Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Nothing...But Everything": A Tribute To My Mom - "St. Frances of Turri"

Thank you to all of those who have sent cards, letters, emails and gifts - to all of you who have made special visits or phone calls - and to all of you who found the time out of your busy work days and Memorial Day Weekend celebrations to attend the Memorial Service for my Mom (Frances Mary Turri Pilato) on Friday, May 23rd.

For those not able to attend, I wanted to share the words I spoke at the Service, as I continue in the process of moving on and bringing closure to this most very important chapter in my life.

Other "creations" will transpire in the future as a result of the love and life I shared with my parents - and as you will read in this blog post, there may be a movie and/or a TV show or two that will arise to chronicle it all.

But for now, it all begins with words.

May God=Love bless you all - and may every moment of your lives be filled with health, strength, riches - and Light.

Herbie J

THE TRIBUTE

My Mom was a great person, parent, sister, daughter, cousin, niece, friend and employee. She worked at Kodak for 17 years, just shy of earning a pension that would have “set her up for life.” But she left Kodak – to have me. Years later, after we moved from Erie Street to Greenleaf Meadows, she started working in the lunch room at Number 7 School.

My Dad used to take her to work, go to OTB, and then pick her up a few hours later. They’d go on to McDonalds, then Wegmans supermarket, and back to Greenleaf. After my nephew Sammy was born, they’d pick him up at daycare, and bring HIM back to Greenleaf. And that was their simple HAPPY life – every day – for years.

When I tried to move on with MY life after my father died, I made the attempt to bring my Mom to California. And that was pretty much a disaster. So, we brought her back here, and subsequently moved her to the South Village Apartments at the Shire in Irondequoit.

Meanwhile, I stayed in LA – and did a few shows – but my heart wasn’t in it. I missed my Mom. I missed Rochester. So I came back and moved into the NORTH Village Apartments at the Shire, where I named myself the Volunteer Director of Activities. I wanted to create the sense of family that we had for years on Erie Street and at Greenleaf. So, I started throwing parties and picnics - big parties, little parties, pizza parties, Thanksgiving Day Parties, Christmas parties, New Years Eve parties, Easter parties, Tax Day Parties, and of course, the real big parties for my Mom’s 80th and 85th birthdays – the latter of which was the mother of ALL the parties.

People said, “Oh, Herbie J - you gave up your life for your Mother.” But I never looked at it like that. I did those parties because I wanted to – and I enjoyed them. I’d see movies and TV shows about a small town boy who moved to the big city and made it big. He then realizes that the big city ain’t all that.

And I loved those movies – for a few hours. Then I thought, “You know - instead of me feeling all warm and fuzzie for just a few hours and instead of me putting all my energy into maybe writing scripts similar to those movies, I’d rather LIVE the scripts of life – then write them.”

It’s because of my Mom that I came to appreciate the simple treasures of life – as opposed to the glamour and glitter of Hollywood. In turn, she gave me a treasure trove of stories, which will now one day be turned into movies and TV shows – maybe even with a few of YOU in them.

One of my favorite memories of my Mom centers around a TV show: The Golden Girls, which I’d watch with her whenever I had the chance. One afternoon last year, while watching the show with her, I thought about the full and successful lives and careers of the older women on the series. I also thought about how my own life has been so full of aspirations, personal and professional. I then looked over at my Mom, turned off the TV and asked, "Mom - what did YOU want to be when you were young?"


"What do you mean?" she said.

"Well," I continued, "Did YOU ever have any dream job or dreams of how you wanted YOUR life to turn out?"

My Mom sat there for a moment, with these questions, and searched her memory, which had been gradually erased by dementia. Yet, she glanced back at me, determined to give me an answer, and replied, "I guess it was always my dream to one day go to a community center every day, where I would have a good meal, be with people, play cards and bingo. That was always my dream."


At first, I was startled and sad for her. Whatever aspirations she may have had as a child, a teen or an adult, were gone - lost in the deep sleep of her memory. But then, after a moment, I was happy for her. My Mom had convinced herself in the short NEW history of her life that going to the Senior Center (every day for the last twelve years) was the fulfillment of a LIFE-LONG dream – and she was content.

I felt God shining upon and THROUGH her that day.

And I felt that a LOT in her last few months – more so than usual. Everything and everyone was beautiful to her. Everyone’s blouse was pretty – everyone’s shirt was sharp. The trees were so green. The sky was so blue. She was ALREADY seeing Heaven.

On EARTH, my Mom left me, my sister and my nephew with NOTHING. And yet, she left us with EVERYTHING. Nothing of what this world calls secure. And everything of what this world holds dear. My Mom left no diamonds, no cars or homes, no stocks, bonds or annuities – but taught us to understand the true value of endless forgiveness. She left us no cold, hard cash, but encouraged us to invest in warm, soft unconditional Love. She may have left Kodak one year shy of earning a pension, but in the end, or at least what we CALL the end, she had a penchant, as in ENTHUSIASM, for life – and it was concealed in new beginnings:

She died in the Spring, the season of rebirth, shortly before Mother’s Day, on May 5th – Cinquo de Mayo – a joyful 24-hour period that kicked off the week-long festival of lilacs, which bloom in the many shades of lavender - her favorite color.

I loved my Mom - and my Dad - and it is through them that I came to love all of you, and if I learned anything in caring for my parents in these last few years, I learned this: we are ALL Mothers and Fathers to one another…we are each other’s CHILDREN – EQUAL in the eyes of ETERNAL Father/Mother. Whether on Earth or in Heaven, Love is the only thing that survives in BOTH worlds.

On Earth, my Mom’s Love was packaged and shaped in a body and a personality called Frances. And though we may not see her now, everything about her that was Love - lives on...her sense of humor, the echo of her singing voice, every hug she ever gave, every blessing she ever made with her rosary - all of it - survives. Everything else that was NOT Love...the dementia...the fear...the anxiety...the heart ailments...the stomach issues - all of THAT has been burned away in the Light of GOD’S Love.

In my view, our journey and final destination is like a rocket soaring into space. The pieces of us that we don’t need – fall off as we move closer to the Light of God’s EMBRACE – until all that is left is the little capsule that holds our soul. My Mom’s capsule - filled with every loving thought and every act of loving kindness that she ever displayed on Earth - is now not only bundled together, magnified, multiplied and showcased in Heaven – but it’s the personal, immeasurable, immortal - and priceless legacy that she left for me, my sister, my nephew - and each of us.
For more stories about St. Frances of Turri, please see these links:
"Blessing Babies"
"For Red Lacagnina"
"Dreams My Mother Taught Me"
"Mom & the 28 Quarters"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frances Pilato's Memorial Service - Friday, May 23rd, 11:00 AM at St. Cecilia's

Hello Everyone -

The Memorial Service for my Mom is now scheduled Friday, May 23rd, 11 AM @ St. Cecilia's in Irondequoit, New York.

May God=Love Bless You All,

Herbie J