Sunday, September 30, 2012

Last Sunday's Gospel Reading

Hello, everyone,
Well, I must admit I'm not well at all. Yes, the word repetition is on purpose--but my one-week delay in writing down this post was not. We are halfway into a new weekend, and a new Gospel reading is carrying an equally beautiful new message. Yet, no biblical message is ever outdated. The teachings from the Book of Books are always current, always up to date, always applicable to present day situations, always inspirational, always propelling us to action for the sake of others.

Leaving preambles aside, and letting go of the fact that I should have written and published this one week ago, I'll go to my point.

Last Sunday's Gospel reading started with the question His disciples asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" (Matthew 18:1), and by calling a little child to Him, He answered that "the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 18:14.

And then, Jesus kept on saying:

"Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes Me. But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone around his neck. Alas for the world that there should be such obstacles! Obstacles indeed there must be, but alas for the man who provides them!" Matthew 18:5-7

Don't you find here the perfect description of what any adoption process is all about? Jesus loves all children, and welcomes them all. He identifies with all children because they all need protection and love. In a very special way, given that He identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the foreigner, the incarcerated, and the sick (Matthew 25:35-40) even most compellingly Jesus identifies with children who are dying in poverty and malnutrition, who are foreigners from remote areas of the world where medical care is not available and sanitary systems are not yet known. Most compellingly He identifies with children who are foreigners living in forgotten lands from where they need to be rescued for their lives to be saved--even if by rescuing them families do not immediately reduce the cost of the domestic foster care system. Most compellingly He identifies with children who risk lifelong imprisonment--not due to the commission of any terrible felony, but simply due to the terrible reality that somehow their looks or abilities are slightly different than those of the average population. No, they won't go to jail--they will go to places that are much more ominous, much more sordid, much more sinister and dismal than any prison can be. Those places are called "mental institutions," where older children and adults with physical challenges and yet perfectly normal minds, or with some developmental delays and yet peaceful, loving dispositions are barely kept alive with minimal feeding, lying down with urine and feces in dirty beds and somber rooms that are freezing cold in the winter and burning hot in the summer.

What Jesus says about the obstacles was said about 2000 years ago--and yet in His compassionate divine will, it perfectly matches the very essence of the adoption process today. Adoptions are complex legal processes which establish permanent family relationships among human beings. As much as we might like to be able to select a child and have that child home within a week, the whole legal mechanism cannot be mobilized that fast. Adopting a child cannot be as easy as going to a pet shop or to the local animal shelter and returning home with a puppy. Children are human beings who become family members--not pets that can be gotten from morning to night. They are worth every penny spent, every prayer said, every tear shed, every form that was filled, every paper that someone else needed to complete, every fundraiser that did not succeed, every sleepless night their new family went through, every shiver that went down their backs, every moment when it felt the wait was too long and they could take it no more. In other words, some degree of difficulty, anxiety, and struggle is inherent to the dignity of the miracle of adoption. Jesus Himself says "obstacles indeed there must be," but then gives a very stern warning to anyone who places unnecessary hurdles: "But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in Me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a millstone around his neck." After saying that some obstacles may be unavoidable, He also says, "but alas for the man who provides them."

 That Gospel reading is flagrantly applicable to the cause of special needs adoption, older child adoption, concurrent adoptions, and back-to-back adoptions. It is also directly applicable to the cause of older parent, single parent, and large family adoptions. It is wonderfully applicable as a wake up call to anyone who may be considering adopting a child, adopting one more child, or adding another child to an adoption process that is currently in progress. It is perfectly applicable as the powerful words of reassurance needed by any families that for whatever reason are struggling, crying, and praying to get their adoptions finalized despite some obstacles placed by Satan along their way. Finally it is blatantly applicable as a blow in the face to those who not only don't do it but go as far as to try to make things unnecessarily difficult for those who want to do it.  

