Homage to my mother
Giuseppa Macchiarela was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1924. During that decade, Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin battled for leadership, The Great Gatsby was published, John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee, Maher Baba began his 40 years of silence, Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf and Louis Armstrong recorded his first record.
Josephine, as my mother was known in Brooklyn, died at the age of 93. Before she passed, mom was lucid but not in the usual three-dimensional way. She was without filters. Her loving words would glide from her unfettered heart and breeze through the atmosphere. If she was angry, she had no filter with that either. She no longer even considered hiding her feelings. My mom was beautifully Sicilian to her core.
Her expressions were that of a little girl in an ancient body. When she expressed love, there were no barriers. Her face reflected love in its purest form. Her body no longer served her except to smile, eat puff pastry and express the unbridled joy at seeing her aging children and grandchildren.
Sometimes she cried antediluvian tears of secret sorrows. Maybe they were for her brother Gietano who was a Partisan and shot by the Germans during WWII, maybe she remembers the death of my youngest sister Patricia, or the ultra-violence of my father. But the tears are brief.
My mother once had a profound white light near death experience. As a result, she was convinced that eventually we will all meet “up there”. She considered herself to be in between the best of both worlds. She has us “down here” and them "up there" and was without concern as she drifted into the big sleep.
My mother was always generous with her affection. Although we were very poor, she was always quick to offer help to someone less fortunate. Our poverty did not inhibit her generosity￼.
As I looked into my mother’s eyes for the last time, I was acutely aware that I was ￼witnessing my own process. I never thought I’d be contemplating these thoughts.
As a young woman, she saw the rise of Mussolini, the Black Shirts, Fascism and the Nazi’s. It was a carnival of violence under a cloud of unspeakable poverty. If that weren’t enough, crawling the streets were a host of cold blooded invertebrates masquerading as mammals imposing their insidious brand of evil.
Today we are on the verge of suicide if we do something foolish on Facebook. During the war years in Italy, my mother worried about getting home alive and hoped that the people she loved were still there when she arrived.
I learned resilience, determination and compassion from my mother. As she slipped into her final days of winter, I saw myself strolling into the autumn of my own life. How I shape my life now will determine the depth my relationships when I am 70, 80 and 90.
Cultivating relationships is the most meaningful thing in life. Love is everything.
My mother is gone. It is never a tragedy when an old person dies. Grief is directly proportional to the depth of love. It inspires the poetry that strives to define the mysteries of the human experience.
Joseph Campbell considered pondering the meaning of life an exercise in futility. What we want is to feel alive. When I love with courage, when I open my chest and give life all I’ve got regardless of the spears and arrows, to feel the exhilaration of a love won and the utter despair of a love lost that is The essence of what it means to be human￼. To open one’s heart takes the courage of a warrior. Thank you mom for giving me, Izzy and Rosalie. Thank you mama, for giving us life. Thank you for giving us everything.
Giuseppa Macchiarella Ferrante