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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Godspeed, Baba

I knew when I saw Geo's cell number pop up on the Caller ID that something was horribly amiss. He could only manage to say my name... and then the flood of tears came.

His mother had passed away.

Do you know how tough it is to witness your strong spouse crumble? It's heartbreaking to watch his heart break.

The thing is, none of us expected Stancy to ever be able to live in her home again, but no one thought we'd be saying goodbye to her so soon. I touched briefly upon her travails earlier this summer. She had been doing somewhat better over the last few weeks, but her C-Diff flared up again, and I believe she just decided to call it day. She passed peacefully in the presence of her oldest. On her own terms.

Good for her.

Stancy didn't  have an ideal marriage. Out of the turbulence, she raised four wonderful men, the third of whom I will be forever in her debt. For over 30 years I had the privilege to be Stancy's daughter-in-law. I wasn't always the most attentive, caring or thoughtful daughter-in-law, but I like to think we loved each other in our own special way. She was a good person, who did the best she could with the circumstances she was given.

Her smile was bright, her heart was huge and her devotion to the Pirates was infinite. She knew more about baseball than most announcers. In her youth, she played the game in her small hometown north of Pittsburgh. A rarity for a woman of her generation. On a whim, she and a girlfriend would hop in her car and drive the couple hours to Oakland to pony up two bucks to watch her beloved Bucs battle against a rival club. Her unwavering dedication over the past dismal 22 years paid off. Stancy finally got to see not one, but TWO winning seasons. She never gave up on them. EVER.

She also was a wicked good baker, sharp as a tack and enjoyed sarcasm. She loveLoveLOVED Vince Gill (none of those other "fake country acts"), homemade cheesecake and did I mention the Pirates? But mostly she loved her family unconditionally, especially her delightful grandchildren who called her Baba.

Alex was her buddy
these two were two peas in a pod

many years ago with all her treasured offsprings' offspring

the unmitigated joy in her face while holding
her grandson, Matt says it all

I'm not going to lie, Orthodox funerals are rough. If you aren't depressed when you enter, you're desperately clutching for Xanax afterwards. The dirge-like chanting, repetition and incessant incense just magnifies the sorrow.

And oh my goodness, the poor kids. They were devastated by the service. This was their first loss of a significant family member. It's difficult enough as an adult to process the magnitude of what's happening, but as a young adult, it's unfathomable.

We all rallied around each other during the grueling ceremony, holding on while the tears flowed. And as the priest gave Stancy absolution, the eternal flame, which never goes out... extinguished. And her spirit was gone.

Side Note: Sitting beneath the vividly painted icons of Saints and Deity, amidst the rhythmic chanting, my mind began wandering about subjects like the physical act of dying, spirituality and the inevitable departure of my beloved Big Mar. My eyes focused on the icon of the Virgin Mary, and honest to God a joke popped into my head. You know, the one about St. Peter turning an unsavory person away at the Pearly Gates, only to have Jesus encounter the same man in Heaven moments later. Perplexed, Jesus asks how he got inside. The man replies, "your Mom let me in the back door." And I realized, OMG, that's my Mom! She's the non judgmental soul, welcoming everyone in through the back door with open arms, a hearty laugh and big ass table full of food. She IS that joke. I don't mean to sound disrespectful and callous, but what a wonderful gift it is to embody that punch line. It made me smile during a difficult moment.

In contrast to her somber final send off, the viewing could not have been more lovely. It was more like a get-together than a viewing. The space itself was warm and homey. There was a nice steady flow of visitors throughout the five-hour block. People were eating pizza (Stancy's favorite), cookies and pizzelles.

Stancy would have loved it.

There was laughter and storytelling and comic relief when the kneeler broke. I am not making this up. At one point Geo's brother, Mark had the kneeler up on one end tightening the bolt, while his other brother, the priest dressed in full cassock, was wielding a red monkey wrench. All of this happening in front of the casket. It was hysterical and unorthodox and his Mom would have LOVED that, too!

Father Bob wielding the Holy Handwrench

and yes, i am THAT person who snaps a photo at a funeral
but, c'mon! it's funny

Fortunately, Robert ditched the wrench before the Parastas began, because THAT could have been painful…

In the name of the Fath--OUCH, Son and Holy Ghost. In the name of the Fath--OUCH!, Son and Holy Ghost. In the name of the Fath--OUCH! Son and Holy Ghost...

In these difficult times, comfort comes from the strangest places. After all our extended family made their way home from the repast luncheon, I decided to go to Night of the Singing Dead, because after a week of mourning, a good, strong dose of stupid-funny was in order. Two thirds of the way through, one of the characters stopped in the middle of his bit to say no one is really gone if they've touched your  life. They live on forever in your heart.

I like to think Stancy's watching over us up there, talking baseball stats with Bob Prince, playing catch with Roberto and baking pasca with her Mom and sister.

Godspeed, Baba. Thank you for your wisdom, your humor and your spirit. You will forever be in our hearts.

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