No, I'm not talking about the so-called "trolls." Those are very sick people who feel miserable and want to make other feel miserable as well. They are sick in their hearts and make hurtful and hateful comments to those who are trying to adopt--and yet all they achieve is to poison themselves. Maybe nobody ever loved them, and that's why other people's love makes them sick. Maybe they're suffering from emotional imbalance. Maybe deep inside themselves they do regret what they are doing. Anyway, when it comes to successful adoptions, to successfully rescuing children from neglect, abuse, and disease, the presence of a few "trolls" lurking in the background and leaving nasty comments on people's blogs is not a major concern.

The compelling message of that beautiful Gospel passage clearly condemns the attitude of anyone who due to one reason or another tries to hamper the adoption of any child. It clearly condemns the attitude of those social workers and others in the adoption field who are scared of their own shadow and always find that income is not high enough, or the house is not big enough, or childcare resources are not solid enough. Those are the social workers and agency directors that despite a family's impeccable records and desperate desire to adopt, or adopt again, fear that a homestudy approval or the approval for one more child could eventually bounce back and result in some sort of liability for them. Those are the ones who shiver like scared rabbits at the thought of eventual, potential, and quite often even imaginary liability and seem to consider that a child's life is not worthy a very small risk of having to provide a few explanations. Those are the ones who value their pockets more than they value kids' lives--and yet they're acting worse than little kids themselves because when it comes to liability their fears are much more unreasonable, much more irrational, much more illogical than some children' fears of finding a monster or the Boogie Man in their closet.

Under those cowardly attitudes that are meant to be shaken by the Words of Jesus we can also include the negative, or, to say the least, uninvolved reactions of many others who are in a position to help and yet refuse. I am talking about those physicians who decline to sign a medical clearance letter or form because of some minor health problem that a prospective adoptive parent may have. Let's make it straight: typically people who are in the last stages of their battle against terminal illness don't ask for a bill of good health in order to adopt. Those who are contemplating adoption tend to be in reasonably good health. Nobody ever said that 'perfect' health should be needed. What is better for the child or children in question: to be adopted by a parent who may have a minor or controllable health issue to deal with, or not to be adopted at all?

I'm also talking about those CPA's who decline to provide self-employed prospective adoptive parents with the proof of income wording required by the country from which they are adopting only because, once again, the fear of liability haunts them as a Halloween monster or Boogie Man that may jump up at them from inside a closet. They are scared that in signing that certificate of income that their clients need so badly they may be overstating assets or income. After all--what if they are? What is preferable: to overstate a little a person's financial resources or to underestimate the life of a child?

I'm also talking about those employers who refuse to use the language required by some jurisdictions in terms of the adoptive parents' stability on their jobs. They just don't like the sound of any wording that eventually could be interpreted as a guarantee of indefinite future employment. Once again: prospective adoptive parents are not likely to hold adoption-related letters against their employers even if at some point in time the company ends up downsizing and the Human Resources Department needs to let go of them. Most adoptive parents won't even think about using the letter they got for adoption purposes in order to avoid getting the pink slip.

As I was looking online for the exact Bible passage, another one happened to come up--and I am sure it was not by chance:

"Even so it is not the will of your Father, Who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:14

Finding the above citation which I very well knew but had not had totally present in my mind before rekindled how I had felt when listening to the Gospel reading and the sermon that had followed it. For a moment it had been like seeing my Mom looking into my eyes from above and encouraging me to carry the message as far as I could by using that strong call for writing that I got inside my veins from my Grandma and from her. For a moment it had been like hearing her voice telling me to listen to our hearts despite all the obstacles that may appear along our path. For a moment I had heard her voice reminding me that "where there is a will, there is a way." And--what can be more powerful than a human will that represents a whole family's will, and, ultimately, coincides with the will of God?

I don't know how clear or unclear I am about the meaning of my paragraph above. For those who think you guessed it, yes, you're right. For those who didn't "get" it, let's wait until after Maximilian and Philip are home.

For the time being the immediate need is to send out the message of Jesus' Words as far as possible. I'm not talking about evangelization because most people know that Jesus identified Himself with the homeless, the hungry, the foreigner, the incarcerated, and the sick (Matthew 25: 35-40). Most people know that He said, "Let the little children come to me." (Mark 10:13-14). He even "was indignant" to see that his disciples were scolding the children because in their opinion the children might bother Him.
Yet, not everyone sees the pressing need to take immediate intervention in order to make sure that as many children as possible, including those in remote foreign lands, get rescued before dying due to poverty, hunger, malnutrition, neglect, inadequate medical care or total lack thereof.

We cannot afford to be indifferent. Children keep on dying every day. Regrettably, in many of those cases, timely medical intervention would have prevented their premature passings. Those deaths were avoidable. Needless to say, none of us alone can do much--but we all can do something at least, whether it is by rescuing one child, several of them, or by helping others do the rescuing. We may adopt. We may advocate. We may donate. We may help others fundraise. Nobody can do everything--but nobody can afford doing nothing either. Nobody can claim to have "nothing to do" with what is happening to children they have never seen or even heard about before. It doesn't matter. Those children are sick. Those children are dying. Those children are longing for a family of their own. With some medical care and some therapies they can bloom. That is what God expects from us. Once again,  "it is not the will of your Father, Who is in Heaven, that one of those little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14)

Specific Advocacy for a Few Little Ones--including some who may not be so little any longer . . . but who never had their chance to be little ones, to be looked after, to cuddle up in mom's lap or get hugged by dad. They never had grandmas or grandpas, sisters or brothers. They never got comforted when not feeling well. Still it may not be too late--if someone moves fast. For different reasons, these children won't have another chance. This is their very last chance--and I do mean their very last one.

Kolya - My Angel Tree Child

Kolya has DS. He is described as being high functioning, loving, helpful, a joy to be around, and loyal. Can such description be any better? Please, read his profile, look at the light in his eyes, share, make a donation to his FSP, or--even better, make a commitment to become the family he desperately needs!


Emmitt is already in one of those horrible mental institutions, but is resilient, courageous--and is good, kind, polite to everyone. He is intelligent, and his only disability is that he cannot walk. He is aging out. In a few months everything will be over for him. I simply find it hard to believe that nobody came forward for him yet. Our family would LOVE to have him--but a widowed mother cannot adopt from where he is. Can't someone save him, for God's sake?

Dayna and Zach

The only reason why I'm featuring them together is because for these two children time is of the essence--or time is up!!! The issue is that for them "time is up" doesn't mean that they won't be able to get an A on a test because of not having arrived to answer all the questions. It doesn't mean that they won't be able to finish a puzzle. It doesn't mean that they will lose the game. It means their earthly life will be up--or, actually, over, for different reasons. Dayna desperately needs life saving heart surgery that she won't get where she is right now. Zach is about to be transferred to be buried alive in a horrible institution where he will barely get fed to keep his heart beating--but nothing else: no stimulation, no education, no recreation--no family, no love. Is there nobody who can come forward for them? God bless.

Please--think about it, pray about it . . . and hear God's voice whispering into your ears and into your heart. I'm sure He will have something to say. Just listen--and act!  

"And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity."1Corinthians 13:13

27 Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardships, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world." James 1:27 

And--I will post it for the third time:

"Even so it is not the will of your Father, Who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:14

Children are dying every day--most of them due to complications that could have been prevented with proper medical care. Young men and women are dying every day in those mental institutions where they never even belonged in the first place. It is time to do something about that--and if we are already doing something, it is time to do even more. Once again, that is exactly what Jesus expects from all of us:

"Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my Name welcomes Me." Matthew 18:5

After all, He is not asking for anyone to do anything hard. He is asking for people to do something that will not only have eternal rewards, but much sooner earthly ones as well--everlasting rewards of love and joy both in this life and in the life to come.

Thank you all.

God bless,

Lillian Godone-Maresca

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Now There Is One More Saint in Heaven

My Mom went with God at about 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 1, 2012.

07/06/1924 – 09/01/2012

Elida Nydia SORACCO-GODONE was far from being an ordinary person. There was something about her that impacted and inspired anyone who had the privilege and blessing of being in contact with her.

She was the daughter of Francesco SORACCO, a civil and naval engineer, and Teresa MARESCA-POLLIO, a teacher. She married Armando C.E. GODONE-SIGNANINI, a degreed C.P.A. As of September 1, 2012, they are all reunited in Heaven.

E. Nydia started an early and brilliant career as a professor of literature and lecturer on literary issues, with extensive charitable activity and social involvement in diplomatic circles. Yet, from the very moment she learned that her most cherished life-long dream of motherhood was about to become a reality, she gave up everything to devote herself completely and unconditionally to her daughter, Lillian GODONE-MARESCA.

Lillian was Nydia’s life, goal, and dream—and then her grandchildren would steal her heart. As Lillian prematurely became a widowed mother, Nydia would be not just the most loving and devoted grandma but also an actual co-parent for her grandkids.

Nydia, Lillian, and Lillian’s three older children, Catherine, now 26, and Gerard and Warren, now 15, would soon unanimously and relentlessly share a deep heartfelt desire to expand their family through the miracle of adoption. Lillian always said that even though being widowed and therefore from a legal standpoint a single applicant, every time she referred to adoption she felt compelled to use the plural due to how totally, completely, entirely, unconditionally involved her mother and her three older children were in every step and every effort.

Nydia’s commitment to bringing home her new grandchildren went way beyond emotional and financial support. Not having worked in U.S. and consequently not being at the time entitled to Medicare free of charge, Nydia deemed the international adoption expenses more important than the knee replacement and cataracts surgeries that would have saved her mobility and eyesight. Her heart was still strong those days and she could have lived her final seven years in a much more comfortable and active way. Yet, even after finding herself almost blind and in a wheelchair, she never had any regrets.

Although the story had an immediate happy ending and never made the news, at one point many years ago with no other weapon than her valiant heart, Nydia faced a depraved-looking man with bloodshot eyes to prevent the kidnapping of a seven-year-old child. Assuming that such little boy grew up to become a father and a grandfather, wherever he is today, he owes his life to the brave lady whom the Lord has just called.

Nydia was a cradle Catholic, and a devout and active one all her life. Her daughter reports to have had a magical, fairytale childhood. On one side, Nydia and her husband gave her a very privileged upbringing, but on the other, far from doing that through nannies and tutors, always surrounded her with the most undivided devotion and the most nurturing love. On one hand they taught her all the etiquette rules, but on the other, and even much more emphatically, by word and example they taught her about equality, social sensitivity, social justice, reaching out, and humility, in the light of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. On one hand they raised her with the strictest family values, but on the other encouraged her to be open to, and understanding of, people from all walks of life.

Her most cherished values, which she lived up to all her life and passed on to her daughter and grandchildren were her Catholic faith and therefore the sanctity of human life, equality, and social justice, meaning the call to welcome the immigrant and feed the hungry. She always understood family values as family ties that go beyond the nuclear family to embrace the extended family as well, don’t become any weaker as children come off age, and mean that the hopes and concerns of one family member become the hopes and concerns of all.

She had the most impeccable, upstanding, commendable, and inspirational life publicly and privately, at all times and under all circumstances. She was one of those very few people whom nobody could even imagine doing anything less than kind, generous, and good.

She is survived by her daughter, Lillian Godone-Maresca, and her six grandchildren, Catherine, Gerard, Warren, Thomas, Nicholas, and Stephen Godone-Maresca. There are also two grandsons-to-be, whom she never arrived to hug on this earth but whom she loved dearly already and for whom she gave up so very much. Their adoptions from Bulgaria are expected to be finalized within the next couple of months, and then their names will be Maximilian and Philip Godone-Maresca. Lillian and her children very well know that she will still be there wiping away their tears and rejoicing with everyone on the day of those little boys’ homecoming.

Her funeral procession will be held on Wednesday, September 5, at 9 9:00 a.m. from Woodlawn Funeral Home at 600 Pontiac Ave., in Cranston, RI, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at the Church of St. Rocco, at 927 Atwood Avenue, in Johnston, RI 02912. The funeral will be at Swan Point Cemetery, in Providence, RI.

