the morning Mom will give you the answer. He knew that he could always stay connected and have an ongoing relationship with his mother. We all can. My 5 year old daughter Lily has already experienced Gi Gi loving her in her dreams. She dreamed she was sitting on her lap, cuddling and talking and laughing together. We have not lost the love and the goodness, the legacy of my grandmother.
Let me tell you a little about that legacy: I narrowed it down to six categories of what my grandmother taught all who knew her. These are things we told her over and over in the four months and years before she died so that she did not have to wait to her funeral to hear about them…
She taught us: To believe in ourselves, to love unconditionally, to cherish family, to have faith, to work hard, and, finally, to feed people. Let me tell you a bit about them…
Believe in Yourself!
Grandma gave this gift of believing in themselves to many people. The stories that fill my mind the most are those of her nieces and nephews. They called her their refuge. What a significant word: Refuge. A place where they felt safe, they felt good. They felt this safety and goodness because they were in the presence of someone who believed in them, she believe in their goodness and saw their beauty and potential. She believed in their worth. She saw this in everyone, but for her nieces and nephews, this belief that she had in them, changed their lives. Because when you are around someone who believes in you, you start to believe in yourself. And if you believe in yourself, you can move mountains.
My grandmother was the youngest of 7 siblings. When she was married and raising her own children, 3 families including seven kids lived in the same house. And then two families, including four more cousins lived four blocks one way. Since my grandfather was one of eight children, three blocks in the other direction was almost 20 more cousins. Altogether, there were about 30-neices and nephews, who grew up like siblings. When chaos or stress broke out in any one of these apartments, all of these kids knew they could go see Aunt Lily.
Our Aunt Lily
Cousin Eileen said that my grandmother would let them hang out and wait for them to start talking. She would listen and acknowledge them and gently guide them on the right path. She always taught them to do the right thing. But never lecturing, never degrading. She would encourage them to believe in themselves enough to tell the truth. That was one of her last words to my dad and cousin: “Be honest.” Grandma saw the good in everyone and wanted them to live in that goodness.
Cousin Rita said that they thought she was so glamorous. She was the young aunt, so when she went out they’d all gathered to watch her put her nylons on and put her mascara on and they thought this was really great. My grandmother really cared about well made clothes. If you showed her something you made or even something you bought, she would turn it inside out to check the seams in the inside and to check the quality of the stitch work.
She did take care with her appearance, but this was never vain. She was incredibly and beautifully humble. Dressing neat, to show respect for what you are doing and people that you are seeing, was valued. It was about telling people they are worth being greeted by someone who was neat and clean.
The second legacy: Love unconditionally overlaps as I am sure they all do.
People felt accepted and loved in her presence. Her apartment was fun and the nieces and nephews described it as “lighter” in mood than their serious apartments. Grandma appreciated people. She always said “Thank you” — sometimes over and over. You felt great if you helped her. Because you know she noticed the specialness in you. And she let you know she saw this specialness.
She saw God in each person and loved each of us unconditionally. They say that unconditional love is the most divine kind of love. And many of us know it is not easy to keep conditions out of our relationships. But grandma taught us how to do it through her example. We definitely felt God through this love from her. And this connection to God that she helped us reach, helps us in turn love our families and friends unconditionally also.
It reminds me of an interview with Leo Buscaglia – who is the author of many books, most notable a book entitled LOVE. He was asked, “Do you really love everybody?” He answered, “Who do you want me to exclude?” Nobody got excluded from my grandma’s love.
She believed in the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Grandma never gossiped. She said her sisters never gossiped. It is probably because she never judged anyone, always loving everyone. She’d tell you how to do the right thing, yet never judge. This is a delicate thing to master, but she had it perfected to an art form.
The next legacy is to Cherish family
Being the baby in the family, Gramma was always cared for and cherish by the older siblings. She often told the story about how her mother forced her older brother, Tommy to take her with him everywhere. “Take your sister with you” she would say. And Tommy reluctantly took her everywhere. Uncle Tommy died almost 60 years ago. Yet, grandma was calling to him the day before she died. I can’t help to wonder if my great-grandmother sent Tommy – “Take your sister with you.”
