Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Life of Joy, Love and Forgiveness

Last week our family gathered for the Rite of Burial for our beloved grandmother.  After the readings and homily, our father honored his wife’s request to say a few words.  As much as we would like to post everything he said, it would be very lengthy, so please allow us to share our grandmother’s legacy as witnessed by our father.  ~ Shelly
  
Picture of Lily Mae Maniscalco
Lily Mae’s beauty can easily be seen in the early pictures of her dancing and later with her handsome husband, Pete.  But her external beauty paled by the beauty of her character.  Her inner beauty is a testament to three tenants of our Christian faith: Joy, Love and Forgiveness. 

Joy!
If you ask many of the people here today and others that have known Lily Mae over the years, the first thing they will mention is her happy smile, sparkling eyes and bubbly personality.  She was a joy to be with and always seemed to spread some of her joy to those around her.  In the 50+ years I had the privilege of knowing her, I cannot recall her ever complaining about her circumstance nor do I recall her saying a cross word to anyone; and I’m her son-in-law. 

Love!
Lily Mae was raised an only child by her father since her mother was frequently in a sanitarium due to her tuberculosis.  Her mother died when Lily Mae was just 22 years old.  There has never been any question of her love for her parents, especially her father.  The first time I met Frank Alfano, I knew there was a special bond between the two and she loved him dearly.  As her dementia racked her mind later in her life, she would sit in her room in the village with her purse and coat waiting for her Daddy to come and take her home. 

Lily Mae seemed to have a storybook romance and marriage with Pete.  They were a beautiful couple and stayed together for their lifetime.  As a close family member, I know they had the normal trials and tribulations that it seems all married couple experience.  But I also know there was no question of her love for her husband.  A true testament of her love was her willingness to move to Tomball and live as Pete raised cattle in his retirement. 

Our Mom & Granny

Probably the most important love from my perspective is Lily Mae’s love for her children, especially her daughter.  Lily Mae had a special relationship with her daughter that all mothers and daughters should seek and cherish.  Never was that love so apparent as during the final years of Lily Mae’s life as her dementia progressed.  Whenever Marilyn would enter the room, Lily Mae would break into a radiant smile.  Even though the effects of the disease broke my heart, I will always treasure those special moments between mother and daughter.  I know that Lily Mae passed that special gift of unconditional love to her daughter, because I also saw the same love in my wife’s face during those visits. 

Forgiveness!
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to ask forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  It is a simple part of the prayer, but I’ve come to believe it is the most meaningful. If we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive those who offend us, how can we ever  expect those we offend to forgive us?  A simple concept, but human emotion sometimes makes it very hard to follow. I have always been thankful that both Pete and Lily Mae either forgave or overlooked my transgressions as a young and hardheaded son-in-law. I have a reputation for doing it my way, even in total ignorance.  Never once did Lily Mae seem to hold any of my transgressions against me. Lily Mae is one of those people who take the Lord’s Prayer to heart.

I witnessed a woman that always seemed to chose Joy and Love over bitterness and hate.  She chose forgiveness, because forgiveness is the true meaning of Love!  That is the message of the New Testament that God sent to us when he sent us his Son. 

Granny with Granddaughters
She is a beacon of Joy, Love and Forgiveness that shines brightly in my wife and perhaps some will see it in me.  Hopefully the two of us can share the same beacon of light with our children and grandchildren, and with all those around us.  In that way, we can continue to celebrate the Joy of Lily Mae’s life for many years and generations to come. 
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