Light in the Darkness…My Mother had Five Brothers

A Trumpeter playing Christmas carols in December 2015 at Hanover Square, Horseheads.

My mother, Katherine Arachangela, is often heard saying…”I had five brothers growing up.”  This meant, myself and my siblings and our 20 first cousins! had five uncles.  They have all passed sadly and their names were Harry, Ed, Tommy, Bobby, and Billy.  They each taught me something about life and this piece is a reflection on Uncle Bob.  I am posting it now because he died almost three years ago around this time.  His being brought light into the darkness for many…Uncle Bob you are missed!

January 2014~When I went to my Uncle Bob’s calling hours, I felt a sadness that echoed throughout my limbs and surfaced in a rain of tears.  My Mother had, in her own, very succint, practical way pointed out to me, days before his death,  that I was a niece he hardly new.  (Not sure if this was not perhaps her dementia settling in or just her opinion.) This of course, this did not make the event any less sad.

I cried so hard because I saw my cousins in pain, because I saw all the times that I felt down and my Uncle was there to cheer me up.  But most especially, I saw one Christmas night.  Our family day done, my Mom wanted to visit  her brothers that lived in town and she wanted all of us to go.  A few of us went.  I think she would have preferred we all go. She was so sad, my Mom, on that drive over to see my Uncles.

But when we arrived at Uncle Bob’s house and she started chatting, she cheered up. My cousins and I sat around their big beautiful tree talking.  It was lovely.

Uncle Bob often brought the family together.  He was the one who orchestrated  my Uncle Harry’s memorial service at his home at 407 Milton when Uncle Harry, miles away, had done what rebellious Catholics due:  had himself cremated in California (at least that is what I remember).  Uncle Bob was also the person who showed up at my wedding with his camera and keen eye, our wedding photographer.  I always suspected my Mother told him we didn’t have one and he just stepped up.

When I  walked into his funeral the next day,  I was not prepared to feel the spirit I felt…the singing from the local Hibernians and a man name Jack, a church packed with people touched by my Uncle Bob, and the soft light of Christmas’s closure.

Listening to the readings…a time to love, a time to die…. and the stories and the stories, the story that struck me, the one I could not bare to repeat without crying, was this:

At the end of his life my Uncle had Alzheimers, but his ability to sing and his remembrance of lyrics stayed present. My Uncle had been in a barbershop quartet for many years and had a great voice. One day, at a store, my cousin Tim said Uncle Bob started singing to the store clerk at the register.  He sang I love you truly.  And as he serenaded her, the woman started crying.  “I have had the worst week,” she said to him.

I looked over at the Christmas tree on the alter several times during the celebration of Uncle Bob’s life. I thought perhaps the lights could represent all the lives he touched and if all of those lives  somehow, in their own quiet way, could light up someone’s day, the planet might sparkle with goodness.

So from the niece who felt she knew ya Uncle Bob, you left the world a better place.  An example for all of us to reach out to those less fortunate and the lonely or maybe just, as my cousin Drew said, stop for just one person today.  One person who needs you or needs the bits of goodness that you can give.




#Christmas prayer and reflections

achristmas light

A Christmas Blessing

 ---quoted from F & B and printed in Italy
 ---found at the Inspiration Gift Shop in Ithaca, NY
May all the days
 of all the years
 That God has still in store
 Be filled with every joy
 and grace
 To bless you more and more;
May hope of heart
 and peace of mind
 Beside you ever stay,
 And that's the golden
 wish I have
 for everyone
 this Christmas Day!

The old Christmas…

on the eve, clam chowder served piping hot
with other light goodies: was it pizza? I can’t remember
a gift exchange occurred…one only, usually from the sibling name picked
on to the WPIX Yule log, eggnog and midnight mass
solemn, quiet, the gentle candle light reflecting
the reds and greens and hopes for the season

next day: up! More gifts, always Dad put an orange in the bottom of
our stocking: always, and sometimes he set the train up from his childhood

the aunts arrived, and the grandparents
with the shrimp, the artichokes stuffed Italian style
more gifts, always one from Aunt Margaret wrapped with
the individual in mind
Aunt Madeline’s glistening packages with homemade bows

the whole thing followed with an after dinner drink and a
package of Aunt Margaret’s assorted Christmas cookies,
baked meticulously for months prior, set on individual plates
to eat until the New Year rang in.

Christmas New

lovely gifts, doggies grabbing bows…
an easel & paint very wanted and not requested: a bright light:-)
the outside lights twinkle Christmas eve to guide Santa and travelers home

visits made to family and friends
good food and lots of treats intertwined with latest news
beautiful cards from near and far

Lessons and Carols having already been sung
A list of gratitudes and prayers exchanged
Volume up on Christmas music to celebrate
Calls to make before the picture show
to soften the tugging of the
heart for Christmases gone by;
pray for Grace to touch the world today.