It made me think that grandma was surrounded by family on earth as well as on the other side as she lay dying. This sounds perfect to me. A week before she died, about 40 people crowded in and out of her hospital room for her 91st birthday. She greeted us all with the biggest smile you ever saw. We were so important to her; she was glowing with our presence.
We never left her alone.
It has been an honor to care for her in the last few years and especially the last few months. Many people drove and traveled hours and hours to be with her. Some took regular time out of their week to be with her. My father traveled back and forth from Rochester. My cousin Jim visited several times a day. Members of the family stayed with her many over nights in the hospital but for the last year or so and especially the last four months, my aunt barely left her side. Always knowing what to do to let her mother feel cared for and secure as her body weakened.
“Grandma, you taught us well that we did this. You would never leave someone alone who wanted company.” Oh, she’d be the first to give you privacy if you wanted it, but she’d stay with you if that is what you wanted. She spent so much time with my cousin Carol Ann, who loved being with her. They were constant companions and the greatest gift of company to each other.
Big family values
Obviously with so large a family, no one ever had to be alone. But this family never excluded anyone. Everyone was included in activities. You meet someone once and you are part of the family. You were invited to everything after that.
Grandma loved to cuddle. She held and cuddled with her 5 grandchildren and ten great grandchildren, whenever one was willing. She loved to hold them as babies and snuggle watching TV as they grew older. Of course, she perfected the art of leaning into a kiss. With her whole body she accepted your kiss. She would close her eyes and drink the affection she received, with a beautiful smile on her face. This joyous expression when someone was loving her with affection, will be what I remember most about her.
The next legacy is Have faith.
My grandmother had incredible faith. Her doubts only made that faith stronger. She countered worry with prayers and love. She serenaded Mary with the rosary every day I knew her. And prayed for everyone she knew and thousands of people she did not know. She read the Bible and cut prayer clippings out of the newspapers. My aunt recently found in her jewelry box a prayer she cut out about not judging others. She loved the Beatitudes and the serenity prayer and we often said Psalm 23 together the last 4 months to give us strength.
She always watched the news with reverence, so she could pray for people around the world that were hurting and struggling. And, she would talk to anyone who was a bit anxious to help calm their mind. Faith is more powerful in company. As many of us know, she herself was anxious at times and she knew talking to someone always calmed her. My brother remembers that if something bad happened, my grandmother would say, “Well as long as we are together, we’ll be OK.”
And then there is Work hard
My grandmother highly valued hard work. She was a hard worker herself. She left high school to go to work and help support her family after her father died when she was 16. It’s amazing that she held many jobs over the years and worked long days. She was a baker, ironer, cook, factory worker, and a waitress.
She remembers details and skills she learned about each one. I don’t think she ever complained about how hard she had to work. And we all learned to work hard by her example.
The last legacy is Feed people
Grandma loved to watch the food network and read food magazines. But I think it was a way people came together in our family to cook that made her enjoy food so much. Preparing meals was a time to be together. All in one room bumping into each other, making everything from scratch.
Giving cuddles and kissing each other as we passed by–everyone talking and laughing. She experienced much in her life, since she was from such a big family and I think she loved every minute of it.
But this also is a legacy about my grandmother’s generosity and thoughtfulness. Even though many times when she was younger and her kids were young, they did not have much, she would often send food to a neighbor who she knew had little or nothing herself. She did this subtly or anonymously.
She offered food to everyone who came over. Guests and house painters and bill collectors –all were offered food. This was a legacy from her own mother, who had a knack for being a hostess and cook for people who needed company.
as her mother before her always remembered what you liked and made that for you. For example, my Grandma loved scones. When she was young, her mother would tell everyone what was for breakfast, and then always say, “…and scones for my Lily.” She knew who loved her rice pudding, and how someone liked their chicken and made sure you got it!
And it went beyond food, if she knew someone needed something- anything- she would anonymously make sure they got that. This generosity and detailed thoughtfulness is one of things I admire most about ‘our Lily’.
We are so grateful for these teachings and also grateful for these signs that tell us this was the right way to live. Keep them coming Grandma!
What do you of think of the legacies of Sweet Caroline?