Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Final Tribute

Today I gave the only eulogy at my grandmother's funeral. I was nervous about getting up there and doing it justice. But my dear and wise husband gave me a piece of advice. He said that when he had to give his own grandmother's eulogy (just nine months ago) and was getting nervous, he reminded himself that the eulogy was the last gift he could give to her. That thought helped him to refocus his thoughts away from him and his nerves, and toward her all she meant to him. What a wonderful piece of advice. He's a smart man. It was exactly what I needed to hear to help me -- and it worked.

I am proud of the eulogy that I gave to her. It really was a last gift, and I am going to post it here as a last tribute to her.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Courtney Caccia and I am one of Victoria’s granddaughters.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to figure out what I was going to say to all of you here. I wasn’t sure how to express what my grandmother meant to me, to our family. How do you take just a couple of minutes do justice to a woman who lived almost 91 years?

As I was reminiscing and pulling up old memories, I naturally started thinking about her house – the house she lived in for the past 50 years, the only house I had known her to live in during my lifetime. In my mind, I started revisiting each of those rooms. And it occurred to me, that each one held memories that seemed to characterize some part of her personality.

So, let me just share with you a few of the memories that Grandmom’s house evokes for me.

The living room. One of the first things a visitor would see were all the pictures in that room, mostly of the grandchildren, and later the great grandchildren. Grandmom was so proud of all of us. As a kid, I remember hearing her brag to her friends about our grades, awards, and athletic accomplishments. I remember the pictures going up the staircase. As each of the five of us grandchildren graduated from high school, we achieved a spot on that wall with the pictures updated as we graduated college or got married. Grandmom loved being a grandmother and a great grandmother and her living room was testament to that.

It was also testament to her fastidious nature as evidenced by the plastic on the furniture. Oh yes, for all the years of my life she had plastic on the furniture – the couch may have changed, but the plastic did not. I remember hanging out in that room with my sister and cousins in the summer time, and yelping as we stood up and tried to peel the backs of our legs from the plastic. Grandmom may have loved us and been proud of us, but she wasn’t about to let us dirty her furniture!

The dining room. Some of my fondest memories from growing up are family dinners spent around her dining room table, most notably our Christmas Eve dinners. Grandmom and Grandpop, and later Aunt Amalia would put together a traditional feast of seven fishes for Christmas Eve. It was important to her that her family appreciate their Italian heritage and she tried heartily to pass along some of the traditions to her children and grandchildren. I remember the days of prep work before the big feast, and when I was old enough being sent there with either my sister or my cousin Christine to help her out. It was important to Grandmom that she make some of the traditional dishes like the risotto with squid or the baccala, but she also would go out of her way to make something else for the pickier eaters among us – because to her, while the food was important, the tradition of being together as a family was most important. And over the years, she and my aunt would invite friends to join us for dinner, extending her hospitality to include others in a family tradition she so cherished.

And that leads me to Grandmom’s kitchen. That is the room of the house that I most associate with her. She showed her love best through food. Her way of nurturing you was to feed you. That woman could take any remaining scraps of food left in her refrigerator, and in 10 minutes lay out a feast for you. And when she wasn’t feeding you, she wanted to make sure you were eating. Even up to one of the last times I talked to her, she asked if I was eating okay – I am 37 years old, living in California with a husband and two daughters of my own. Somehow, I’ve managed to take care of myself all this time. But she still wanted to make sure I was eating. It was her way of telling me that she cared and still worried about me no matter how old or capable I might be.

The last room I’ll mention is Grandmom’s bedroom. When I was a little kid, that room seemed so special and almost magical to me with all of her jewelry, perfume bottles, and makeup. She had an old fashioned carved hairbrush and comb sitting on a mirrored tray that my sister and I used to think looked like it belonged to a princess. She had a box of costume jewelry that she would let us play dress up with. But, that room must also have been a sanctuary for her – a place for quiet reflection and prayer. It was peppered throughout with symbols of her faith: images of Jesus, statues of the Blessed Mother, rosaries. Grandmom was a faithful Catholic and I think she sought grace and peace in that room.

I have so many other recollections of her – there are some familiar to many of you like the way in which she would mangle the English language or the way in which she kept the television up to ear-splitting volumes. And there are recollections more personal like when at 79 years old she flew all the way to California to visit me, her ill granddaughter. And these memories represent but a tiny fraction of the person who was my grandmother. My grandmother was a woman who knew hardships: she was a child of the Depression, at times struggled to keep her family afloat, lived as a widow for more than 30 years, and buried two of her own children. But she knew great joy too. She married, got to watch her daughters grow up, and see her grandchildren come into this world. She was lucky enough to witness the births of nine great grandchildren! She cherished her close relationships with her siblings. She had lifelong friends. She was devoted to her church.

All of you here today are witness to my grandmother’s long, rich life. She came to the end of her days loved by her friends and four generations of her family. Each of us who loved her have our own treasured memories. While we are all here to say farewell to her, let us each celebrate her life and the special person she was through those remembrances.

Thank you for coming to honor my grandmother.

Grandmom, I’ll always love you and never forget you.

June 27, 2008
St. Timothy's Church
Philadelphia, PA

No comments: