Happy Remembrances: May 2006: Archives

May 28, 2006

Happy Remembrances (Encore) genre: Happy Remembrances

In the winter of 2004, I traveled around the world. One of my most memorable stops was in Rome just before Christmas. The following was written while in Rome and I sent it to friends and family as a Holiday message. On Memorial Day weekend it captures much of my thinking about the meaning of Holidays and the need to remember those who have passed away:

I woke up this morning in Rome with one of those nondescript feelings of unease, the kind we all have on occasion but rarely stop to understand. As is typical, I shrugged it off and set about distracting my mind with routine. I got up and went about getting a shower and preparing to move on with my day despite the fact that I had no particular plan or destination. Routine has a way of soothing those moments of uncertainty. After getting cleaned up and ready, I went out to grab some breakfast. While walking down the street, I decided I wanted something American…good old McDonalds was exactly what I needed. One thing is certain…wherever you go in the world it seems you can find American standards like McDonalds or KFC in touristy areas. Being near the Termina Roma (the train station) meant only a short walk to find not one but two McDonalds to soothe my discomfort and satisfy my American hankering.

Given the time of year, the Termina is lavishly outfitted for the approaching holiday season. As I walked into the station, of course Christmas music was playing and I was quickly reconnected with my feelings of unease. Refusing to acknowledge the feelings, I made my way to the lower level McDonalds; the one more remotely situated allowing for some minor degree of solitude. I placed my order in Italian, complimented myself in my head for having done so, got my order, found a quiet corner and sat down to have a familiar breakfast. With my time in Europe now approaching two months, I find it easy to order and eat alone in crowded places. I think one eventually learns that nobody actually pays any attention despite one’s own feelings of self consciousness. Quite frankly, you realize you’re just not that important, which segue’s nicely into the real subject of today’s musing.

Those that know me are aware that I don’t like holidays or special occasions since they elicit unwanted attention. When asked why, I usually respond that I think every day should be special and it seems inappropriate to make a few days more important. That answer is for the most part true but it really is only a partial answer. Today, the fullness of my feelings became crystal clear as I began to cry while eating my breakfast sitting in a McDonalds. Apparently my feelings were not to be denied. The fact that I am in Rome seems to add significance and context to this moment of expanded awareness.

I will be leaving Rome tomorrow and have virtually toured the entire city. Last evening, I went walking with Giuseppe and Danillo, two Italians I met the other evening. It was quite nice since I hadn’t walked the city at night and seeing some of the sights lit up at night was quite spectacular. During my time in Rome, a couple thoughts have repeatedly entered my mind over and over again. I keep pondering the lives of the people who lived when these ancient buildings and monuments were shiny, gleaming tributes to the societies they represented. I keep wondering about all the good people who came and went without recognition and, even worse, were persecuted or killed for sport and the entertainment of others. Secondly, I keep thinking about my grandparents who came from Italy to America. They often talked about these places in Italy and I remember having heard their words but never really understanding what these places were like or really meant in general or to them specifically. These thoughts are connected in that my grandparents are also no longer here and all I can do is imagine how they viewed this city, these sights, and their own lives in relation to it all.

All of these thoughts rushed together as I sat crying in McDonalds. I have to admit it’s not the first time I have cried while here in Rome. Sometimes it has come from the fact that my grandparents are gone and that I only now see what they spoke about or have any real understanding and I wish I could tell them that I appreciate the efforts they made and what they tried to explain to all of us. Other times while walking the city, it’s because they are gone just like the many people who perished at these sites and all that remains of their lives are the memories those of us who knew them have in our minds. As my thoughts cleared, I realized its not that I dislike holidays in and of themselves…it’s the fact that they seem to only be about the “here and now" and the “me and I". We give lip service to the meaning of most holidays and that is easily understood by anyone who has been in traffic or shopping the malls around Christmas. Anyway, the underlying meaning of most holidays is far too remote and removed from people’s real lives to have the intended value and meaning. It suddenly seemed that it would be more appropriate for the holiday to be about remembering those that are now gone.

