Monday, 30 September 2013

Grandma's Eulogy

Emma Garofalo
1 June 1929 - 26 September 2013

Emma Garofalo wasn't only a sister, a mother, wife, grandmother and friend. She was a fighter, a believer, a teacher and a guide.  She was a perfectionist, an umpire, a comforter and a mentor. The reason she touched so many lives and affected so many people was due to her dynamic sense of being. In the same breath she could and would praise you and holler at you. (And I'm sure we can all recall times when Emma has hollered at us for one thing or another). 

I've always thought of my grandmother as immortal. We look up to our grandparents with a sense of awe as they represents so much history and so many memories. They are our living roots and their words weave the tapestry of not only their past, but our past as well. As time begins to show on the faces of our loved ones, we begin to listen more closely and seek out answers to questions we didn't even know we had. I took the time to listen and as the tales began to unravel, I began to see the woman my grandmother was and how she was the heroine in her own autobiography. 

Her travels began at the age of 5 when she embarked upon the journey of a lifetime to Ellis Island in New York City from Novara, Sicily. Lady Liberty in all of her splendour was no match for a young and inquisitive Emma.  It was here where she was given her first taste of America: a banana. She decided she wasn't keen on the yellow fruit. It wasn't until a few years later did she learn you weren't meant to eat the skin.  Unable to speak a word of English; nothing seemed to deter her.  When her mother passed away quite young, Emma rose to the challenge of raising her brother, Tony, and helped to shape him into the successful man he is today.  

Now, If anyone knows this family, they'll know that the women may possess a slightly stubborn side. I'm going to go ahead and blame Grandma for that trait.   On a trip back to her hometown in Italy, she met the dashing (and probably mischievous) ex-serviceman, Carmelo Garofalo.

 Her story with Carmelo involved a whirlwind of love letters, a $500 wedding dress bought in New York and a defiant trip back to Sicily to marry her Prince Charming. Her Uncle Ugo was the only person there to give her away - but she didn't care.  She was always determined to have her own way. She was straight talking. No one ever did tell Emma what to do. 

Most of you have probably heard the story of how Emma and Carmelo escaped a close shave in the middle of the Atlantic. This was one of her favourite stories to tell. While scheduled to return to America in June, they learnt my mother, Susanna,  was to be born in May. they decided to take an earlier voyage on the Andrea Dora so Sue would be born in the United States. The journey they were meant to take in June ended In tragedy as the Andrea Dora sunk due to collision with another ship. It would seem that that was the first of her nine lives. 

These are our favourite stories. But this is only a snapshot of the millions of smiles, laughs, tears and exchanges we have experienced with Emma.  What's gotten us through the past few days are the stories we have all shared- reliving those moments where we laughed or cried with Emma. 

There were stories about the Wine Shop - which Mr DiCarlo owned but - in true Emma fashion - she ran.

Tales of baking in a steamy kitchen and passing down family recipes to Uncle Chuck such as buckeyes, nut roll, biscotti and baelish.  She could never give you a full recipe if you asked though, as time had gifted her with precision.  

One tale which made us smile was Uncle Chuck spending hours grinding walnuts for the assorted recipes. There's only so much grinding of nuts of that a man can take.  (That's what he said anyways!) 

Many of us smiled at the memories of the Christmas Eve dinners she executed perfectly year after year, no matter how difficult it was to find the traditional seven fish. With a full house and 15 cars in the drive, you wouldn't expect a carolling family to be left out in the cold.  We've all been present for a meal at Emma and Carmelo's.  There's no chance of hearing much of anything beyond the clanging and shouting at the dinner table. 

Sunday dinners were another tradition my grandparents prided themselves on. Carmelo May have been in charge of the sauce and meatballs, but everyone knew is was Emma running the show. After a few hours she would tell you to get your kids and go home - she never was one for hiding her true feelings. She would tell you if you were wrong. She would tell if you were right.That is, of course, as long as your idea of right was also her idea of right.  You can't find that kind of honesty now a days. 

Her love for her friends was unconditional - and she has a lot of friends. Everyone knew they could count on Emma for one thing or another. Whether that be translating documents into Italian or English or looking after the kids. She was always prepared to help a friend in need. Of course, that went both ways. Not that I believe my mum, aunt and uncles ever misbehaved....but I've heard tales that they couldn't get away with anything.  She always found out - like she had eyes in every corner of Painesville.   

After 84 full years of life, she was the mother to five, Aunt to twelve, grandmother to six and nearly a great grandmother.  She will be buried today with a blank cheque numbered 6984, as she always wanted money to spend in paradise. The number represents her six grandchildren, her nine Lives and her 84 years spent living her own adventure story.  It's Monday, grandma. The bank opened at 9. 

She fought cancer, survived a hit and run accident and even escaped a shipwreck. Her life was lived to its fullest, just as we would expect from her, and that is evident by the many faces we see here today. God, faith and family were her most treasured possessions.  So it is only fitting that we join here today to give her the farewell she deserves. 

It's said that Those who touch our lives inspire us and love us. And they do so for a lifetime. Today we honour and celebrate her life and her love. Our lives more colourful because she was apart of it. We have the opportunity today to remember and share her treasured stories and know that it was all of us - her family and friends - who helped Emma live a long and happy life.



  1. The last picture was a perfect ending to this beautiful eulogy.

  2. Emma was a beautiful lady and I miss her already when look daily to her home.