Grandmom was an example of faith in action

When my maternal grandmother was in ICU the next to last time she was hospitalized before she died, the days were grueling. I was in my early 20s, editor of a small Gloucester County-based newspaper. My mom worked full time as well, a county away. Though our extended family was fairly close knit, Grandmom lived with us, and we were her primary caregivers.

On a typical day, I’d work in Washington Township and then, filled with dread — half panicking — at what I might find in her cubicle at Underwood-Memorial Hospital, set off on a 15-minute drive to Woodbury. Every day she seemed stable, I would then dread leaving for home, concerned what the next day might bring. It was not a pretty cycle. Or maybe it was. Because even now, more than 30 years after she passed away, I still remember what an elderly woman also in ICU said to us one evening:

“So much love.”

So much love indeed.

We cherished my grandmother, a feisty, stubborn, big-hearted, overly protective, generous woman, born in Italy, mother to three, grandmother to seven, even a great grandmother before she died. And she loved her family.

She cooked like a dream, crafting meals without recipes (she made a mean orange cake off the top of her head).

She could sew (she would help out neighbors).

She shared stories of her youth, of Italy, of life in general (“President Johnson said Italians made this country,” she’d tell half-Irish me, who probably yawned. After she died, I found the newspaper clipping she saved that said just that.)

She shared warnings (never take an open drink from someone).

She took care of her own (if I came home in snow or rain, she’d insist on wrapping my feet in her warm bathrobe; she’d tell me “Go get your mother” if she were late coming home, figuring if I stood at the front door I would weave some magic that ensured her safe and more timely arrival).

She was the colossal worrywart who set me on my path (it must be genetic).

She forever had a rosary in her hand, whether she was home praying or whether I was taking her for a ride in the country (and I trust it was a reflection of her faith, not my driving).

Grandmom was a good example of faith in action and a good model for church as well as family. Above all else, she had her priorities straight: God first. Family second. And, I suspect, food third.

And in many ways, isn’t that what is called of us as family and as church? That we love, serve and honor God. That we love, serve and care for our family. And, thinking of food symbolically, that we nourish our neighbors as well as our loved ones.

Grandmom didn’t make it as far as high school, but she was smart, gifted really in so many ways. She was and is a great example of our roles, responsibilities and obligations as blood family and as church family.

Perhaps the elderly woman in that ICU three decades ago summed it up best:

So much love.

Patricia Quigley is a member of Incarnation Parish, Mantua.

About Author