So as I cried I concluded that I also dislike the holidays because of what they aren’t. I think holidays should be primarily about remembrance. I understand that can be difficult, but I believe its also transforming. I suddenly realized I needed my holidays to be about remembrance. It doesn’t seem right to be celebrating without remembering, acknowledging, and honoring those that influenced and impacted the person I have become. I think everyone has some of these same uneasy feelings at holiday time. If we would listen and embrace this discomfort we might restore some meaning to the holidays and at the same time uncover answers and consolation in the emptiness that comes from the loss of people we have loved. Each day we wear the fabric of those important people. They are part of our being and their spirit is all that lives on and it can only be seen in those who are unafraid to consciously honor their memory. If that connection is broken, it seems apparent that so too are we.

Everywhere I have traveled I have seen the spirit of those that went before…I know this is true because this is why people flock to see sites like the Coliseum and the Parthenon. These places tell the story of those who are gone…they are the spirit’s legacy. These sights also fail to tell every story and my tears are for those lost or unknown life stories. Maybe that’s why I have never really liked touristy sights. They seem to disregard all the other significant people that were lost without recognition. I’ve also never wanted my picture taken in front of these sites and, until today, I never really asked or knew why. It’s because those sights are a tribute to others and I don’t want to take away from that honor. I don’t belong in those pictures. Life should be about what we create, not about what we take from what others have created. Our mission should be to give something, to leave a part of us in others. Each of us has the opportunity to build a legacy and it is done in the living of our lives…buildings will crumble and statues will fall but a memory born of truth and goodness remains perfectly intact and will live on forever in those we touch.

I find that people are often sad around the holidays and I think that’s unfortunate. I don’t mean to say it’s wrong to be sad but we should be aware in our sadness. For me, some of my greatest comfort comes from embracing the things that bring sadness. I find it to be cathartic. Its one of the primary reasons I am not afraid or ashamed to cry. As I summarized my thoughts, I concluded that this holiday season would be about remembering the people I have known. I finished my breakfast and hurried back to my hotel to write these thoughts. My gift this holiday season will be to share some remembrances. I offer these thoughts to celebrate the spirit of those who are gone. This may be outside the norm but maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with society. Death is one of those topics people seem to avoid…likely because it makes people confront their own mortality. I know that this can be difficult but it seems stifling and sterile to remain silent when there is so much to celebrate about those who have impacted and influenced so many others. Sometimes I wish I could just stop the world long enough for everyone to remember those that are gone. I hate thinking that anyone is ever forgotten and it’s hard to accept that the world moves on so easily.

Many of you won’t know some or all of the people I mention but it doesn’t matter…you see they live on through me and they are a part of who I am and much of what people know of me is because of them. I loved them all and I know of nothing more valuable than to share some of my memories. I’m sure it will trigger your own memories of these and other people now gone and I honor them all. I wish you all Happy Remembrances!

Ben and Rose DiRito

I never knew either of you but in my dad I see your beauty every day…dad I am sure you were right to say they were saints. The many sayings and words of wisdom attributed to them that you’ve shared with me are always in my mind and guide me daily.

Nat and Mary Senatore

I’ve seen you both all over Rome…Grandma I always wanted you to be happy…I saw your will to live every day. Grandpa, when you died I kept hearing you say buona sera in my head and I still hear it today…good night Grandpa. You were both good grandparents and I have countless happy memories. You were my connection to Italy.

Dorothy DiLoretto

Everyone saw your difference and I only saw your beauty. Your heart was gold because you only had love for everyone, no matter who they were or how they saw you. It’s no wonder Uncle Teddy loved you.

Doris Senatore

I never knew you, but I knew what you meant to so many including my mom and grandparents. You were so young and yet so strong. It seems so often when children are terminal, they have a presence beyond their years…perhaps you have to in order to cope with the situation. When my grandpa was older, I remember him crying once and saying he was afraid he would forget your face after so many years. Some faces are unforgettable and I have only seen pictures of you but you had one of those unforgettable faces. You were never forgotten. Mom, I always knew how difficult it was to lose your sister but I also knew it made your heart all the more giving and loving. Doris died with a smile on her face…we should all be so lucky.


