Making a Life. For My Grandma...

Dress: Vestique, Clutch: Target

I wore this outfit about a week and a half ago, but as I look at these photos it seems more like a lifetime ago.

I can't think of anything witty to say. Nothing interesting or amusing. All I can think... say... feel... is that my Grandma Maglier is gone.

She passed just 9 days after her diagnosis of lung cancer. The doctor's told my mom that they thought she'd have about 2 months, but my mom (a nurse for 30 years) feared she was in her last hours when my brother Joshua and I got the call last Saturday. "I'm scared that if you and Josh wait to come for the 4th of July that you may miss her."

What? How can that be?

We threw clothes into suitcases, packed the car and drove through the night from Charlotte, NC straight to the hospital in Rochester, NY. It took us about 11 and a half hours, and in the last hour we were going almost 100 MPH. My brothers, Mike and Joe, were calling our phones every 15 minutes or so with updates and telling us to hurry. Our hearts stopped every time the phone rang. We were running lights and stop signs and getting more nervous with every wrong street the GPS told us to turn down. Our brothers were waiting for us at the entrance of the hospital. Mike parked the car and Joe led us (running at full speed) through the hospital halls to our grandma's room. When we barged in, she was conscious and she knew exactly who we were. She looked up and said... "Oh, Hi Dolly" (a name she has called me ever since I can remember). She held our hands and kissed us back as we  put our faces close to hers. She asked my brother about his dog, my sister-in-law about her parents, and when she didn't see my manfriend, she told me to have him "get his ass in here". She was a pistol right to the end.

She awoke a few more times, started reciting The Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary and then her spirit was gone. Her body was trying to hold on with labored breath, but the room felt empty, almost like she was no longer in it, but watching all 16 of us in there. We were crying, praying, laughing, holding one another, holding her. We laid our hands on her as the priest gave her her last rights, and said our goodbyes to the woman who held our entire family together.

The next few days were a blur. I'm sure all of my family members will remember different things from the days following my grandmother's death, but this is what I will remember:

  • My sweet mother's heartache. The look on her face as grief overcame it and tears came flooding out of it.  Hearing her say, "What am I going to do without my best friend?"
  • My Uncle Pat's perfect eulogy. 
  • My cousin, Emma, beautifully singing this song at mass and saying, "This is for you, Nana".
  • My nephews and my niece crying. Not prepared or anywhere near ready to say goodbye to their great-grandma. 
  • My best friend texting me right when I needed to hear from her, and then talking me thorough the hour drive to the airport to go pick up my manfriend.
  • My manfriend flying in... holding me up... letting me lose it... and rubbing my back while I sobbed uncontrollably. 
  •  A dozen of the ladies from the Italian-American club praying over their friend together in the last moments of the calling hours.
  • My life-long friend, Kim showing up at the calling hours and funeral. I looked over my shoulder at the funeral home, saw her face standing out among scores of others, and lost it. Then the next day, she sat two pews behind me, over my right shoulder in the church. I looked back at her no less than 50 times. It felt good to make eye contact with someone who knows me so well. Someone who was there just for me. Someone who I didn't need to be strong for. Someone who loves me and my family. A lot. As long as I live I will never forget Kim being there for those two days. 
  • A group hug after the funeral service. My mom and all of her children. Me, Michael, Joseph, and Joshua and then hearing her say... " I love my babies. We have a good family".  
  • The fact that my grandma's funeral was on July 3rd, the very same day that her husband, my Papa, died 15 years before; and that we were in the same place saying goodbye to her, the same church they were married in 54 years before.  
  • Writing this on behalf of all of my grandma's grandchildren and then reading this to my family after her funeral:
As we started thinking about our grandma, hundreds of memories flooded our minds. We started reminiscing about family traditions, all the time we spent at Grandma and Papa's house, the things she did for us, the ways she silently sacrificed, and how proud she was of every single one of her "grandbabies".

Our grandma wasn't flashy or fancy. She never traveled the world, made millions of dollars, or saw her name in lights. I guess you could say, that by modern standards, she never lived an overly exciting life. But what we (her grandchildren) realized as we surrounded her in her last hours of life was that she accomplished her mission. See, our grandma was always giving us advice, telling us stories, and trying to teach us lessons about what is truly important.

In a world that can be self-centered and consumed by materialism and consumerism, our grandma was one of the few who had her priorities firmly in place.
  1. God
  2. Papa
  3. Her 3 Children 
  4. Her Grandchildren
She had it all figured out. She knew what was importnat and she worked to instill those values into all of us. Our grandma collected moments, bear hugs, mouth kisses, photographs, and belly laughs... not things.

Most of us are focused day in and day out on making a living. Working so hard and long on things that in the end, don't matter much. We give our best selves to our jobs, and our families get what is left over. Our grandma, having worked hard in her younger years cautioned us against getting too consumed in the small stuff. Grandma was proud of us when we did well... but she was most proud of us when we did good.

Grandma lived a life that left a legacy. The day she passed she was surrounded by all of her children and grandchildren. We were holding her, praying over her, crying over her, and laughing over her.

We are her blood, her love, her greatest achievements. We are her life's work, and in those moments it finally clicked... our grandma's final lesson:

Love each other. Be kind to each other. Forgive and support one another.... because making a living is not the same as making a life.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my Grandma. I took it less than a year ago right after we finished eating breakfast together. She was on her way to The Italian Festival. I love that sweet smile.


  1. Melissa, this is an amazing post. My grandfather was a lot like your grandma, it seems, and he instilled in his family those same values. Your grandma would be proud of you!

  2. You are remarkable. Inspired by you.