Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Together, In Love, Forever...

Last Monday (June 8, 2015), we lost our mom, Patricia Anne (Mescal) D'Avanzo, after a lengthy battle with congestive heart failure and resulting conditions. She was 81 years old and greatly loved by her large, extended family in Atlanta, Asheville, and scattered all over the eastern seaboard. Her services over the course of the past week were beautiful up to and until the burial service at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton yesterday (June 16, 2015). Accompanying her were the ashes of our father, Victor Nunzio D'Avanzo. As a veteran, the services included full military honors.

Despite knowing this was coming and hoping/praying her transition would come so as to relieve her suffering, I have been numb and still have yet to fully process the loss. Mostly, I'm exhausted.

I do want to take this time to do a few things...

1) I want to DEEPLY thank each and every person who extended their condolences, their support, and their love. Our family is strong. We lean on each other when times are tough. But we would have never made it through this, on our own or as a family, without all the love we received. Please know that your words, thoughts, flowers, visits, and hugs have made all the difference. We will surely need some time to process (I know I will) and will likely need to lean on many of you as we move forward through our grief. I hope you will accept our apologies for any selfishness now or in the near future as our hearts are going to need some time to strengthen.

2) I promised to post the eulogy I composed for her funeral for family and friends who could not attend. Please scroll down to read, if you would like. My focus was on celebrating her life and helping those who knew her on a limited level to get a fuller picture of the woman she was and the woman we all loved. I hope I've done her justice...

3) I also wanted to share the song listing from the music Terrell and I put together for the visitation service. Again, the focus was on celebrating her life and acknowledging her transition. This music represents our Irish/Celtic roots, some of her favorite songs/singers, and songs from some of her most beloved musicals. Again, scroll down (to bottom) for this listing.

I hope this all gives you a vision of the woman and an understanding of the love we all hold so deep and true for both her and our father. For those who loved our mom, I encourage you to read this and also to pick out a song or two. Pull them up on YouTube if you don't know them and give them a listen. I hope they will help you feel her presence when you hear them play.

Again, thank you all, from our entire family, for everything and every word. We love you all.


We are here today to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Patricia D'Avanzo -- Wife, Sister, friend, neighbor, cousin, aunt, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, matriarch, role model...

Over a century ago, a young carpenter by the name of James Mescal set forth his plans to emigrate from Ireland to the US. As the story has been told, an unlikely hiccup in his plans -- thanks to an over-booked tailor -- changed his fate...and the fate of the entire Mescal and our D'Avanzo clan.

You see, James's original journey was targeted for the virgin voyage of a new luxury ocean liner, called, quite simply, the Titanic. But thanks to a delay in the tailoring of his suit, he was forced to reschedule his trip for a 1 month later, swapping his tickets for fare on the slightly lesser known Mauretania. Had it not been for that tailor back in Ireland, he would have never completed that original voyage... and none of us would be sitting here today.

Eventually, James Mescal emigrated from Ireland at the age of 28 (or, at least, that's what he listed in the ship's manifest, though we know better doing a little math), arriving at Ellis Island on the Mauretania on May 27 (which just happens to be my birthday), 1912.

Two years later, a beautiful Irish lass from Donegal by the name of Hannah Gallagher made the same journey on the SS Cameronia at the age of 18, arriving at Ellis Island on the afternoon of April 7, 1914.

The irony is that despite living only a couple of towns apart among the rolling hills of Ireland, James and Hannah had never met. Little did they know what their futures would hold as they embarked on their new lives in a new land...what impact they would have and the extensive legacy they would leave behind.

Thankfully, they met in New York, married, and began their lives together in Brooklyn…and in true Irish Catholic fashion, were quickly blessed with a large and growing family.

Flash forward to November 19, 1933. Their last little bundle of joy, Patricia Anne Mescal, was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York -- the last of seven children to join this Americanized Irish Brood. As a member of this large, loving Irish family, she learned much about life, love, and family.

Throughout the years, as she experienced the heartache of losing siblings during her younger (and later) years, she learned to treasure, first and foremost, the bond of family. Rather than being lost in the shuffle of such a busy and full household, as the baby, many years younger than her next oldest sibling, she thrived on the love and strength she found among such a deeply bonded Irish family.

