Monday, July 7, 2014


I know a lot of people who didn't know some or any of their grandparents.  Or maybe their grandparents passed when they were too young to really remember them.  I, on the other hand, knew all four of my grandparents well.  I had their hugs and stories and laughter and weirdness for decades.  It wasn't until I was
Nana and Gandalf's wedding photo
22 years old that I had to say goodbye to my first grandparent: my maternal grandfather, known to his 21 grandchildren as "Gandalf."  He was a magical, musical, admirable man whose love of stories is the seed to which I follow back my love of theatre.  Almost two years later, his wife - our Nana - left us.  She was gentle and warm and kind, an inspiration to her numerous children and now grandchildren who have followed her into teaching.  In the coming years, grandkids kept going to school and falling in love and starting families and starting jobs and going on adventures and generally growing up, the way grandkids tend to do.  And all the while, my brothers and I continued to be overseen by our paternal grandparents.  Sometimes known as Teta Agnes and Jeddo Leo (because of our Lebanese cousins), and usually known simply as Grandma and Grandpa, these wily Canadians continued to weather and rejoice in all our sorrows and joys.  In in the last five years they gleefully took on the rarely held title of Great-Grandparents (they referred to themselves simply as "The Greats").  It wasn't until two years ago - ten years after we lost Gandalf - that Jeddo Leo passed.  His adorable Newfoundland lilt and infectious laugh lost to us at just shy of 90 years of age.  And finally, today, we laid to rest Teta Agnes, right beside her husband, at Assumption Catholic Cemetery (and directly in the flight path from Pearson International Airport... which is perfect for this aviation-obsessed branch of the family).  We spent the last couple of days reflecting on the life and love that she shared with us, and as I stood at the pulpit today reading the responsorial hymn, I reflected back on all these remarkable grandparents I have known and loved and lost.  For my maternal grandparents, I was always asked to sing this psalm.  For my grandfather, I read the general intersessions, and today, I read aloud the same psalm that has been present at each of these farewells.  As I read the words, honoring my grandmother, I couldn't help but think back to all the funerals - all the amazing people who shaped my world view and my sense of humor and my identity.  I could feel them all there with me at the Mass of the
Teta and Jeddo dancing at my cousin Claire's wedding
Resurrection for my sweet, hilarious, adorable grandmother - like Nana, another inspirational teacher.  And I could feel again how lucky I am to have known all four of them so well, and to have my parents and aunts and uncles and brothers and cousins and nieces as reminders of how much I have learned about how to live and learn and love.  And, even though we are sad today, I can't help but be happy to think about the ridiculously cool and smart and fun and supportive and loving family of which I am a part.  And as Father John noted, we are a pilgrim family - one that takes great pleasure in our journeys, and as much pleasure in coming home to each other.  And that's what we did this week - we came home to each other.  And though she is gone, it was Teta who brought us here one last time.  And it is one more thing in an endless list for which I can be grateful to her, and to Jeddo Leo, and to Nana & Gandalf, and to all of those crazy fruits with whom I am so lucky to share this family tree.

"The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.
He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever."