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Column: Living And Loving For Others

Heights Columnist

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01

My grandmother hasn’t got much time left. As I’m writing this, she is lying in the other room “snoring” because she hasn’t received dialysis in almost two weeks. She will soon depart from us.

When I learned we decided against continuing dialysis and put her in a home hospice program, I called her to talk to her. After I got off the phone with her and my mother, I cried. I didn’t tear up - I bawled harder than I ever have in my life. I’m not sure when she’ll go (she’s already defied the odds), but I will be very sad—much sadder than I am now.

I don’t know what you believe—and I certainly don’t know what I believe anymore—but when she is gone from this Earth, she will exist for us only in our memories and hearts. I believe that we all can be true to this memory and walk with Grandma Dorothy in our hearts.

I must begin by expressing a great deal of gratitude for her. Without her, I could not be at Boston College. Not only did she finance what the government and University did not, but she also pushed me to succeed in my academics. I would ride the school bus home from St. Agnes School in second grade, and my grandma would help me prepare for Sister Kathleen’s arithmetic time tests. We would spend the afternoon repeating addition and subtraction. By the end of the year, I was tied for second in the class. Not bad for an English major. My grandmother knew what was important in the world and chose to help the people who were special to her succeed in those important endeavors.

Grandma also told me many stories from when she was a kid growing up in the neighborhood we all still live in. One of the first ones I offer to people when I’m forcibly cramming these stories down their throats is that she knew Al Capone. She said he was an ugly man, but she liked him because he would give her and her friends nickels, practically a fortune to a seven year old in the 1920s, to spend at the candy store.

Another story that I don’t share, though, is how her family survived during the Great Depression. Her parents (for better or worse) were too proud to accept food stamps but relied on the charity of their neighbors who would give them bags of rice. Not only did I inherit her pride and disdain for plain rice, but I also inherited this need to give to and receive care from others. This does not have to take the form of traditional almsgiving, but we must be open to opportunities to be helped and help others. I think this genetic desire to serve others coupled with my grandma’s time spent helping me on time tests put me on the path I have followed to become a teacher.

When my parents were getting divorced, my grandma gave my mother and me a place to stay. This is the house where my grandma raised her family, where my brother and I would go after school, and now it is the house where my grandma will die. I don’t think there’s any place she would rather leave her physical body than in this home where she has made and done so much that is good.

She will leave us, but the physical and metaphorical home she has made for us will remain. Not only can my family and I learn from her making of a home, but all of us at BC and beyond can learn the importance of living and loving for others. She is leaving her earthly home, but she will continue on in our hearts, our minds, and how we live our lives.


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