They were what KKK should stand for…Kennedy, Kennedy, and King. JFK because the day you were killed is my first vivid memory and I still see my mom crying in the kitchen that day and it started my curiosity and passion for the belief that through politics you can change the world. RFK I followed your campaign with intensity and I was heartbroken when you were assassinated. I watched your coffin travel across the country by train as people lined the tracks in tears. MLK, truer words were never spoken. You all gave me my idealism and the belief that you really can change the world.

Benny DiRito & Delores DiRito

Your laughter will always be remembered…you made people laugh even if it was hard work. I hear your laughter in my memories all the time. I hope your laughter lives forever. Laughter is beautiful, people don’t do it enough!

John Lennon

Imagine all the people living life in peace…I really hope one day everyone will join you. Your songs spoke your heart and touched the world and you did it regardless of how you were viewed. I obviously never knew you but in everyone’s life are people that touched them with a song or with words. Many songs have touched me but yours were special.

Mike Farmer & Jim Farmer

Mike, the light in your eyes at the moment you died is the light you brought every day…your eyes were as bright and true as your heart. You saw goodness in everyone you met, you made everyone welcome, and you brought out the best in everyone. You found me after Grayland and changed my life. I mention Mike’s dad Jim too. Jim you are a tribute to strength and I will always remember your ability to adapt and see goodness when thrown a curve. You knew we loved Mike and that was all you needed to know.

Gary Manzanares

Only someone who knew true beauty could paint true beauty. Your work was true just like you. You painted what was real because you saw what was real. I think about all that you never got to paint every time I think of you.

Jim (Jimmie) Rapp

I never once heard you complain and I know you smiled when it was hard to smile. You gave your time and effort to good causes without notice or reward. Your gentleness is always in my mind when I think of you.

Jeff DiRito

You were brave and even though your life was short, you lived it fully. You were the first of our generation of cousins to pass. Your funeral and the time at the house afterwards are vivid memories in my mind. It was a magical night when everyone felt a unique closeness.

Willie Senatore, Eleanor Senatore

I can’t think of two kinder people. Wherever you were, the room was always brighter and warmer, and love was always there. Some people just overflow with goodness and you were two who did.

Bob Finn

The Catholic Church lost a star when you left the Priesthood but stars shine best when they are true. You were truth when the Church wasn’t. When Ed Toomey said you taught him how to love, I knew what he meant. You and Ed Toomey were my proof that the world was a great place and that knowledge, dignity, and integrity are powerful forces that can be used to make a difference in peoples lives. You both nurtured and inspired everyone around you. You taught what religion should be about and it was your religion that I took from Catholic schools, not Catholicism.

Andy Anderson

If everyone lived like you, what a better world this would be. I respect you as much as anyone I ever met…you gave dignity and honor true meaning. Your pride in your work matched your sincerity. One of the most moving memorial services I have ever witnessed.

There are others I remember and not including them is not intended to lessen the meaning that they have had in my life. I think about them all from time to time. They are always remembered.

Christmas is also about birth and renewal so it only seems appropriate to make a special wish for my niece Stephanie and my nephews Vince and Nicholas. I wish for each of them a world that shows them as much love and compassion as they are shown by their parents and grandparents, a curious and eager mind, an idealism to match their minds, a world that never disappoints them, the strength and will to change it when it does disappoint them, the strength to be good people in a world where its too easy to be bad, and most importantly the beautiful spirit that comes from all the people around them and that was found in all those I have remembered.

To all my family and friends, I love you and I honor your spirits and the beauty that is found in each of you today and every day! Though I am far away, you are all here with me and that makes all the difference. You are part of who I am and who I will be and that is humbling and brings me untold happiness.

Daniel DiRito | May 28, 2006 | 9:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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