Friday, 20 March 2015

Remembering Rosie

On Tuesday, 17 March 2015, we lost my wonderful Aunt and Godmother, Rosanna Garofalo.  She was one of the most wonderful people I've ever met - not only because she was my Aunt, but because she was a downright wonderful person.  She suffered for a long time with various forms of cancer thanks to Lynch Syndrome, but throughout the whole ordeal she kept her head held high and worked and played hard.

I think we are all still in shock as she was just so young and taken from us far too soon. I'm still struggling to accept it.  Although I was unable to attend the funeral, I wrote the Eulogy which my sister, Erin, read.

Remembering Rosie

When I was a little girl, I remember staying with Rosie at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the night before Christmas Eve.  We snuck downstairs late that night and ate Hershey kisses off of the cookie trays.  The next morning my Grandmother was so confused as she was sure she had set out the Hershey kisses.  We giggled because it was our secret.  That was the kind of person Aunt Rosie was.  She laughed.  She always aimed to be a good person.  She loved her family unconditionally and put her heart and soul into building relationships with others. 

We are here today to remember her.  This is the third time in eighteen months our family has come to church to remember and celebrate one of our dearly departed.  Those of us in the family knew Rosie as an aunt a sister a niece and a cousin.  She was taken from us far too soon, but she wouldn’t want us to mourn her; she would want us to remember her vibrant and happy life.  It was only in the last several months when she started to feel unwell, that we learnt how many lives she made better just by being Rosie.

She moved to Boston almost 30 years ago and then on to Chicago. We never really knew how smart of a businesswoman she was, how well she understood her industry or how hard she worked.  Regardless of how she felt, she always asked others how they were doing.  In her job, she worked tirelessly to make sure her client’s needs were met.  Her colleagues told us that she was a force to be reckoned with and when she put her mind and strong work ethic to something it would always get accomplished.
Rosie always came home for Christmas and other holidays and quite often stayed at our house.  I think our most fond memories of her always seem to revolve around Christmas.  While preparing the Italian Christmas Eve feast, Rosie would excuse herself for a few hours to get her nails done and would come back when all of the work was finished.  The only thing left to make was the cocktail sauce – and it became her official job – year after year.  She would always sit with us on Christmas morning and enjoy every laugh and smile as each present was opened.

She enjoyed keeping up with current events and could often be found sitting at our kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. She really enjoyed reading the paper but compared to the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune, she claimed nothing ever happened in Painesville.  Of course, that didn’t stop her from reading it.

She loved kids - especially babies - and they loved her.  She was convinced that Baby James’ first words should and would be “Rosie”.  That led her to look at him or hold him and say “Rosie Rosie Rosie” over and over again, day in and day out, even last week.  We are still waiting on James to catch on.
Rosie loved the beautiful things about life.  She always had her nails done in exotic red and we would often laugh at her refusal to help with washing or cleaning as her nails were drying.  As a tribute to her spirit, many of the ladies here today have had their nails done so the gentlemen here better be prepared to pitch in.  One of her dreams was to see Andrea Bocelli in concert, and this “bucket list” item came true last December when my sister Erin went with her.  Rosie sang and cried along with the beautiful music.

She found beauty in many things. For many years, every Saturday was spent visiting garage sales, always hunting for treasures and then trying to get these items into her brothers’ or sister’s house.  She collected turtles of every shape and size and loved flowers in hanging baskets.  Our family will continue to honour her memory every spring and summer when we place flowers at the entrance to our homes.
It’s very fitting, as the name “Rose” means beautiful flower.  But we, Rosanna's family and friends know that she was more than just a beautiful person.  A rose is, after all, more than a flower which brightens up a room.  It is a beautiful and powerful symbol.  It stands for love and forgiveness. It represents romance and strength. The rose is powerful because it still grows, year after year, bright, beautiful and resilient.

That’s what our Rosie was like - powerful and strong.  Even in the face of cancer, she fought and endured.  She still kept her head held high and had faith.  Her faith and her church kept her strong throughout so much heartache and suffering.  The recent passing of both Emma and Carmelo has left us all feeling a sense of sadness and emptiness.  But I think for Rosie, she felt their loss deeper, probably because she too was suffering.

Last Monday we learned that my family here in England will be moving back home to America, we think that she was waiting for that news.  Being home with family is so important.  No matter how long you are away, when you are with family, you are home.  There’s a reason my daughter is named Emma Rose.  I hope and pray that she will grow up to be as kind and thoughtful and as powerful and strong as the two women she is named after.
I recently heard a story which leaves me confident that even in our darkest hours, when faced with trials and struggles, those who we love who have gone before us are with us, watching and protecting us.

Rosie believed that cardinals are messengers and they are the spirit of those who have passed coming to tell us something.  Last December, Rosie was outside her house trying to remove a hose from the spigot and was struggling to disconnect it.  She either wasn’t strong enough or not using the right tool, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t do it. She became frustrated and upset until she turned around and saw two cardinals - a male and a female - watching her.  She tried one last time to remove the hose - and it came undone.  It wasn’t chance or coincidence.  Her faith told her that her parents were there, watching and protecting her.
I have no doubt that she is now watching over all of us. That is the kind of person she was.  We never knew how many people her life touched until she returned to us a few weeks ago.  Friends from so many times and places in her life came together to let her know that she mattered so much to them and they truly loved her.  We all had the chance to let her know how important she was and she deserved to know.  We will always see signs that will remind us of her.  Whether it is a sign for a garage sale, a newspaper and a cup of coffee, a genuine smile, a turtle, or a simple rose, we will always remember our Rosie.

I found writing this incredibly difficult.  I know we are supposed to remember the good things about Rosie and celebrate her life, but I can't help but feel an incredible sense of sadness at her loss.  A family friend sent us this quote and it has become the informal theme for our remembrance of Rosie:

"When you die, it doesn't mean that you lose to cancer.
You beat cancer by how you live, why you live,
and in the manner in which you live."

How very true those words are for my beautiful, kind hearted Aunt.  Cancer has an awful lot to answer for, and I pray every day that a cure is soon found and my daughter never has to know the pain of losing someone she loves to this horrible disease.

Hold your loved ones a little bit longer tonight. You never know how much time you have left together.


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