Tag: Grandma’s Passing

Living Out Loud

Angela DiGiovanni in the Raw

Me. Raw.

Today I officially decided to ‘live out loud’.



I don’t want people to know me only after I am dead.

Then again, no one really seems to care until you are dead.  True?  I never cared so much about my grandparents lives until they were both near gone.  When my grandma started slipping into Alzheimer’s, I started panicking.  All those letters I meant to send, all the flowers I never sent, all the conversations I thought I’d have with her one day. The letters, the flowers, the conversations never happened.

One day… what a foolish concept.

By nature, I’m a very reserved person.  I have social anxiety in rooms full of people.  I can find out one’s life story in 45 minutes of talking with them, while they will walk away knowing nothing about me.  I like it that way.  I script it that way.  But this space, this wonderful space I have found that only the whole world can read if they wanted to, is like a vacuum that has managed to penetrate my soul and give me the freedom to be. me.  It feels safe here, though I am most vulnerable.

I don’t know why I’ve never been very comfortable in my own skin.  It’s something I see and envy in others often.  How do they *do* that, I wonder.  I remember being very conscious of this curse for the first time when I was in Kindergarten.  It was the first day of school and it was lunchtime.  Well, I didn’t know a soul, probably most like everyone else.  But somehow kids clustered together or formed pairs and found comfort in each others company. Not me.  I sat alone.  Wishing I could join a pair.  But I couldn’t.

How does such a young child feel so unworthy at such a young age?  I don’t know.  But it’s a battle I still fight today.

There is a song by Fiona Apple, a favorite since the first time I heard it when I was about 17.  I was at my boyfriend’s house, upstairs in the loft.  I had just bought the CD.  It’s called, Never Is A Promise.  Here is a sample of the lyrics:

You’ll never touch – these things that I hold
The skin of my emotions lies beneath my own
You’ll never feel, the heat of this soul
My fever burns me deeper than I’ve ever shown – to you

17-years-old and I could feel this song in my soul as if I had written it.  I could have felt it at 13-years-old.  I have always been an old, sad soul.  I feel mine and everyone else’s emotions deeply.  Sometimes I cry just seeing the pain on a stranger’s face.  This can be one sad and lonely world.

So what is the point?  The point is, that I’ve lived so much of my life – all of my life, really – with a certain shame. Shame for feeling so detached and different, for feeling a foreigner in a strange land.  Shame for deep yearnings for connection and often not finding it.  I guess I don’t want to feel apologetic for who I am anymore.  I guess I just want to live out loud so I can live at all in peace.

I want my posterity to know me.  I don’t want to live in vain.  I don’t want to live a fabrication or a shadow of myself.  Alanis Morissette has a song called “Fear of Bliss”, about being afraid of your own ‘bigness’. I get it:

Sometimes I feel more bigness than I’ve shared with you
Sometimes I wonder why I quell when I’m not required to
I’ve tried to be small
I’ve tried to be stunted
I’ve tried roadblocks and all
My happy endings prevented
Sometimes I feel it’s all just too big to be true
I sabotage myself for fear of what my bigness could do

And lastly how I feel, is this way:

I have found so many sides of myself in the diaries of others.  I would like it if I someday reflect future readers to themselves, provide them with examples, warnings, courage, and amusement.  In these unedited glimpses of the self in others, of others in the self, is another of the covenants posterity makes with the day-to-day.
-Gail Godwin

If I can assist just one person with the courage to just be themselves, in all of their bigness, I would be happy to know it.

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If We Don’t Have Stories, We Don’t Have a Past

Yesterday my mom called and told me that she had a Treasure Trove waiting for me at the house.  I thought she was referring to the boatload of art supplies I had just ordered – but no, she was talking about REAL treasures.

New Love: Nicholas DiGiovanni and Marguerite PaceNicholas DiGiovanni and Marguerite Pace

Letters Between New LoversLetters Between New Lovers

Pictures of Marguerite Pace DiGiovanniPictures of Marguerite Pace DiGiovanni with family and friends

1943 Times/Herald NewspapersNewspapers from 1943 with Headlines: ‘Italy Surrenders!’ and ‘Mussolini Ousted’

Newspapers from 1943, 1944, and 1945 during the warStack of Newspapers from the 1940’s during the war

1944 Christmas PostcardThis “postcard” is actually the menu for the troops on base for their Christmas meal. Sent to Marguerite from Nick in 1944.

On the left side he wrote:

Hello Darling, Missed you more than ever this year again.  Hope you are in the best of health and that next Christmas will be “Our Christmas” the way we want it.
All my love, Nick

I cannot describe the joy in my heart that these treasures bring to me.  All of the letters are from when they were dating, and end in 1945, which is the year they got married.  My dad and mom told me how surprised they were as they sampled them, that my grandpa was so affectionate and lovey-dovey with his bride-to-be!  It is a side of him that my dad never saw.  Ever.  My grandpa was somewhat of a gruff Italian man – not one to show affection or say “I love you.”  From the stories I hear, he was hard on the kids, had a bad temper, and yelled a lot.

It makes me sad that his children did not get to experience much of this tender man portrayed in these letters.  And it reminds me that we are all made up of conflicting facets, light and shadows.  It does not mean that our light is not sincere, or not who we really are, just because someone else only gets to experience our shadows.  Different people, different places, different seasons of life tend to bring out our different facets.