Years later, as she began to venture into the world on her own, she began working at NYU. In January, 1955, she met a handsome young Italian student named Victor Nunzio D’Avanzo.  She may not have remembered their first meeting but five months later, he certainly caught her eye. They became friends and, a year and a half later, in April 1956, he worked up the nerve to finally ask her out – officially – for a date…to see the movie Carousel. Their shared love of music and film became a blueprint for so many wonderful experiences over the course of their lives ahead.

Vic entered the Army in 1957. The young couple put their plans on hold while he completed his tour, stationed in Germany and Italy, maintaining their romance from afar. Upon completion of his tour, he returned to his beloved Patricia and they married on February 21, 1960. They welcomed the first of their children, Anne Patricia, into the world in January, 1961. A son, John James, soon followed, followed by daughters Christine Marie (that’s me) and Mary Katherine.

Shortly after Mary’s birth, the family made the decision in 1969 to take advantage of Victor’s new employer’s transfer to good ol’ Atlanta – way down south – where they added to the last of their brood – the not-so-baby anymore, Joseph Victor. Despite the move, their New York/New Jersey roots (and their Brooklyn accents) remained strong.

As their family grew, Patricia chose to transition from working outside the home to a focus on working at home – as caretaker, mother, home maker. This is the Patricia we all grew to know. This is the Patricia I want to share with you.

Our mother, Pat, may have left a life of formal employment behind, but the woman we knew was a jack-of-all-trades. She was a relentless worker. She was a resilient woman with a determined focus and a dedication to faith and family that went unrivaled among so many of the families we’ve known over the years.

Despite the lack of a formal paycheck, Pat held down so many jobs…I dare any of us to rival.

Over the years, she never failed to serve as…okay, let’s start a list…

A chauffer – transporting her children…and friends of her children…to and from their long, long…did I mention LONG…list of activities. From catechism classes to babysitting ventures. To the library. To drill-team, wrestling, dance, swimming, baseball, softball, and other practices. To dances and dates and slumber parties. To football games, track meets, doctor’s appointments, and swim meets. It was a never ending cycle, in the hot Georgia sun or over iced-over roads in the dead of winter. Early in the morning or late into the evening. She was always there, ready to transport us and our friends to ensure we could enjoy our activities and arrive safely at our destination.

A school and community activist – She served for years as a member of the PTA. She sang in the church choir. She served as a neighborhood Block Parent for the entirety of our school careers. It was known, not only in our neighborhood, but among other students at the school, that this was a house they could come to if they were in need. If they felt unsafe. If they needed support. 

One telling story comes to high school, when I split up with a boyfriend (kids will be kids)…he came by the house a few days later with a large bouquet of flowers in his hands. Mom opened the door, assuming he was coming to talk to me…only to learn the flowers were for her. They proceeded to spend over an hour talking on the porch – giving him her full attention and helping to ease his mind…and his heart. I remember, too, several friends who have shared with me in recent years, a love for the warmth and welcoming heart of the home she built and how they wished they could’ve been a part of our family.

She also served as…

A laundress – With so many mouths to feed, to clothe, to supply, to manage, she spent countless hours and days managing load after load of laundry – a feat that boggles my mind to this day. Only once or twice did we end up with the dreaded pink underwear load, usually because one of us was clueless enough to open the washer and stuff a new, bright red sweater into a hot water load of whites without her knowledge…but she just moved on. Life is life. You take life’s small lemons and just move on. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

She served as…

A seamstress – She LOVED to sew. She spent years making clothes for us. School and team costumes, holiday dresses, even my dress for junior prom, among so many. Even more importantly, she taught us how to sew. She made it a thrill and helped us discover our own unique styles by helping us learn how to combine patterns until we found our perfect match. Ok, so they were fashions of the 70s…I never said she was a miracle worker!

She was a baker, a chef, a personal shopper – With 5 kids, all with different demands, I remember hours upon hours over the course of our lives picking out clothes and supplies for school, for special events. Cooking – dinners for such a large family, for neighborhood friends, for boyfriends and girlfriends, for bake sales, school events, and holiday parties. Food was a huge part of our lives. An event that brought us together…that allowed us to deepen the bonds of family while honoring our family heritage.

A nurse, doctor, nursemaid, and therapist – With a houseful of active kids, there was always someone getting hurt, sick, depressed. From injuries to illnesses to broken hearts, she was always there. In quiet stead, never visible a moment’s panic, always ready to heal, to nurse, to listen, to encourage.

