Seeing someone die – the actual moment of his last breath – changes a person. My ensuing transformation is in progress. But ever since I was with my grandpa when he passed in March, I have been trying to make sense of it all – life, death, love, and even work. To tell the truth, I’m more confused than ever. Although I long to be the eternal optimist, I never quite get there. It’s just not me. Sadness – with a dash of disillusionment and disappointment – is still washing over me on a regular basis. I’ve actually found comfort in it.
Over the summer, I was in my grandpa’s hometown in Italy, and I spent a lot of time purposefully distracting myself with life’s joys – a walk on the beach and the feel of the sand between my toes, the beauty in every word my nearly 4-year-old son utters, hugs and kisses from the ones I love, the ability to savor delicious food, relishing silence, and making memories on which I can dwell when the tears strike. I’m grateful for all of it, but none of it removed the aching for those who have left us, and the memories we’ll never make with them again. In fact, often these pleasures make what’s missing all the more obvious. My yearning and nostalgia has become about not only my grandfather but the ugly degradation of our family tree with its far more empty branches on both sides.
Then, I returned to my United States. As soon as we entered the driveway, I noticed the miracle growing out of the pavement in our driveway. A tomato plant had sprung up as if out of the blacktop. An employee of my father’s D&D Landscaping decided to nurture the plant, rather than pull it like a weed as many would have done. He gave it soil, so the plant could take root, added a protective wall with brick scraps, and began watering it each morning and evening. So far, his work has paid off. The plant is thriving. More than that, it’s inspiring me.
I can’t help but think that my grandfather planted the seed for these tomatoes. I need to believe that he is telling me life goes on, that he is with us in spirit, and that we all need to nurture and grow until our dying day – no matter the circumstances or challenges thrown in our way. I am certain I’m reading too much into this. But if tomatoes growing out of cement don’t signal hope, I don’t know what will.
Di Meglio uses the written word to help families create memories and stick together. You can follow her on Facebook at Francesca’s Newlyweds Nest and on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.