Nine years ago today was one of the most emotionally thrilling and equally devastating days of my life. Just the day before, I had an overwhelming urge to take a pregnancy test, something that had never even crossed my mind before. I was home alone and stared down at those two pink lines knowing that my life was about to change in the most profound way, but having no idea what that really meant. My first inclination was to tell my Nani, even before my husband or my mother. She had been my very best friend for my entire life and I always shared my biggest news with her.
She was very ill, in the hospital, and I knew that my time with her was likely coming to an end. But she was a cat with nine lives and I hoped that she would give us all one more miraculous recovery. After sharing my news with The Grillin’ Fool, we decided to head out to see her and tell her about our baby.
For the past few days the hospital had been filled with our extended family, visiting, praying and loving our Nani. There wasn’t a single moment that a cousin, Aunt or Uncle wasn’t keeping vigil over her bed. Because of the constant flow of visitors, I had not had a chance to tell my own parents that we were expecting. I felt a bit guilty, but knew that ultimately they would understand why I chose to tell her first. I opened the door to her room and waiting inside were my three brothers, my parents and Nani laying peacefully in her bed. Just my immediate family, no one else. I knew that God intended for us to share this news right then and there with all of them.
I leaned in, kissed my Nani on the forehead and said,
“Nani, I have something to tell you. I am going to have a baby.”
You could hear a pin drop. There were looks of shock on the faces of my family, but no one said a word. She opened her eyes, ever so slightly and smiled.
“Oh honey. I am so happy about your baby. That makes my life complete.”
The next day, she passed away. My heart broke in a way that I had never experienced. But even in my sorrow, I took solace in the fact that my final conversation with her was to share the most amazing news of my life and I knew that she would watch over me throughout my pregnancy.
I believe in God, I believe in miracles and I believe in signs. I have felt her presence in my life many times in the last nine years. As I was preparing for Handsome #1’s baptism the May after she died, Maurmi brought over the silver cup that Nani had given to me as an infant. It was horribly tarnished and the inscription was illegible. Maurmi scrubbed and polished that cup until it looked brand new. She handed it to me and as I read the engraving, my heart skipped a beat.
April 22, 1979
Most infant cups have the baby’s birth date on them. My Nani had mine inscribed with my baptismal date. That seemingly benign date also happens to be Handsome #1’s birthday, the boy whose baptism we were preparing for. She was there the day he was born, she was there the day he was baptized and she was with us in my kitchen as my mother and I cried staring at that cup.
Life has moved on in nine years and mine has changed so very much, but I don’t think that she has missed a thing. Sure, I wish that she was still here with me, but as I have grown older and wiser, I use that word very cautiously, I realize that you have to live your best life while you are here on earth and your guardian angel will take care of you. When I need a little boost, I think of her and the wonderful things she did for me. I could write a book just about her and the Friday nights that I spent at her house watching Love Connection and eating peanuts and drinking Sprite in bed.
While I miss her like crazy and I wish she was here, I watch her daughter and she has embodied the very best of her own mother and is becoming her. My Nani was at every game, every performance, every thing that she could be for her grandchildren. She was the ultimate cheerleader and we could do no wrong. If you look out in the stands at St. Simon today, you will see that same fierce defender of her grandchildren with a smile on her face and more love in her heart that anyone I know. Her name is Maurmi and her grandchildren adore her.
For the first 28 years of my life, I watched my Nani and my mother with envy. They had the kind of relationship that many mothers and daughters dream of having. I was close to my mother, but nothing like the two of them. My Nani had been my very best friend and it wasn’t until she was gone that I truly began to appreciate my own mother for the woman that she is. I used to be a bit jealous of the way that my children’s faces light up when she comes in the room, but then I remember my own childhood and realize that is the way it is supposed to be.
As a mom, I admire her. I know that she learned from the best in the world and I want like hell to be like them. No words can accurately describe the way that I feel about my mom. She is my best friend, my partner in crime and the source of more laughter than any person on the planet. Every minute that we spend together is cherished. She loves her family, her faith and her friends and will drop anything to help others. I cannot imagine what I would ever do without her. Many women dread hearing, “You’re turning into your mother.” To me, it is the ultimate compliment.
God surprised us last summer and gave my husband and I a fourth baby. Like always, we decided to keep the gender a surprise, truly wanting nothing but this blessing. I prayed for a smooth pregnancy. I prayed for a safe delivery. I prayed for a healthy baby. God granted me each of these. Unlike my previous deliveries that all began in induction, with baby #4 my water broke in the middle of the night and we headed to the hospital despite the fact that I was scheduled to deliver via c-section a few days later.
After painful contractions in the hallway, even worse pains in pre op and miserable pains before the spinal block was in, the surgery started.
Before I knew what hit me, my doctor cheerfully announced,
“Oh my God, Colleen, it’s a girl. It’s a girl!”
As I looked at my gorgeous pink bundle of love, I knew that my life was forever changed for the fourth time. I was once again inspired to be a better mother. I looked at my husband, both of us with tears in our eyes, and fell in love with him all over again. My heart was so very full. Together we have created an incredible family and I am so very proud.
That beautiful girl, Darling, was named after my Nani and Maurmi in the hopes that she will posses their special breed of moxie. I know that she is destined to make her mark on this world. Every day, I look at her sweet little face, and I hope that she and I will have the kind of relationship that my mom and I and she and her mother had.
Nani, nine years has literally been a lifetime for me. I was just a girl when you left me, now I am a mother of four trying to get it right. You certainly left an impression on the hearts of those who knew you. Believe it or not, people still talk about you and your constant presence when we were growing up. It has not gone unnoticed the impact that you had on your baby girl as she has truly embodied your spirit and continues to make you proud continuing your legacy as the best grandmother out there.
I miss you more than ever and I wish I could have you back for just one day to laugh and smile and eat of loaf of jelly toast in your kitchen. I know that you will continue to watch over us all and to bless each of us in your special way. I love you so and appreciate what you have helped me to become more than I could ever explain. She is a fireball with smiling Irish eyes and I promise that your namesake will do you proud. I can’t wait to see you back in two and two……