Here’s the song reference.
As the post title implies, Nonno went to Heaven yesterday morning. His leave-taking was gentle; Manie and Deedaw were with him when he took his last breath. The tribe had a moment to see that Nonno’s soul had, in fact, left his body, and that his final act upon this earth was to smile that big, broad, beautiful smile that involved his whole head — and which we had not seen for some days. There are gifts beyond price; seeing that last smile from Nonno was one of them.
After the tribe and I had our moment to say farewell and “I love you” to Nonno, and offer what comfort we could to Deedaw, Manie, Zio Frankie, and Aunt Megan, we hugged the hospice nurse who has been our angel these past weeks and headed for home so the nurses and the men from the funeral home could do their work, and telephone calls to extended family members could be coherently made. The kids caromed around while I hastily assembled a lunch and made a few phone calls of my own.
We pray this grace before every meal at our house: “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
About half a minute after we had finished our prayer, it hit Bugaboo that Nonno was now one of the faithful departed for whom we pray. She took a deep, shuddering breath, then burst into tears as she wailed, “I miss my Nonno, and he isn’t going to be here for Christmas!”
I pulled her into my lap and hugged her close, wiped her tears, stroked her hair, and assured her that while Nonno’s body might not be here for Christmas, his soul would surely be, and that he and all the other people she has loved who have left us to join the company of the angels and saints would be there, as well. She had a lot of questions, as she always does. She was asking me about whether or not Nonno would be able to play golf in Heaven, then asked whether he would see Pop-Pop and Gretchen (the hound). I told her Nonno would see all the people he had loved and missed the most, and she asked me, “Will he see Scary Harry, too? Nonno really liked Scary Harry. I did too. He wasn’t really scary. I think they could have fun playing golf or tag or something together in Heaven.”
Scary Harry is a beloved cousin who passed away very suddenly near Christmas of 2009. He was very tall, very kind, and he is very much missed even now. His daughter is Beanie’s godmother, and his widow is Baby Guy’s godmother.
It’s hard to explain Heaven to a little child, because it is beyond my own understanding, but I believe that we are reunited with our best beloveds in the communion of saints, and I explained that to her through my own tears. She had a merry time theorizing about all the wonderful things those people and pets she has loved so fiercely could be doing with Jesus, and she made us both laugh with her speculation about who Nonno might accompany for a game of golf. We took comfort in thinking about all the things Nonno loved best, and in understanding that now, all his pains are gone. As we left the table, Bugaboo smiled a shaky smile at me and remarked, “Mommy, I’m glad Nonno will be able to run again if he wants to.”
Peace be with you. If it is upon your heart to do so, please pray for our family.
Today’s prayer: Lord, we thank You for relieving the pain of Your good and faithful servant Emmanuel, for welcoming him to You, and for the smile he left with us that left us no doubt of the joy he found with You. Thank You for the hospice nurses, relatives, and friends who have been Your face to us. Thank You for Nonno, who raised Manie to be a husband and father who follows You, who was at his happiest when surrounded by his children and granchildren, who celebrated every small thing with a radiant joy, whose compassionate heart taught us what loving sinners looks like. Eternal rest grant him, O Lord, and the joy unbounded of an eternity spent in Your company. Please grant us hearts so filled with You that when our days are done, he comes with You to greet us. Please send Your comfort and Your peace to all of us, but especially Deedaw, as we try to balance our joy that Nonno is with You against our mourning for his departure from us, and please grant us the wisdom to teach Your little blessings that, sometimes, we grieve and rejoice in the same breath.