At almost exactly four years into my life living abroad in Italy, this morning I attended my first Italian rites of funeral service for my neighbor of the past two years. While I did not know well the old man, we always greeted cheerfully in the hall until he became house-bound as typical to many of the elderly at some point.
However, it is his family that also live in the building whom I have come to know a little better and they have warmly welcomed me from the moment I first arrived to this village without knowing a soul in this area. It is mostly for them that I attended the service out of respect for their father. This family has been not only friendly and kind to me, but also generous and supportive as I have struggled through some challenges during the past two years living in this little Italian village and far away from all that is familiar.
The Italian Catholic service was really no different than any other I have attended except that only the priest really speaks, whereas in the USA (at non-Catholic services) there are members of the family and friends who may stand and give a eulogy or say nice things about the deceased. As I understand it, that rarely happens here in Italy. I also understand that it is not traditional to have a wake after the burial as we do back home, though I imagine the family will continue to gather together today in support and remembrance.
In these days of the holiday season it can be especially hard on people to lose a loved one or who may be experiencing their first holiday without one who has passed earlier in the year. 2016 has been a tragic year for many, especially with so many notable celebrity deaths this year. Though we don’t know them personally, their public contributions become part of our lives and people grieve for them just as well.
During the service as I listened to the somewhat familiar Italian words, I felt the sadness of this family and their close friends as I looked into their teary eyes and I reflected upon all those I have known this year who will experience their first Christmas without a parent, close relative, or special friend. If you are one of those who may be reading this now, I offer to you my sincerest wishes for peace in your heart to know that your loved one is in a place of pure bliss without pain or suffering for I firmly believe that after we depart our physical bodies we are returned to pure energy that knows only love.
During the days before and after the death of my mother I received messages to confirm this. Whether you believe in angels or some other form of a higher being, it is possible to receive messages from beyond the physical if you are open to it. The experience of death can actually be beautiful too, though painful to those left behind as they mourn the loss of their loved one.
Days before my mother’s death she spoke the words of what seemed to be transmitted to her by angels who were guarding near. We were assisting her fragile body to walk through the house when she stopped suddenly and said in perfect clarity, “They say it will all be brand new.” Then in the days after her death I witnessed the vision of her spirit returning to me for a visit. She was young, beautiful, happy, and without sickness. She indeed had been returned to “brand new.”
This week will be my fourth holiday away from my immediate family and fortunately for me I won’t be alone again as I have been during the past two years. I am looking forward to welcoming a distant relative I will meet in person for the first time. I already believe she is a kindred spirit and her own recent loss is nearly the same as what I experienced ten years ago. She is spending her first Christmas without her mother and also as a first holiday living away from her other family members since she moved to Italy. Though she appears to be a strong woman, I know from experience that it would be better for her to be with someone who can understand more intimately what she’s going through. I can’t wait to meet her later this week.
To all who are reading now, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a blessed new year. Please remember those whom you know are spending it alone. Consider inviting them to a family or social dinner if you are having one and understand that they still may choose to stay alone. We all process grief differently, but even the offer to join you can remind them they they are not forgotten and can make a big difference in someone’s holiday. If you happen to be the one who is alone, I offer you love and light that you find peace rather than sadness this holiday season.