A hairdresser – With such strong Irish and Italian genes, we were all bound to be a handful in the coifing department. COUNTLESS hours (and dollars) spent on haircuts and detangling products, she never gave up. The hours she spent on my hair alone, as you can imagine, must have aged her 20 years prematurely!

A peacekeeper – Needless to say, with such a large family, she became an expert in peace keeping and treaty negotiation. Teaching us always that, underlying even the deepest of quarrels, we are still family and family must continue to honor, respect, and love one another, no matter how deep the obstacle.

A historian – She was a lover of history, especially of Ireland and celtic lore. It was important and touched her soul deeply to know her family history. To know her family’s heritage. To stay connected to the roots that defined the family she so deeply loved.

She was also a film historian – One of her greatest loves, outside of her family, was film. She nurtured a love of film from her younger days that only grew as she grew older. Through her, we all learned the value and beauty of this amazing medium and, although our tastes may vary greatly, there are films that have bonded us together as a family and proved as markers for so many great memories and moments in our lives – from Jimmy Stewart to James Cagney to Clark Gable, to her beloved musicals --The Sound of Music to My Fair Lady, The Ten Commandments to the Wizard of Oz, Paint Your Wagon, South Pacific, Brigadoon, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and her most beloved and the film that changed the course of her life that night in 1956 - Carousel

She was a librarian – Above all else except her family and her faith, she had a love for books. She was a voracious reader. Whether delving into a fairytale, a novel, classic literature, or a biography (her favorite), she was never without a book. She engrained in us all a deep and impassioned love of reading that has not only held true but been passed down to the following generations. To this day, all of us harbor a love for those most treasured of happy places (besides the church) – a library or bookstore!

Lastly, she was a teacher – of life and of faith. For anyone who knew her, you knew she was centered, grounded, and made whole by her faith…and her marriage. A lifelong Catholic, her faith was always the center of her world. The center of her marriage. The center of her family. It was with the strength of her faith that she raised us all. Whether following in her footsteps as devout Catholics or seeking out our own paths of spirituality, she and our father taught us the importance of being true to ourselves, our beliefs, and to build our lives around a spiritual core, no matter where it lies. They taught us that a marriage needs a foundation, commitment, respect, compromise, and above all, deep, true, and unwavering love.

You will see many of us proudly wearing our treasured Claddagh rings. These rings not only remind us of her and represent our Irish heritage but reinforce and remind us of the tenants that defined both of our parents, their marriage, and our family – love, loyalty, and friendship. We hold them near and dear to our hearts.

Over the years, she and Victor welcomed her sons- and daughter-in-law into the family as my brother, Joe, so eloquently wrote, as true sons and daughters – Michelle D’Avanzo, Barnabus Gillmon, and newest (officially anyway) addition Terrell Huddleston.

They welcomed seven grandchildren – Theresa (and her amazing husband Richard) Conlan, Caroline Wuertz, Jaclyn D’Avanzo, Cassidy, Delaney, Keegan, and Kiley Gillmon – and most recently, last month, great-grandson Victor Conlan. Through him, she was able to fulfill her life-long dream, being here to welcome him into the world, even if from afar.

Throughout her life and especially after losing her husband, Victor, December 16, 2007, she found no more fulfilling a joy than when she was surrounded by her family…and it was in that way that she left us…peacefully last Monday. After a lengthy struggle, battling congestive heart failure, she remained optimistic, grounded in her faith, and staying true to her family…and we were all with her, surrounding her with love, either in person or by phone, as our father, Victor, joined us to guide her from this world.

I would like to take a moment to reflect with an old Irish Prayer…

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched,
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet

She is at last, reunited with her husband and lifelong love…with her siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts, and uncles, parents, grandparents and all who have gone before her. I imagine, in my mind and in my heart, a huge celebration.  A mix of Italian and Irish rebel rousing rowdy enough to shake the rafters of even the toughest of clouds. Full of music, food, laughter…and hugs all around.

In the end, she was an amazing role model. I learned the strength of being a strong person from this woman. Of being a lady. Of being a wife. Of being a mother (even if, unlike many of my siblings, mine is only to the four-legged furry kind). Of being a sister, an aunt, a cousin. Of being a woman. Of finding yourself, of treasuring the simple things in life. Of making your life a mission of love, of faith, of strength, despite whatever obstacles you face. Of leaning on family when the road gets rough. Of knowing you are never alone when love binds you to someone – by blood or by choice. Of honoring and respecting that love..Every. Single. Day.

