Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ida Santangelo

My aunt Ida died on Tuesday, August 23. She was my father's sister, her name originally was Ida Testa. Both my father and my aunt were born in Italy; my father was seven when he came to this country, my aunt a little younger. I have so much respect for them and for the whole family. My grandfather came over first, got a job as a tailor, eventually brought the rest of the family over. Two more kids were born in this country, Carmen and Lydia. Carmen and Lydia are still digging this world, my father passed away in 1999. Imagine moving to a foreign country where you don't even speak the language and making a life for yourself? Amazing stuff. Could you succeed in school when you didn't even speak the language?
I have a lot of impressions from last Friday, the day of the funeral. In the church at the end of the service a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote was read - it blew me away.
" To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of close friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
I know there are a million quotes like this in the world; I like this one because it seems to nail things down.
To laugh often and much - that's a basic one but it can be hard sometimes. It's hard to laugh when every day is a struggle to survive. I have to assume he is talking about genuine laughter, not diseased laughter or laughter at the expense of another. Laughing like children laugh. That is a worthy goal.
To win the respect of intelligent people - I like that one. Maybe sounds a bit elitist but really, who cares what an idiot thinks about you? If you concentrate on intelligent people it narrows the field considerably.
The affection of children - Kids, when they are young, are living, breathing bullshit detectors. If a kid likes you, you are doing OK.
To earn the appreciation of honest critics - There are a lot of people willing to criticize everything you do. Because that is how they validate their own existence. Small minds. Honest critics can help you see through the fog of self image. Valuable stuff.
Endure the betrayal of close friends - I have never experienced this but I have discovered people to be idiots who I thought were friends. This is probably more my fault than theirs.
To appreciate beauty - Every day, baby. You have to look around and breathe it all in. Every moment of beauty is a bullet you can use against the world's harshness.
To find the best in others - Most of us are not capable of being honest critics, so be gentle with others. We are all in this together.
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition - I love this beause it widens your perspective. You don't have to end racial discrimination to improve the world, you can do it in small and satisfying ways. However if you CAN end racial discrimination......................
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - I don't know how to take that one. It sounds simple and overwhelming at the same time. I would need to do the It's A Wonderful Life Thing to see if I qualify. I really hope I do.
I have a lot of impressions from that day. You can't get that close to death without thinking. And feeling. Another one that blew me away - as we pulled away from the funeral home in the funeral procession heading towards the church, there was a man standing on the curb watching us go by with an infant draped over his shoulder. Says it all, baby - says it all.
On a lighter note. We were deep in Massachusetts, in the noise and traffic and fast moving insanity of an overpopulated area. All the stuff we moved to NH to get away from. It took a while for the funeral directors to coordinate the movement of the procession out onto the street and towards the church because of traffic, which kept on getting backed up by a traffic light down the street. As we sat and waited, Carol turned to me and said "In all aspects of life AND death, everything is easier where we live." Words to live by.
RIP Ida. Your life is worthy of love and respect. And I absolutely know deep in my heart that right now you are sharing wine with my father and laughing your asses off. 

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