Tuesday, September 23, 2014

True love stories never end

In loving memory of
Ethel J. Vizanko
May 28, 1923 - August 12, 2014

As delivered September 20, 2014, at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Ironwood, Mich. 

True love stories never end.

And the love story of Ethel and Tom may never have happened if Grandma stuck to her career ambitions. She once told me she planned to be a spinster language teacher.

With cats.

“But then I met Tom,” she said.

And this church would be fairly empty if she had not.

Sarah and I were blessed to live so close to The Farm, living an hour or two away until I was nine, and then moving back and living just over the Front Hill in the new house. We graduated from the same high school and attended the same community college as Grandma and Grandpa did. I got to serve as a library aide at the desk where they met. And I treasure that connection.

One of my earliest memories of the farm is holding Grandma’s hand as she led Sarah and me down the stairs into the basement of the barn, looking for Grandpa.

In her last few years, she liked to point out her crooked finger, but I marvel at all those hands accomplished.
The letters written, the pie and pasty crusts rolled out, the babies held and changed and rocked, the raspberries gathered, the weeds pulled, holding something to read and the hugs offered.

Grandma was remarkable in so many ways, but I think the most remarkable thing about her was not going back to school, earning college degrees and pursuing a career after having so many children.

The most magical thing about Grandma was her unconditional love. I don’t know if she had favorites, but if you were with her, she made you feel like it was you.

Though if you brought her the first newspaper of the day or a sweet treat, it may have been you for that moment.

The way she loved serves as an example to us all.

The love she and Grandpa shared, and her devotion in taking care of him until the end, her love for her children and the generations that followed, the way she made her home so welcoming to family and friends.

I admire how much she loved words, how much she enjoyed reading and writing. She voraciously inhaled books, magazines and newspapers, and valued staying informed. She wrote the best letters or notes, and shared so many stories of her life.

I used to wonder why the females in our family have a tendency to overshare, but after Grandma shared some of the stories about her “firsts” with Grandpa…. I no longer wonder where we get it from.

And we can trace the family lead foot to her. I often wish I had asked her to teach me Finnish, if only so I could know what she was saying when she expressed her driving frustrations with a few choice phrases.

She will be so very missed, but we can carry on her legacy by following her example of how to live and love.

Take the time to write a letter or note to family or friends.

Wear a hat. Maybe even a red tam.

Read more. Pick up a newspaper from time to time.

Stay active. Grandma rarely missed her aerobics class, and I believe it helped keep her with us for 91 years.

Volunteer. Grandma showed her loving heart and generous spirit by volunteering her time at the hospital and more.

Indulge in a Cappuccino Heath Blizzard or a turtle sundae. Grandma and Kathy did not believe in passing a Dairy Queen.

Drink more coffee.

Travel. Drive across the country, or to Alaska. Go overseas. Take the train.

Make an apple pie or cook a meal for those you love.

Pass on her stories. Share your own.

Love unconditionally.

Helen Keller said, “All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Grandma may be “Gone to Glory” but she will never really leave us.

We mourn the loss of such a loving and amazing woman, but I take comfort in the belief that true love stories never end.

I like to believe that for Ethel and Tom, the next chapter in their love story started on a Tuesday afternoon in August with Grandma striding up the front sidewalk of The Farm.

Her flowers are blooming.

The raspberries are ripe.

The house gleams in a fresh coat of white paint with yellow trim, and the red roof shines in the sun.

And Grandpa appears in the front porch door to ask, “Ethel, where have you been?”

God bless you, Grandma. We love you.