My step-daughter said to me: “I didn’t know you were this funny!”  She didn’t know because most of our relationship has been a day-to-day, full of life mundane and responsibility.  Now that we have moved to another state and don’t do the ‘day-to-day’ with her, she sees a softer, more playful side of me – the side that isn’t getting after her to clean up after herself, or get her homework done, or to be careful who she hangs out with.  Just as, I’m sure, my Aunts or Uncles might be surprised to be a fly on the wall of our old house and see me getting very impatient very easily with the kids, or go sit out in my car to cry instead of yell.  They might think, ‘What happened to Ang?  This is not the sweet girl we know!’

We are all shadows and light.  After hearing the comment from my step-daughter, and the one from my dad about my grandpa, it encourages and inspires me to be sure to share my light more in the spaces where my shadows are more easily provoked.

I will be going through EVERY letter, EVERY newspaper, EVERY picture, taking them in, treasuring them, and learning about and from the past.  If we don’t have stories, we don’t have a past.

As I was driving to my office today after looking through these treasures, I thought about what legacy I will leave behind.  Will my documented life be one that is a true reflection of me?  Of all my light and shadows?  Will it help and inspire my posterity, or merely be a window into a sad unaccomplished life?  What can I do moving forward to be a better record keeper of the good, the bad, and the ugly – to hold nothing back for fear of my own ego.  To let my words, my voice, my life give meaning and instruction to others.  Or that my posterity may be spared from my own mistakes; and simply, that they might know me, a Matriarch of things to come.

*My dear Uncle Tom sent these treasures.  My grandma passed away at the age of 95 on November 7, 2010.

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Shepherd Me, O God

Fall Tree Near My Grandma's Gravebeautiful fall tree by my Grandma’s grave site, taken on the day of her funeral

Shepherd Me, O God was one of the songs on the set list for my grandma’s funeral in November.  I haven’t written about that experience yet, as it’s very dear to my heart and I want to take the time to really digest and capture all of my emotions surrounding it.

The funeral was better than I could have hoped for.  It was a Catholic funeral, and I guess this song, Shepherd Me, O God, is pretty common in Catholic funerals, but I had never heard it.  The cantor was Gina Marie Iampieri, who had the voice of an angel.  I closed my eyes when listening to her and her voice took me right to heaven.  I’m not sure if she has a website or blog – I looked, but didn’t find one.  Accompanying her was my uncle, Patrick O’Donnell, who has played for Vice President Biden, and many other prolific public figures.  So you can only imagine how they sounded together.

Listening to this song will always take me back to those moments of my grandma’s funeral, and so I want to share it in this space, to be captured in time and remembered.

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10-09-18 Marguerite and Tom DiGiovanni

Grandma DiGiovanni and Uncle Tom 9/18/10

{This was written 11/6/10 – but due to being otherwise occupied, it’s only being posted now – further updates to follow.}

My Art, Heart and Healing progress and updates are put on hold. My grandmother is dying. I’m on a plane now, headed to Washington, D.C. to be with her. I desperately hope that I get there before she passes. All of her kids on their way – I hope we can all be around her bedside during her transition to the other side of the veil. Family sending her off. Family welcoming her in. I know they are there, waiting for her, glorying in her graduation day.

She is 95-years-old. She is full-blooded Italian – her parents from Termini Imerese, Sicily, Italy. Not even 5’ tall. She ate ice cream every night. She leaves behind five children. Eleven grand children. Eight great grand children. The legacy of love between her and my grandfather, Nicolas, who died some 25 years ago (I have a picture of me on his lap, but have no memory of him, so I rely on stories). A widow for so long. Within the next couple of days, they will be reunited and celebrate their love, once again, for all eternity, never to be separated again.

I didn’t know my grandmother as much as I would have liked to. Of course, we never realize that until it is too late. My parents lived on the opposite coast all my life, and we didn’t visit her much. Though what I remember is her quiet, loving smile that she always wore. Always a lady. Always positive. Always happy. A very quiet soul. A very silent strength.

She married around the age of 30. In her day, this was rarer than in our day. She started her family later in life – which brings me comfort, not having my own children yet at the age of 34, and being concerned about getting a late start.

My grandfather owned three restaurants – Giovanni’s. The restaurants don’t exist anymore today, but my grandma still owns one of the buildings. I hope to see it on my visit. I hope to breathe in a bit of their life together – to collect as many stories as I can from anyone I meet at my grandmother’s funeral. Why is my heart so turned to them? In the Bible, in the book of Malachi, it talks about the hearts of the children being turned to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers being turned to the children. I get this. And I get that I will be more connected with my grandma when she passes than I probably ever was in this life.

I’m praying for a lucid moment from her before she passes, though I have no expectation. It would be a miracle. I so badly want to connect with her, even for a moment. She hasn’t eaten now for a week or so, and refuses food by putting her hand over her mouth when the nurses try to feed her. She is ready to go.

My dear uncle Tom told her that if she is ready to go, it is okay. He says her eyes welled with tears in response… a lucid moment after one-and-a-half years with Alzheimer’s. My other dear uncle John said when he visited with her a couple of days ago, she just lay there singing. I love that.

May her sweet soul find mercy, comfort, joy, and beauty in her transition. I pray I may be there with her when she passes on. A very spiritual time it will be, indeed.

Related posts:

Shepherd Me, O God
If We Don't Have Stories, We Don't Have a Past
Living Out Loud