I know it is that love that will carry us forward. That love that will hold us together. No matter what hurdles we face in life. No matter how low or alone we may feel on a given day. I know that she is up there, in quiet steadfastness…praying for us, hoping for us, worrying for us, loving us, binding us together…and with that love in our hearts, she will NEVER be gone. We are still whole. We are still the family and the people she so unselfishly taught us to be. Through us, her legacy, her patience, her beauty, and her love will never fade and will continue through the generations to follow. In them, you can always recognize her – her strength, her resolve, her heart. That little Irish twinkle we all saw in the corner of her eye when she smiled…and it is through each of us that she lives on.


MUSIC LIST (Visitation):
01 - The Sound of Music - The Hills Are Alive
02 - Star of the County Down
03 - Celtic Song of Farewell
04 - Ireland's Waltz Everlasting
05 - Helen Jane Long - Expression
06 - Clint Eastwood - I Talk To The Trees (from Paint Your Wagon)
07 - Frank Sinatra - Moon River
08 - Johnny Mathis - Chances Are
09 - Rosemary Clooney – I’ll Be Seeing You
10 - Craig Armstrong - Glasgow Love Theme
11 - Billy Boyd - The Edge of Night: Pippin's Song (From The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
12 - Thomas Tallis - O Sacrum Convivium
13 - Vivaldi - The Four Seasons- Concerto II (Spring)- Largo
14 - Enya - May It Be
15 - Billy Boyd - The Last Goodbye (from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)
16 - Ed Sheeran - The Parting Glass (from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)
17 - On My Own (from Les Miserables Movie Soundtrack)
18 - Waitin' for My Dearie - Brigadoon (Original Soundtrack) [1954]
19 - Till There Was You - Shirley Jones (The Music Man 1962 Film Soundtrack)
20 – Giorgio Tozzi - Some enchanted evening (from South Pacific)
21 - Nat King Cole - Unforgettable (1961 Version)
22 - Joanie Madden - Song of the Irish Whistle: The Immigrant
23 - Celtic Woman - Danny Boy
24 – Rowan Taheny – Kilkelly (from Irish Roses - Women of Celtic Song)
25 - Ed Sheeran - I See Fire
26 - Van Morrison - Into the Mystic
27 - Simon & Garfunkel- The Sound of Silence (Original Version from 1964)
28 - Loreena MckKnnitt - Down by the Sally Gardens
29 - Joanie Madden - The South Wind
30 - Petula Clark - How Are Things In Glocca Morra
31 – Judy Garland - Somewhere Over the Rainbow (from The Wizard of Oz)
32 - Gene Kelly - Almost like being in love (from Bridgadoon)
33 - The Irish Rovers - Fiddler's Green
34 - My Fair Lady Soundtrack - I Could Have Danced All Night
35 - Bing Crosby - Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's An Irish Lullaby)
36 - The Irish Rovers - Bonnie Kellswater
37 – Jim Croce - Time In A Bottle
38 - Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge over troubled water
39 - John Denver - Fly Away
40 – Peter Paul & Mary - Wedding Song (There Is Love)
41 - Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories
42 - Helen Jane Long - Porcelain
42b - Helen Jane Long - Passes
43 – Leah - Between Two Worlds  (from Celtic Song)
44 - 'The Parting' (from Celtic Song)
45 - Gene Kelly - The Heather On The Hill (from Brigadoon)
46 – Christopher Plummer – Edelweiss (from The Sound of Music)
47 - Bali Hai (from South Pacific)
48 - Sabbath prayer (from Fiddler on the Roof)
49 - Harve Presnell - They Call the Wind Maria (from Paint Your Wagon)
50 – Somewhere (from West Side Story)
51 - Rosemary Clooney – Tenderly
52 - Bing Crosby - My Girl's An Irish Girl (Single Version)
53 - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Over The Rainbow & What A Wonderful World
54 - Loch Lomond (from Irish Roses- Women of Celtic Song)
55 - Bing Crosby - Danny Boy (Single Version)
56 - When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
57 - Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss - Slumber My Darling
58 - Luciano Pavarotti - Schubert - Ave Maria
59 - Mario Lanza - The Lords Prayer
60 - Scottish Bagpipes - Funeral Song (Amazing Grace)
61 - The Irish Rovers - The Unicorn

No comments:

Post a Comment