Sunday, December 20, 2009
This is what I read at Grandpa's funeral service...it's long, but it was my way to pay him the respect he deserved.
There are many people here today, and each one had a unique relationship with Gaspare. To some he was co-worker, to some you called him friend. To many, we loved him as family. Regardless of the nature of your relationship with Gaspare, I’m sure we can each testify to the fact that he was a hard-working, determined, and passionate individual. For 18 of us who called him Grandpa, we were privileged to see another side of him. We saw the tender, kind, giving, supportive and proud heart of this loving man. Each of us grandchildren think that we are his favorite, because that’s how he treated us. We have learned many valuable lessons from him, and most importantly, his love for us has been a strength and foundation for our lives.
Each of us grandchildren have heard several phrases over and over, He would tell us "manga"(eat), "aspett" (wait), "shamane walio" (let's go boy), and his favorite and ours, "gimme bacett" (give me a kiss).
Many of the lessons that Grandpa taught us are universal in nature, and they can be implemented in to each life that is represented here today. We can all find inspiration and encouragement from the values that he tried to impart to those he loved.
He taught us from a very young age that with hard work, we could achieve any goal we had our hearts set on. Grandpa told us stories of how he came to this country with nothing, yet through dedication and determination he was able to not only survive in a foreign country, but thrive in this land of opportunity. He came as an underdog, and overcame many obstacles to reach a level of great success. Grandpa would continually remind us,”You’re #1”, and he would challenge us to in his words, “Do better than me.” As we grew up and pursued college, careers, and the making of our own families, he would remind us of how proud he was of us. His pride wasn’t based upon what we had obtained, but upon the fact that we tried our absolute best to overcome barriers in our path, much as he had. Each grandchild wrote a letter to Grandpa last Christmas thanking him for his presence in our lives and recounting a special memory we shared with him. And each letter, although unique in content, had one cohesive theme. We each recognized the role that Grandpa’s support and cheer leading had played in our lives. I am confident that we can achieve any goal we set our hearts on, because over 55 years ago, Grandpa came here to provide the opportunity for his family and descendants. We, as his family, are reaping the benefits of his impeccable work ethic, his attitude of determination, and his positive outlook. We can honor the patriarch of our family, by following in his footsteps.
Grandpa also was known for instilling in us grateful and thankful heart. He would tell us stories of how he did not own a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old…and they were boots at that. He took those boots to a field and used them as goal posts during a soccer game with the neighborhood children. You can imagine his fear when he realized one of his boots was missing. He was so scared of the trouble that he was going to get into from his parents, that he ran and hid underneath his bed. We would giggle when this story was told, but we learned through this, how much we were truly blessed with. If Grandpa ever walked in to the room while you were eating, watching TV, or relaxing, he’d repeat one of his most famous phrases, “Ohhhh. Nice Country”. Grandpa was very strategic about teaching us to appreciate what we had, but not to forget or minimize our heritage and where we came from. He wanted us to understand how blessed we were to live in this country, and how blessed we were to have the love and support of family.
Which brings me to the lesson that Grandpa was most passionate about. There are three things I know for sure about my grandpa. He loved Grandma, he loved soccer, and he loved his family. The unity of family was of the utmost of importance to him, and Grandpa went to great lengths to show us his love for us. There was one time when Grandpa took the four oldest grandchildren, we were 8-10, at the time, to a Cubs game. The game went on for 21 innings, and surprisingly we lasted for 17 of them! I think Grandpa got more than he bargained for on that outing. But, he did it because he loved us. When Joe and Josh were younger, Grandpa had it planned to take them to the house in Elmwood Park to work. Somehow on the way to the house, his grandsons convinced him to take them to Kiddieland instead. After being there for 45 minutes, Joey got lost by the bumper cars. Again, Grandpa got more than he bargained for on that adventure as well. The middle group of girls, Cara, Janna, Shayna, and Erica had Grandpa wrapped around their fingers, and his heart melted at the sound of each of their voices. Richie and Grandpa shared a love for soccer, and Grandpa saw a bit of himself in his grandson. I have never seen a more tender side of Grandpa though, than when he was with his youngest grandchildren, Nico and Gigi. They were such a source of joy to him over these last few years. Grandpa would do and did do anything for his family. In fact, the last conversation I had with Grandpa was about family. We were in his TV room trying to get a soccer game over the internet, when he stopped midstream, raised his hand, and began to commission me to keep track of the family. He wanted to be sure that I was going to keep all of his grandchildren connected after he was gone. Family was what motivated Grandpa to do what he did, and to be who he was. We must forgive freely, share in one anothers joys, and carry one anothers burdens, just as he has taught us to do.
It was evident to see the love that Grandpa had for his family. The sadness that he felt at the passing of his sister Auntie Palma and his brother-in-law Uncle Frank motivated him even more to cherish his loved ones and cultivate unity among us. Grandpa adored his sisters Auntie Mary and Auntie Lena, and judging by the way they helped care for him during this past year, the feeling was mutual. Grandpa waited to go to Heaven until he had the assurance that his younger brother, Uncle Tommy was back and safe. He was blessed with many nieces and nephews who continually showed their honor and respect for him this past year by visiting him, and serving him, thus giving him the encouragement to keep fighting. His four children, my mother Rose Ann, Uncle Michael, Auntie Angela, and Auntie Denise were his pride and joy and strength. Each one of you is unique in personality, yet each one possesses definite and exact characteristics of your Father. You are strong, passionate, and sacrificing people, and those are marks of Grandpa. And of course, his wife, Grandma Bea. You and Grandpa have made this family what it is today. Grandma the way you nurtured Grandpa and loved him, is what extended his life beyond what was expected. And this past year has given me a glimpse of how much he loved you, and how thankful he was for your presence in his life. You were his strength. You were his light. You were his cheerleader. It is our gift to him then, to remain close and undivided, and our relationship with one another is what carries on his legacy, and keeps his memory alive. Our harmony and love for each other is the greatest gift we can give to him.
Lastly, if I can interject a personal lesson, I’d like to take a brief moment to speak about what Grandpa’s recent journey has taught me. If you have visited Grandpa over these past few months, you would have seen several Scripture verses that lined his dresser in the bedroom. These passages spoke about the peace that comes from knowing God. In a few short days, Christmas will be here. It is a time to enjoy your family and friends. Most importantly, it is a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hundreds of years before Jesus came to Earth as a baby, a man by the name of Isaiah spoke about him. Isaiah, says, “ For unto us a child is born…and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Again, Isaiah refers to this future baby, and says, “He shall be called, Immanuel, which is God with us.” As I have watched my grandpa over this past year, I have not seen one ounce of bitterness in his heart for his circumstance. I didn’t see a man angry with God, or a man who questioned the existence of his creator. Instead, I saw a man who continually talked about how blessed he was and how thankful he was for his life. I saw a man who was seeking peace, and found it with God. Let us learn then from Grandpa. Jesus is truly the giver of Peace, and he is God with us during our darkest of times. As the days pass and we reflect upon the life of Jasper, may we find comfort in the same peace that comforted him.
Let’s us not focus on our loss then, but let us celebrate the life that Grandpa lived, and implement into our own lives his determination, his heart of thankfulness, and his commitment to family. A few weeks ago I was helping Grandpa put on his slippers before he left the bed, and I looked up to see his face smiling, and he said, “Aren’t I lucky? I’m a lucky guy”. I think we would all agree that we were in fact the lucky ones. We were the ones who were blessed to have known him and been loved by him.