My grandmother, Pauline Buttafuoco (no relation to Joey) died on Wednesday. In less than a week she went from being fine to well, dead. At this risk of appearing morbid or more soulful than I am, I have been thinking about death a lot lately. I have experienced a figurative death of my own–watching the life and plans that I had for myself and the illusion of life control dissipate. I have been thinking less about what I want to be when I grow up, rather than who. And especially in light of current events, how I hope to be remembered.
Believe me that when I say that I’m glad that my grandmother passed quickly, it’s not out of a lack of feeling or love. She was 94. Getting the chance to spend time with her was a primary factor in my decision to move to Washington, where she lived only a short metro ride away from me. She lived three times my lifetime, and if I am remembered in death the way that she was cherished in life, I will have considered myself a success.
I am grateful to have enjoyed an especially close relationship with her, as she lived with my immediate family for most of my life and helped raise my siblings and me. It is hard for me to imagine this strong, independent, sweet-yet-sometimes-scary woman (as most Italian women tend to be) disappearing from this earth. As the prophet Isaiah once wrote:
“All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
But my grandmother was 94. And led a full life–of joy and love, and of suffering and grief. She will leave behind a legacy of faith, a lot of great genetic material (thanks for the youthful skin, Grandma!), and a truly delicious recipe for meatballs and sauce. Really. Her sauce is the best.