Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mary Lombardo -- A Woman Who Exemplified the Happy Heart We Seek

I was intending to post the next part of our Prayer Pegs series today, but, instead, I would like to honor Mary Lombardo, my 95 year old Grammy and the kids GG, who passed away last night.  The kids and I were blessed enough to visit her twice in the past week and wrote about one of those visits here, sharing Grammy's statement, "He smiles at me."  Reflecting on Grammy's life, I am realizing more and more that He continually smiles on all of us through knowing Grammy as we did:

Jack and GG resting comfortably together between kisses.
Mary, like countless women of her generation, did not complete her traditional education.  Yet, she possessed more knowledge and skills than many college graduates seem to today.  Life experience, trust in God, love for family and an appetite for the daily newspaper acted as her advanced curriculum and shaped her into a woman whose education far surpassed anything teachers and texts could offer.  It was a whole-hearted edification that Mary embodied – one that inspires me and makes me grateful to continue living the legacy of love, learning and life appreciation that Mary, my Grammy, has left behind.

From my earliest days, I remember Grammy “knowing stuff”, practical stuff that amazes a young child:  how to knit beautiful, warm winter mittens; how to turn Grampy’s strawberries and other produce into delicious homemade jams and jellies; how to reduce, reuse and recycle (even before it was trendy to do so) in order to make any manner of necessities and playthings.  Indeed, though some may say Grammy lived in “want” for many years, I don’t see it that way.  Money may have been tight.  Things may have been few.  But, ingenuity, trust and hard work multiplied whatever was there to fulfill needs… and desires, too.  Oh, how I looked forward to our homemade Christmas gifts from Grammy each year when I was growing up!  And, wow, how Grammy evidenced excellence in home arts and handiwork throughout the years!  Not many people could pull off huge family gatherings in a tiny home, ensuring all were well fed and relaxed, the way Grammy did.

And, not many could adjust to the challenges and celebrations of life the way Grammy did, either.  Through all the hard knocks of her life – including losing a child, losing a husband and surviving cancer – Grammy remained steadfast in her faith.  Through the celebrations – births and weddings of grandchildren and great-grandchildren counted high among them – she modeled true joy and love.   With each individual she encountered, Grammy both saw and brought out goodness.  She was known to say things such as, “We have such a big family and we are so full of love.  Even with all the people in our family, no one really has problems.”  Now, some of us might be inclined to disagree with the latter half of that statement, fully able to list a problem or two.  But, with Grammy’s vision in mind, we realize these aren’t real “problems” – in the long run, they are simply stumbling blocks and lessons.  Grammy acknowledged this and she knew, especially later in life, the quickest way to navigate and learn from them: prayer.

Grammy often prayed in adoration, thanksgiving and supplication.  More than once over the years, when I walked in to visit Grammy, I found her eyes closed, lips moving, rosary in hand.  And often times as I went to say goodbye, Grammy shared thanks for our family. 

Family.  So much is learned, shared and habitualized through family relationships.  And, with Grammy at the helm, all such things were underscored with wisdom and love.  Oh, how Grammy beamed when she talked about the “population explosion” she and Grampy started and how it was so “full of love”.  And, how right she was.  Grammy had an uncanny ability to share simple words at just the right moments.  No big speeches.  No judgment.  Just understanding, love and a snippet of time-tested wisdom.  I still appreciate each time she offered these.  And, I can definitely see how they neatly tied bonds that will always remain strong.

So life smart, faith smart and family smart, Grammy was.  She was also book smart.  Or, rather, I should say newspaper smart.  That woman would sit during quiet moments with glasses perched at the end of her nose, pouring over the daily newspaper.  When we’d visit, she’d often have clippings of interest, underlined and ready for us, stuffed into old cereal boxes.  And, be it from the newspaper or schooling during her early years, Grammy had an astounding vocabulary.  Anyone playing Upwords with her was sure to be stymied with some of the words she laid out with her tiles.  Never boastful, but always brilliant in so many ways, Grammy serves as an example of what I believe all learned people should aspire to.

Small in stature but huge in impact, “Little Grammy”, as many of my cousins and I sometimes called Mary Lombardo, lived a long, rich and faithful life.  She remained a respected steward of time, talent and treasures through every stage that I can recall.  Even in her last years, when age and illness reframed her sense of time and erased many of her former talents, she adapted.  She used her time to do just what her body would allow her to do – to pray and to share smiles and stories with whoever visited her. 

When asked how her days were, she most often replied, “As usual.  No better.  No worse.”  But this was not said as a complaint.  Rather, it was a fact, which she shared with a smile that bespoke of acceptance.  Yes, acceptance.  Grammy once said, “Life is a gift and I am going to accept it as long as God offers it.”  She did that.  With grace.  With gratitude.  With a manner I have seen few do.   She lived in practical way, day to day, synthesizing all her experience into an education that made her as much a student as it did a teacher.
I am saddened to think that Grammy will not be around anymore to regularly mentor me in living a simple, faithful, yet rich life.  Yet, I am gladdened to know that she now looks down from her company with the angels and saints, cheering me on and encouraging me to model such things for my children.  I am also ever grateful that I had the opportunity to share so many special moments with Grammy through the years, and that my children, though gifted with far fewer moments with their GG, were literally touched by her love as well. 

I will always remember Mary Lombardo.  A woman trained up with a happy heart.  A woman who passed on with peace, having accepted her learning here and prepared herself for the hereafter.  Great-great grandmother.  GG.  Grammy.  Mum. Child of God.  May her legacy live on…

This post is shared at Thankful Thursday at Grace Alone.  Please visit the links there to be inspired by others testimonies of gratitude.


Denise said...

Bless you for sharing this beautiful memorial tribute to your grammy. Sorry for your loss.

Beautiful pear tree lane said...

I am so sorry for your loss, but an absolutely beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She left her family a wonderful legacy, and heritage. I have been so blessed by reading of her life.

Cindy said...

Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to your grammy. It was such a beautiful post.

Sorry for your loss.

Have a blessed day!

Itsy Bitsy Learners said...

What a wonderful tribute. I lost my Grandmother back in June, so this tribute really hit home.

How lovely that you have such wonderful memories.


Marcia said...

Hi! Just letting you know, I've awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award! Go to to pick it up!
Have a great week!

Montessori Print Shop said...

Our condolences on the loss of your Grammy. The photo of her with the baby is breathtaking! A strong, yet tender image that is simply lovely.


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