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


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady! Clearly, your dear mother was a great blessing not only to her family, but to all she met. I am glad you still feel her influence in your life, but am saddened by your loss. You and your family are in my prayers.

Thinking of you,
Susan in Ky
Cousin to 2 from EE

Paula said...

Came to you blog through the Catholic International Adoption site on Yahoo... this is a lovely tribute to your mom. Many condolences on your loss; it is obvious that you loved her very much.

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

This is so beautiful. The pictures are amazing! And the ones where she is kissing the photos… they will cherish those forever. Condolences to you, friend. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Catholic Grammie said...

Prayers for you and yours - God bless you all!

Michele said...

Sincere condolences for the loss of your dear Mother and Grandmother. Thank you for giving us a small glimpse into her remarkable life with your poetic words.
Peace and blessings,

Blessedmom said...

I do apologize for not having replied any sooner. Simply I couldn't do it. Yes, I loved her, and love her, very much--but that's nothing compared to her total self-abnegation, to the completely and unconditionally selfless dimension of her love. Thank you for your words. God bless, Lillian

Blessedmom said...

Thank you so much for your words--and sorry for replying so very late. I couldn't do it any sooner--and as time goes by the pain is not any less either. All that keep us going is the feeling that she is still right here with us, watching us, taking care of us as she always did--and listening to us as we continue talking to her. Thanks again, and God bless, Lillian

Blessedmom said...

Kat (Catholic Grannie),
I apologize for not having replied any sooner. We do appreciate your prayers. Also I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for following my blog. God bless, Lillian

Blessedmom said...

Even if belated, I want to say thank-you for your words. I'm sorry I couldn't do it any sooner--and the pain is not any lesser now either. What keeps us going is the feeling of her presence still with us, listening to us, and helping us from above. God bless, Lillian

Ellen said...

Hello Lillian, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. Reading your blog over the years I am aware of how special she was to your family and how much you must ache with her loss. You have been so open about your feelings towards Stephen and I wanted to make some comments, hoping it will help you and Stephen continue to develop your relationship. My first thought is that everyone grieves differently. This is especially true with children. More specifically, Stephen did not know your mother well or for long. As an older post-institutionalized child he has lots of experience with loss. People and caregivers come and go. Some children likely die. Being able to feel the type of abject grief you and your older children feel in this instance would have likely destroyed Stephen in his former life. It will take many years, if ever, for him to form those type of attachments. Please, find a way to be gentle with Stephen. It is all so new to him. Imagine how he must still need to protect himself against loss. He has had a family for such a short time and now a member of that family dies. What can be the impact on him of that loss, of his ability to learn to accept family is a constant? Wishing you all the best, Ellen

Carol said...


I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom's presence here on earth. I have not been good at keeping in touch with all of my adoption contacts, and I was saddened to come to your blog to catch up on how your adoption is proceeding and read this news. I know how much you love your mother and what an integral part of your family she is. May God bless you with abundant grace and peace during this time of grief.
Hugs and prayers,


Back to TOP