Honoring E. Nydia Soracco-Godone’s lifelong concern for those less fortunate, the family kindly requests that in lieu of flowers, if you wish, you kindly visit the Facebook page entitled Over One Thousand Good Deeds in Memory of E. Nydia Soracco-Godone. Thank you.

Now they are together in Heaven

The funeral of Maria Pollio-Maresca, her maternal Grandmother (my Great-grandmother). Pallbearers: Front left: my Great-grandfather; front right: great-uncle; second left: great-uncle; second right: my maternal Grandfather
Francesco Soracco, my maternal Grandfather
Teresa Maresca-Soracco, my maternal Grandmother--who was as close to me as my mom was (and is) to my kids
Armando C.E. Godone-Signanini, my Dad
My Dad, in one of the last pictures we have of him

 Some Highlights of her Life

Doesn't she look like the real St. Therese? My Mom on the day of her First Holy Communion
My parents' wedding - Arriving to the Altar with my Grandfather

Coming out of the Church: Louisa Signanini, my paternal Grandmother, and Francesco Soracco, my maternal Grandfather
Teresa Maresca-Soracco, my maternal Grandma, and Julio Signanini, my paternal Great-uncle (my patternal grandfather had passed away already)
Isn't this a beautiful picture?
The immediate family at the reception
My parents at a social event (last couple sitting to the left at the table that is perpendicular to the bottom of the photo)

With my Mom and my Grandma, when I graduated from law school
The tiny baby in my Mom's arms is Catherine
My Mom holding Catherine (photo taken at home)
My parents with Catherine at a restaurant
On the day of Catherine's First Holy Communion
Happiness couldn't be more obvious: My Mom with Warren and Gerard in Disneyland, Dec. 1998
This photo would be used for our 1998 Christmas cards (taken at home)
My Mom reading a story to Gerard and Warren
Right after Catherine's Confirmation, with Bishop Chavez, in San Diego, 04/26/2001

My Mom and Catherine
A couple of Mother's Day pix

When Catherine graduated with her M.A., 2004
Christmas 2004

At a fast-food restaurant, soon after Thomas and Nicholas' homecoming, July 2008. Look at the joy in my Mom's eyes!!!
With Gerard

My Mom kissing Thomas, 09/08
At the Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego. Can you see the love in her eyes as she looks at Nicholas in the stroller. Side note: Nicholas is now a consistent walker (no more stroller).
My Mom watching Nicholas and Thomas at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park, San Diego, 2010

At the Scripps Aquarium, La Jolla, 2010
At Legoland, Nov. 2009. Can you see how she is looking at Nicholas and Thomas? Can you see the infinite love in her face?

Some Christmas pictures, 2009

My mom with Nicholas, back home from the Christmas Eve Mass, 2009

Disneyland photos, July 2010 (right before my first trip to Bulgaria to meet Stephen)
At Disneyland, with Catherine, 07/10. No words needed.
At Disneyland, with Gerard and Nicholas, 07/10
At Disneyland, 07/10, with Warren and Nicholas
At Disneyland, 07/10, with Thomas. Who needs to add any words?
Comforting Nicholas at Disneyland, 07/10. She was always the magical cure for any headache or heartache we might have.

With Thomas again, at Disneyland, 07/10
With Fr. Rick Perozic, at St. Mary's Catholic Church, in Escondido, CA. Photo taken right before our move to RI, 03/10
Thanksgiving 2011 - All together
With Thomas and Nicholas, Dec. 2011
My Mom's expression says it all.
Christmas 2011. How are we going to make it through Christmas again without her? The unexplainable issue is that we do feel her with us almost the same as before.
Every Christmas before she used to tell me that I took too many pictures and kept the children waiting for too long. Yet, last Christmas she wanted to be in as many pictures as possible, for us to have the souvenir. She knew.
Thomas' birthday, 02/01/12
March 12, 2012. This is the last all-together picture before she was placed on oxygen. She is smiling because she was with us, but was not feeling well that day--and would be taken to hospital in an ambulancefour days later.
This picture and the ones that follow need no comment at all. Only I'd like to reiterate that she was not feeling well that day--and yet her grandkids filled her with joy.

