Gran’s funeral was a great day of celebrating a life well lived.

And the Italian side of the family cooked for two days before Gran’s Day. Steve squeezed over 100 lemons for lemonade and picked tomatoes and basil for the bruchetta. Everything came from our garden…the garden Gran loved so. While my Mom cooked up sausage and peppers, marinated shrimp and zucchini, and Mediterranean wraps, Kyra and I baked Italian cookies. In the middle of baking, I had to leave her with a particularly difficult cookie—bruttis—meaning ugly little cookie—made of ground toasted hazelnuts and meringue, they were delicious! So handling her baking emergency calls while driving to pick up Jarys at the airport…well, it was a very busy day…yet filled with joy, because we were doing it all for Gran. 

As Jarys got settled, I whipped up lemon icing for the agnolettis. Kyra had just put magic bars into the oven (Gran’s favorite). “Jarys is home and here we are baking,” she said with a bit of powdered sugar dusting her cheek, “it feels like the holidays!” Yes, it did. And Gran was with us enjoying every moment. 

Not that I didn’t cry at her funeral. I tried to hold it together with everyone looking to me for direction—not unusual since I tend to lead—but I didn’t have time to cry while setting up for the reception so I just got frustrated. Mom blamed it on hormones (or lack thereof) but all the cookies got plated and the buffet laid out nicely. Flowers from my garden graced the tables…Gran loved to arrange bouquets and her presence was strong while I placed the roses and hydrangeas in vases. So strange how my roses all perished the day she died…then new buds blossomed in time for her funeral. 

Before entering the chapel, I had to stop and cry under a tree. I know Gran wasn’t in that fancy coffin but with me and each of us…in our hearts…yet the tradition of burying the dead…it’s hard. I do not remember my own grandparents’ funerals. I remember their deaths…too well…but their funerals were not celebrations. I didn’t want that for my children…nor would Gran…so we celebrated! 

The chapel was filled with people dressed in…bright Hawaiian prints. Gran loved color! No somber black to dishonor the brightness of Gran.

During the service, Steve honored Gran first. He spoke of her energy and how attached we all were to her energy of hope and home. How by being loved by her, we would always know her energy; she would be attracted to ours and always be with us. Since her death, Gran has come to Steve. He is amazed but not surprised at the clarity of their connection. I am so grateful that Gran has become his spirit partner through the veil…there is no separation. 

Gran was home for the entire family. She never knew a stranger. She loved freely and as Jarys said “accepted each of us for who we are.” The pastor could barely contain us as we stood to speak our love for Gran. 

Five generations attended her funeral…she left a legacy of hope. The reception afterwards turned out to be the party we wanted for Gran. Sharing our memories, loving each other, enjoying the food…of course we made way too much…so Steve’s family was sent home with leftovers. 

Yet I kept some biscotti…to dip in coffee, a cup for me and a half cup for Gran.


A few days before Gran died, she was expressing her gratitude: “I’m so fortunate to have my family taking care of me.” My mother-in-law responded, “Of course, Mom, it’s what families do.” Gran smiled, “It’s because we’re Italian.”

My mother-in-law gently explained that they are not Italian. (In fact very Anglo-Saxon. The family name is Jones!) Now I’m from an Italian American family and Gran spent an awful lot of time with us…I do believe Italian rubbed off on her. How could it not? We spent most of the time in the kitchen cooking. The rest of the time in the garden enjoying a cup of coffee. Gran loved her coffee. While she was here, I never drank so much in my life! “Come, Debbie, have a cup of coffee with me.” She would ask late in the afternoon. “Oh, and maybe we can have those cookies we made the other day. Just a couple. We don’t want to spoil our dinner.”  How could I refuse? It was precious time spent with an amazing woman…my only grandma.

Italians pass the time playing cards. Gran never played cards before, but she learned fast. Her youngest daughter was surprised, “Mother doesn’t play cards!” Gran was brought up in the Reformed Church of the Latter Day Saints…no card playing allowed, no dancing, no drinking, no swearing. Well, in our house Gran played Gin-Rummy, enjoyed “just a sip” of Steve’s homemade wine and no, not a virgin margarita, but a real one “you know I love the salted rim!” and once we were having a frank discussion after dinner about the consequences of proposition 8 and Gran got upset, “It’s no one’s damn business who people love!” Oh yes, and she and I would dance. Foregoing the walker, I would hold her tightly in my arms and we’d sway to the music.

When Kyra would come home, we would all be in the kitchen making something delicious. My Mom would join us—she runs my practice which is right here on our property so I could be home for the kids and then for Gran—four generations making fig jam, stuffing zucchinis, preparing yet another meal. Mom would squeeze Gran and give her a kiss. “It’s not a kitchen without a grandma in it!” Just as Gran took me in as her granddaughter, she treated my mother as a daughter.

Gran had enough love for all of us and more. Years ago she “adopted” a young black man who reveres her. And her Hispanic caretaker came to the hospital in February, laid her head next to Gran’s and wept. She stayed hours petting and fussing over Gran.

Gran worked in the Farmers Market for 30 something years making friends with Jewish, Asian, Hispanic and Blacks. She did not see race or color or religion or sexual preference. Gran only saw people. And she was always delighted to meet them, all of them…and perhaps share a cup of coffee?

Steve and I were reminiscing last night. I know you tend to elevate the dead, forgetting their worldly transgressions and focusing on the good. But no need to embellish Gran. Like Steve said, “She was always genuinely glad to be see me, accepted me completely and my presence brought her joy.” Gran treated all of us like this…in her presence our truth shone…because she really “saw” us…she looked past the shadows and embraced the light in each of us…

Steve believes karma is incurred over your lifetime. He’s spent his consciously banking good karma. Gran didn’t know much about karma…but her bank was full. I believe karma can be imprinted. My research shows it begins in the womb…remember the Red Cord…yet I have been branded by Gran. She has imprinted me to the roots of my soul.

Only one day gone, I miss her so.

The family is making plans for the funeral. They want to get a hall for the reception afterwards, get a caterer…you know cold cuts and petit fours. I called my mother-in-law and told her “The Italian side of the family is cooking! Oh and we don’t do petit fours.” She laughed and told her sister. I could hear Auntie in the background. “Thank goodness, I love tomato, mozzarella and basil.”

I’ve started the menu entitled—Gran’s Day—the day we gather to celebrate her life: Bruschetta, melon and prosciutto, marinated grilled vegies, olives, of course lots of bread to dip in Mom’s sauce…she’s doing most of the cooking. I’m the baker in the family… Gran loved my holiday cookies and they go so very well with a cup of coffee. We’ll go to the kitchen to connect— I’m sure Gran will join us—to reminisce and to prepare delicious food, lots of it… It’s what family does…because we’re Italian.