Our mother, Caterina DiCesare, was born on February 12, 1939 in Sicily – 201 days prior to the start of World War II. For all of us who knew our mother, we know that her life was filled with obstacles – obstacles that she exploited to improve her life and the life of her family. From losing her own mother at age 5 to most recently succumbing to the effects of myelofibrosis, every obstacle served as an experience to strengthen her resolve and motivation for success. And what a successful life she had. She emigrated from Italy in 1973, married our father, and had four children who went on to become successful members of society and college graduates – a great source of pride for our mother.
Our mother was the center of our family. Emilio, the oldest, remembers begging her not to die and go to heaven every night before he went to bed since he loved her so much. When he was 18, our mother drove him to the train station for his first day of work downtown. As he nervously paced the platform, he looked over his shoulder to see that she was still there in the car – not leaving until he actually boarded the train. Caterina loved to cook. Every Saturday and Sunday morning she would get up and make Gabriele, the youngest, a huge stack of pancakes. And every Sunday at 1 p.m. we would all sit down for a family dinner. Her grandson loved making cakes with her – all of which he would promptly eat. Our mother always welcomed all of our friends into our home – and they were all required to eat. Sometimes she would walk through the house singing – something she was horrible at but she didn’t seem to mind. She was a greatly religious woman and no matter what life threw at her, she never lost her faith.
Our mother was a mother. She would constantly ask her girls when they were going to get married. She would call and ask us where we were, what we were doing, and why we didn’t call her. She would show up unexpectedly at her son’s house across the street to visit her granddaughter and grandson. And she gave the best hugs in the world.
Caterina was diagnosed with myelofibrosis in 2003. She lived relatively healthily for four and a half years afterwards, something that we are grateful for. In September of 2008, her bone marrow started declining. She started chemotherapy in hopes that it could reverse the disease but she was in and out the hospital. On Sunday, November 30th she entered the hospital once again. On Friday, December 5th she had a reaction to a platelet transfusion. It appeared that she was recuperating but on Sunday, December 7th she took a turn for the worse. The doctors told us there was nothing more they could do. She survived for 2 more days.
During that time, she was surrounded by her husband, children, grandchildren, in-laws, brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, and friends. When she was conscious she would hug us, kiss us, tell us she loved us, and even tell us not to cry.
As we think about the hugs we will miss, the food that we won’t eat, the special occasions she won’t be at, the grandchildren she would have loved to have seen – our hearts are heavy. However, as she looks down from the Kingdom of Heaven, we remember the following:
If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen among those they love, remember that she shall always be with us in the brightest day and darkest night. And when the soft breeze fans our cheeks, remember that it shall be her kiss; or the cool air on our throbbing temple – remember that it shall be her spirit passing by. So do not focus on what an unlucky break she encountered; rather, think of her as temporarily gone and we shall all be reunited in due time as she helps prepare our own majestic place in Heaven.
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