March 2012. Catherine kissing her in the hospital.

During the thoracentesis to remove fluid from her lungs, 03/12

During thoracentesis, 03/12

The twins' Confirmation--and the first event she was not able to attend.

Pictures with Grandma after their Confirmation. My Mom was on oxygen already.

Dinner celebrating the twins' Confirmation

These photos break anyone's heart: Kissing the pictures of Maximilian and Philip. They will cherish these photos forever. She knew she'd watch their homecoming from Heaven.

Now she's kissing Philip's picture.

The pictures that follow are Easter photos. I was going to add "our last Easter all together," but refuse to do so. She is still with us and will always be.


Through the Intercession of a New Saint in Heaven

Yesterday evening, still the very same day that my Mom had gone up to Heaven, Warren and I put together a sequence of photos highlighting her life. Except for a couple of pictures that we still need to find, we got the job done. I was even blaming myself, thinking I was abusing Warren's goodwill for the sake of my need to make things public, to show off my Mother and my family. I thought the pain would be excruciating, and felt almost like a child abuser for putting one of my teenage sons through that with me only because I needed his help for the technical aspect of it. Yet, even though there were tears, we felt some sort of unexplainable peace amidst our sorrow. Warren cried over a beautiful photo of my Mom with Gerard and him in Disneyland when the two of them were two years old. The tears will never completely dry out. The memories will never fade. The wish to throw our arms around her will never go away.

But amidst that pain that we share, we also started sharing some unexplainable feeling that she is here, with no signs of physical decline at all, but strong to carry our Cross for us as she was always ready and willing to do throughout all her time on this earth. We felt her presence after putting the pictures together on Saturday evening--the very same day of her passing to Eternity. We felt her presence even more clearly as we woke up on Sunday to stop by the funeral home in order to drop off her clothes and then go to Mass. We felt her presence as she keeps on supporting us, praying for us, holding our hands, and helping us to go on without her. No, I won’t say that. We will never go on without her. We hold on to her and feel her here. In particular there is one picture of her with my children that stays in my mind. It is as if she is here, as real as before, at this very moment, looking not as being snatched away from us by disease but as she used to look back in 2009, already in her old age and in a wheelchair, but with no signs of congestive heart failure, with no signs of any debilitating condition, having that enormous inner strength that she always, invariably had, both in health and in sickness, until her very last day on this earth.

A few days ago, when she was still physically here but the ultimate outcome was obvious and imminent, I was at the supermarket and on the music system Celine Dion was singing “My Heart Will Go On.”  The tears had started rolling down my cheeks. Yet, yesterday morning, one day after her passing to Eternity, I thought about that song again, and about its most poignant part, where the lyrics say “wherever you are, near or far,” and no tears fell down at that point—because I knew for sure, beyond any doubt, that it was near, not far.

I do know that my Mom will keep on coming to the rescue no matter whatever kind of problem we may face. It will be like when back in 2008 in a dream my Dad, who had gone to Heaven in 1993, had knocked at the door of our house with Thomas and Nicholas in his arms and had told me he had been to Haiti himself as the only way to bring them home. Their adoptions were then in process. Actually, as far as Haiti was concerned, the adoptions were already final, but the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince had sent our files to an office from where they could have taken months or even years to return—if they ever returned at all. My Mom, Catherine, who was then 22, and the twins, who were 11 at the time, were simply desperate, praying and crying, crying and praying. That very same morning following such vivid dream I would call the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince. . . and the files were back where they were supposed to be!!! Within less than one week the visas for Thomas and Nicholas had been issued, and I was booking the airplane tickets to bring them home.

