Nana Mela

It never gets easier, does it? I have learned over the past year and a half or so that death is almost as imminent as it is inevitable, as confusing as it is heartbreaking, and as beautiful as it is tragic. My Nana Mela’s death has demonstrated all of this to me and more. True friendship has the ability to defy age, and this can be proven by the fact that, at our respective ages of 19 and 93, my Nana and I were the best of gal pals. We watched Lifetime movies together, ate plenty of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and honestly talked about life and love. Her presence in my life was constant and invincible: she lived right down the street, we had dinner with her often, I spent countless late nights with her. It was like she was never going anywhere– she’d always be in her big, comfy chair. Even when sickness tried to take her, she came right back to us like a boomerang. She was a pistol, one of the sharpest pencils in the drawer, and as witty as could be. And, from playing cards and bunco to her never-ending phone calls, she had a better social life than I did. She was loved so dearly by friends and family, and I know we all will miss her and cherish our memories with her. 

 I have come to truly believe that there is as much purpose in our deaths as there is in our lives. We constantly strive to find our purpose in this world and give it meaning, but I think we forget about the power and impact of our death. In her death, my Nana has left us with a beautiful example of gratitude and happiness, lessons in compassion and love, and an appreciation for humor and “rocka roa” (rocky road candy, from See’s, of course). Not only has she taught and shown us this much, but she has also blessed us with memories and stories that we will have forever. They say that grandmothers are like cupcakes with extra frosting, and that could not be more true of Nana, especially with the sweet tooth she had. 

Inside of a tiny book provided by Hospice care is the most captivating definition of death I have ever come across: a poem called “Gone From my Sight” by Henry Van Dyke: 

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When I first read this last Sunday, my first thoughts went straight to all of those “other voices” waiting at the opposite dock for Nana’s ship to come in. Her husband, sister, parents– all of these people who she missed and longed to be with again. It brings me so much peace, even though letting her sail away is heartbreaking, knowing that she is with these people again and has found a new home in the Kingdom of Heaven. Nana, I hope you’ve got all the other angels in stitches over your hilarious stories and witty remarks. I hope there’s a chair as comfy as the one in your living room for you to watch your shows in, next to Nano. I hope that you’re having a wonderful, long-anticipated reunion party with everyone who went before you. We will miss you terribly, but we will also continue to love you tremendously. Thank you for everything, I love you! 

 

 

In Memory of Ariana

I believe that everyone we come into contact with in our lives has an impact on us. Whether or not it is a random stranger or our closest friend, everyone has the potential to leave an imprint on your heart. Some people, though, leave a much bigger mark than others. I have really taken to being receptive to others and learning from their admirable qualities. I think it’s so important that we learn from people we look up to when we envision becoming our best selves.

Someone who taught me so much was Ariana, a graceful, beautiful girl in my graduating class. In our sophomore year, she was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. This past weekend, she passed away. I had been thinking about her a lot lately, the way she faced obstacles with faith and grace. She always had a smile on her face and never complained once: everything that she had to say was positive, even if it dealt with a negative subject. It always made my day to see her in her uniform at school– she was a hell of a fighter. She was the most prime example of optimism I have ever seen, and I strive to be happy and positive like she was. Ariana was also the most amazing woman of faith I have ever known. As her Make-a-Wish trip, she travelled to Rome to meet the Pope. Wouldn’t most teenage girls wish to meet their favorite band or celebrity? Ariana truly transcended us. She just understood what life was about: family and faith.

“Cancer may have changed me forever, but it does not define me. The way I choose to live does. I have learned not to worry about the small things in life and literally to live one day at a time, because we can’t control yesterday or tomorrow. Today is the only reality we can live in. We have to make it count.”

-Ariana, 1994-2012

It still hasn’t hit me that she’s gone now. I typically have delayed reactions with things like this, and I know the cliche statement, “they never truly leave,” holds some truth, but I really think that Ariana’s spirit will never leave us. While her soul is home in Heaven, she has given us each a gift. To all those who were blessed enough to know her, she has given the gift of unconditional love and acceptance, steadfast faith, and unfailing optimism. I know that she will always be with us and watching over us. Rest in peace, dearest Ariana.

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