Her delicate, soft hands were usually folded across her chest, or her head was resting in her hand while she exhaled. This was her form of meditation. Today, I saw her just like that. But this time, it was for the last time.
I swear I saw her chest rise and fall; I wanted to just pause the moment and rewind as far as I could, so I would have the opportunity to appreciate a bit more, bottle up her energy, save us all from the hurt that we, as humans on this earth, must endure.
I envisioned myself as a little cherub - pudgy cheeks, pigtails, big smile, but when I walked past my reflection, I was an adult, with a sullen look, dressed in black.
I’ll never forget her smile, the way her eyes would crinkle; her near loss-of-breath laugh filled a room. Her skin - so beautiful. She’d sit outside for hours soaking up the goodness. We’d all joke that she was turning black before our eyes, while those around her crisped up. Oh, boy, and on that back porch…the screen door…those two chairs.
She always worked hard, whether it was raising her children, taking care of her mother, or cooking up the most delicious feast. She never finished high school and she never learned to drive. She used her street smarts and her genuine ways to navigate the city, make deals and foster lifetime friendships.
She came from the School of Tough Love and Feed the Soul (as well as the belly). We really are a lot alike.
She was full of pride and her own kind of knowledge. She was firmly against technology, believing that computers were silly… “the only computer you really need to use is right here”, she said, as her finger slowly tapped her forehead.
I sit here, at my kitchen table, savoring a glass of red wine in my quiet home. I am still in disbelief that she’s gone; I’m trying to find comfort in the fact that she lived an outstanding 93 years and I, at 41 years old, was able to be physically connected to her for that time. I was able to experience her love, her laugh, her boldness, her wisdom, and my God, her food. I swear she sliced that garlic with a razor blade; her eggplant parmesan - a signature dish.
While the past few years have been difficult on all of us, I never lost hope that she, deep down, remembered me. I often left her with tears in my eyes, only to sit in my car for a few extra minutes, sobbing at the wheel.
Today renewed my admiration for this little Sicilian firecracker. So many wonderful people, old and young, paid their respects and told great stories. I remembered some of them, but all filled me with a little joy. She absolutely took care of people; it was evident in that room. However, what struck me most were those who grabbed my hand, pulled me tight, and told me how much Frieda loved me, how much she talked about me, and how proud she was of me. They’re right. She loved big. She loved all of us; SHE was unconditional. Sometimes it might not have shown, but today, it was clear. They helped her close the loop.
I am 41 years old. I have done a lot of difficult things and I have survived a lot of difficult times in this life. Today was actually one of the hardest to date. I’ve been told that she will be my angel, watching over me, guiding me the rest of the way.
I still sit here, in the silence, waiting for my girls to come home. It’s now my job to carry this forward - to show them what it’s like to live and what it’s like to be loved.