The other miracle was a much more patent, much more obvious, and much more unexpected one. I will admit that I was really concerned about how Stephen was going to react. Catherine and the twins have always responded to their Grandma’s total, entire, absolute love and devotion with total, entire, absolute love and devotion in return. I don’t mind openly and publicly admitting that the three of them have been doing much more than I myself ever did. Over the last several years Catherine has been thinking of every single detail so as to buy for her Grandma with her own money every single little thing that might help her better deal with her many physical afflictions. Over the last week it was Catherine’s idea that Grandma’s hand should be held at all times, 24/7, around the clock, without intervals or interruptions of any sort, and not released even for one second so that she would know we were day at absolutely all times.

The twins used to help her climb up on and down from the family van, then transfer from her bed to her wheelchair and from her wheelchair back to bed, and over the last three months have been operating the Hoyer lift. All they have been doing for someone they love so deeply has been a much more meaningful lesson on the pain and suffering of illness than any medical school can provide. As I knew they would, the twins and their older sister have shed tears that could fill entire fountains.

Thomas had been crying for Grandma, sobbing that he was going to miss her, and even remembered about a long lost toy only because that toy reminded him of his beloved Grandma who would never physically hug him again. By then Nicholas had not yet gotten the proper idea of what was going on. He would pat his Grandma to alleviate her pain, and would pat us to slow down our tears, but he still expected Grandma would get up at some point, come to the table, and everything would be the same as it used to be. Last March, after her five-day stay at R.I. Hospital, Nicholas had hugged the paramedics who were bringing his Grandma back home again. On Saturday, when the men from Woodlawn Funeral Home came to pick her up, and he saw them carrying her towards the door, Nicholas would burst in tears—because he had finally understood that this time it would not be the same.

My concern was about Stephen. Since my Mom’s health had taken a rapid turn for the worse, he had been serious, even somber, and well-behaved. Yet, I had not seen any tears in his eyes. I must admit I was really angry—and must confess I had told him a couple of really angry things. I had told him that even if he didn’t feel like crying he should pretend it. I told him he could smell onions if he needed to, but he had to have tears—and he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about because he didn’t know that onions make people’s eyes watery and red. He had kissed Grandma, had held her hand, had prayed with us—but still I felt as if he was trying to keep some distance, and I had fallen unable to tolerate that. I won’t deny that I did tell him a couple of things I should never had said. I did tell him that her Grandma had sacrificed her mobility and her vision for him, Thomas, Nicholas, Maximilian, and Philip to be home. Stephen would misunderstand me, and would think I was blaming it on him that Grandma had been in a wheelchair for her last years on this earth.

After my Mom’s soul went up to Heaven on Saturday morning and still there were no tears on Stephen’s eyes, I felt my whole world was totally sinking under my feet. I felt that day I had lost not only my mother but also my youngest son—and made the mistake of telling him that. For this 2012 / 13 school year I had decided to do homeschooling—but at that moment I felt I would not be able to spend any time with Stephen if he did not care about my Mom. Catherine had assured me she had seen his eyes become red, but that was not enough for me. I felt terribly. I do love Stephen too much---but felt guilty about loving him because I felt I shouldn’t love him if he couldn’t have any tears for my Mom.

In that terrible, horrible, desperate moment I did what I have always done all my life: I turned to my Mom and asked her for help.  At almost the very same moment as the funeral home men were carrying her out, I asked her for her intercession so that I could see in Stephen some reassurance of love.

In the evening Catherine proposed that we should all “camp” together in the living room for the night. She herself didn’t want to be downstairs on her own and cry herself to sleep.  I told Stephen that if he didn’t care about Grandma perhaps he should be the only one to sleep by himself in one of the bedrooms. Stephen is scared of the dark, and never wanted to sleep by himself. Yet, his reaction was even much more emphatic in response to my assertion that he did not care about his Grandma. In an offended and hurt way he replied, “Who said that I don’t care about her?”

While Warren and I were working on the pictures, Catherine and Gerard got Thomas, Nicholas, and Stephen ready to go to sleep. I was about to use a recliner that the twins had just moved for me from the master bedroom that I used to share with my Mom to the dining room area. Stephen then suggested that I could sleep next to him. “If you want, of course,” he added. As I prepared myself to lie down at his side on the open sleeping bag placed on the carpet, he came closer to me, and wanted me to keep close to him. I moved in order to reach for my cell phone and Stephen immediately “stole” the camping pillow that Catherine had just brought from downstairs for me to use.  He told me he had gotten my pillow, and added “Now you have to use me as a pillow.”  He was desperate for affection, reassurance, human contact, any sign of love. He asked me for a hug and a kiss. I very well remembered my request to my Mom, and very well knew through whose intercession that miraculous renewed bonding was happening. Stephen reminded me of my promise made long ago that after Maximilian and Philip came home I’d manage to have more time for all of them. He wanted to know whether that would be true. He really loved me. He really loved all of us, and wanted some more time with his mommy. Having had too much motherly time and motherly care myself when I was growing up, I could never properly understand how a child could need more and more of that time and that care as badly as he does. As a child I desperately wanted to be less taken care of by my parents and grandparents, and to be more popular among my classmates. Stephen instead was always eager to spend some more time with me. And he really loved, and loves, his Grandma.

All doubts had been dissipated. His whole behavioral patterns were, and are, totally changed. His anger had subsided. On Monday, Labor Day, he would ask me several times during the course of the day whether he was behaving well. Yes, he was. Definitely he was. He is no longer the angry little boy who needed to use rude answers and non-compliance as shields. No, against what a first impression might seem to indicate, his case is not one of RAD. Typically he never rejects physical contact. On the contrary, he does actively seek it most of the time. He used to claim he would never apologize, and it really used to look like he never would—but there was not one single time in which he did not say he was sorry in the end. From a Biblical perspective, he has always been the son who replied he would not go to work in his father’s vineyards “but afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went.” (Matthew 21:29). Jesus teaches us that it is that son the one who did his father’s will, the one to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. The problem is that I’m badly used to Catherine and the twins who would not even wait to be asked, but would spontaneously volunteer their help and follow through, seeking to do the heaviest and hardest work of all.

Countless times before I had heard from Catherine that I was being too tough with Stephen—and she was right every time. On the other hand, quite often I can be too permissive because I’m always too busy to correct something and stay there doing nothing else until the result is achieved.

My Mom’s intercession from above was changing all that, making it easier for those whom she loves with no bounds to better show to each other how very much we do love each other as well. And that first night when she was no longer physically with us in the house, I fell asleep stroking Stephen’s face. He has the bad habit of covering a good part of his head during the night. He scared us many times with that. He is afraid of the dark and likes the feeling of snuggling under something when he goes to sleep. On that Saturday night, when we were still barely awake, at one point he stuck his head farther out and told me as he pulled down the blanket that was obviously not justified by the weather but only by his desperate wish to feel safe, “I don’t need this. What I need is a kiss—or two.”

For many weeks now, every Saturday afternoon or Sunday, the Mass has been a time of new big miracles week after week. The following morning, Stephen would spend the whole time of the Mass with his head resting on my lap. He would fall asleep for some periods. I would stroke his face. At one point I had stopped, and he caught my hand, took it to his cheek, and moved it up and down, in a silent way of asking me to keep on stroking him more and more.

A very nice moment was on Monday morning when I said we’d be ending breakfast with pop-tarts. That’s what we have been always doing before. Pop-tarts are a yummy and quick way to end breakfast. Moreover, pop-tarts are has always been a very practical and convenient privilege to withhold, or threaten to withhold, whenever Stephen gave bad answers or Thomas played with electric appliances or electronic devices. We had run out of pop-tarts, and besides it seemed wrong to enjoy treats while someone we love so very much was in her last hours or had just gone with God. My point is, though, that on Monday morning upon learning that we’d be having pop-tarts as usual again, Stephen’s immediate thought association was to say, “I want Grandma here!”
There were two other requests, but I won’t post until I know for sure.

God bless everyone,

Lillian Godone-Maresca

P.S. Please visit my FB page Over One Thousand Good Deeds in Memory of E. Nydia Soracco-Godone.  Thank you all

Back to TOP