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A Eulogy for a Traveling-Dancing Mother
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2010-09-14 07:42:08
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Delivered by her son Emanuel L. Paparella at a Memorial ceremony in her honor on September 11 2010 at St. Joan of Arc Church in Boca Raton, Florida

On August 27 at the age of 93 our mother Addolorata, or Dora, as she was affectionately called, passed away to a better life; to that blessed place where, in the presence or our Creator, suffering and sorrow is converted into joy and dancing. The book of Proverbs intimates that much, so does the poet Dante when in his Paradiso he describes the saints’ vision of God as an everlasting dance in unperturbed peace and joy. We are gathered here today to commemorate Dora’s life and honor her memory, as it is fitting.

scan_2_400Were Dora able to talk to us today, what do you suppose she would tell us? She’d tell her 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, to release her and let her go, for she now has so many other things to see and do, so many other places to travel to (oh, how she loved to travel and explore far away places…). She would urge us not tie ourselves to her with too many tears. When we do that, we are in reality focusing on feeling sorry for ourselves; concentrating on ourselves makes us less able to feel her soft clear love which is all around us. She would advise us to focus instead on the many years we were blessedly granted with her on this earth and be grateful for the many opportunities in our lives to experience her solicitous care and love. She would be the first one to remind us that while we must part, it is only for a while, for as the poet Quasimodo reminds us: we are all like a ray of light on this earth and soon it is night-time, and indeed Dora was the beacon light of our family. She would remind us that the grief too is only temporary, for we are people of hope and resurrection. In Italian “addio” literally means “till we meet in the presence of God,” but paradoxically, it also means “arrivederci,” till we see each other again.

We will forever cherish in our hearts the memories of Dora’s life with us. Surely they will be different for each one of us, but I dare say that we will all remember her as the jovial mother and grandmother that spread joy wherever she went, no matter what life threw at her, proud of her children and grandchildren, with an incredible spirit of magnanimity and generosity, ever willing to sacrifice for her family; a great wife to our Father Francesco whom she truly loved and at age 40 in 1956, in the middle of the journey of her life, followed all the way to America where he was born in 1912; a truly nurturing mother and grandmother  for us all but especially for the youngest Alessandra who was only 7 when our father died in 1968. In 1973, she left the routine of her life in Italy to come and spend a whole year with me and my family and take care, together with my wife Cathy, of her grandchild Cristina. At that time I was teaching at the University of Puerto Rico. I shall never forget how proud she was when in 1990 she accompanied my whole family to Yale University where I received my Ph.D. degree in Italian humanism. Another time she accompanied me all the way to a professional conference in San Francisco and, speaking exclusively in Italian, she managed to charm several conference’s participants.

Our mother and grandmother loved and cherished every one of us equally. I was not the only sibling who received that kind of generous expansive support and solidarity after the premature passing of our father. It was repeatedly bestowed to all. Any time there was a challenge to be confronted or a difficulty to be surmounted in any of our extended families, she would immediately hop on a plane and visit us to be available for advise, comfort and help, never asking for anything in return. Hers was the unconditional love of a good Italian mother.

I remember that in the mid-seventies my wife and I decided to reward her sacrifices by gifting her with a trip to Brazil to visit her sister Anna; it was followed later with another one throughout Italy, something she had done previously on her honeymoon in 1941 when she married my father. She was quite grateful for those trips, for they must have brought back many memories for her, and as mentioned she loved traveling. One of her signal heritages to us is her consummate ability to be grateful for gifts that came her way and consequently happy at all times; for while she was a generous giver, she could also be a gracious receiver; she could say you’re welcome as well as thank you, and really mean it. Indeed, the virtues our mother bequeaths to us are: generosity in giving, gracefulness in receiving, fortitude in sacrificing; courage in venturing forth. I could go on and on, but let me simply share a couple of exemplary anecdotes by which we may remember our mother.

In early 2000 I was teaching at the University of Central Florida in Orlando from where I would commute on weekends. My mother who was visiting from Italy, decided to come and stay with me in Orlando for a few weeks. I remember that while we were driving to Orlando chit chatting on this and that, out of the blue she exclaimed, in Italian, for that is all she spoke: “Sento una grande gioia oggi, e non so perchè” which is translatable as “I feel so much joy today; and I don’t know why”. That spontaneous outburst was quite typical. Now, however, she surely knows why she is happy.
I’d like to share one last memorable anecdote. While she was staying with me in Orlando I took her to some of the theme parks around the area, something she much enjoyed. One such park was Bush Gardens. Toward sunset as we walked about in the park we paused at a big illuminated gazebo in which there was a young lady playing the casio and singing popular songs. We sat at one of the benches surrounding the gazebo to enjoy the music. Soon afterward the lady in the gazebo invited people to dance, if they so wished. Without a moment’s hesitation my mother got up and began dancing away. Some of the people sitting at the benches began applauding her. Eventually another lady joined her and they danced at their heart’s content for a good part of the evening. I have a picture documenting the event which is worth 1000 words and I’d like to share it with you. What I regret to this day is not having joined her in that dance. In any case, that is how I wish to remember my mother here on earth: as a traveling dancing mother who lived gracefully all the days of her life.

In conclusion, I’d like to return to the Dantesque imagery of the dancing saints with which this eulogy began. When our mother welcomes us with a smile to our real home and destination; she will also invite us to join her in an everlasting joyous dance. But in order for that to happen we  need to do more than learn how to dance gracefully, we will have to recognize her face; in order to recognize her face, we will need to treasure in our hearts and, more importantly, practice in our lives, the examples and lessons of virtue and wisdom she is bequeathing to us. Indeed, Dora’s exemplary life-wisdom can be reduced to this brief injunction: remember and honor me by loving and respecting one another. Arrivederci mamma Dora.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-09-16 15:48:48
Thanks to you too Alan and Location.

Thanos2010-09-14 20:30:36
Our thoughts with you, Emmanuel

Emanuel Paparella2010-09-14 20:49:09
Many thanks Thanos for those words of sympathy, and to all those who have forwarded similar words of encouragement. It makes the burden of grieving so much easier to bear.

Abigail George2010-09-14 21:38:35
My deepest sympathy in your bereavement. It is always a deep feeling of sorrow and grief when a fellow brother
loses someone close to them. I would like to request that you write a review for my poetry anthology, which I have now recently completed and it marks an end of a long road for me. My email address is ageorge2@telkomsa.net
I would really appreciate it if we could make contact.

Eva2010-09-15 02:24:45
Emanuel, that was truly beautifully written about your mother.
My sincere condolonces to you and your family.

Emanuel Paparella2010-09-15 08:22:40
Thanks Abigail and Eva for your kind words.

location ibiza2010-09-15 14:55:15
The best tribute ever given by you to your mother.My sincere sympathy with you and your family.

Alan2010-09-15 18:28:31
My condolences to you and your family

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