25 December 2010

Beverly's Christmases Past

For someone who lives life with enthusiastic joy, who relishes celebrating with loved ones, who thrives on creating beautiful things for others, Christmas cannot come sooner each year. When Beverly and I spoke about her early years, she remembered to me Christmases past, each story lighting her face and animating her voice. There was the cardboard fireplace set up each year by her father, so Santa would have a ready entryway into the Eckert house. And the raucous holiday parties, the kids fueled by cookies and chips and bottles of pop cooled in a basement sink filled with ice. There were cherished presents, remembered forever, like a favorite doll, a trusty bike, a handy wagon. Always, there was music, loved ones gathered around the piano, singing carols in a close and familiar harmony tuned finely from years of practice.

One Christmas, Beverly put her artistic talents to full use, creating with her hands a set of Victorian carolers for her sisters' families, each family member carefully assembled -- from top hats and shawls, faces formed from clay, hair snipped from a reluctant Sean and others, and clothing and shoes painstakingly fitted together. Love is the things you do, you make, you pass along -- at Christmastime and all the year through. The group in the photo is the one Beverly made for her sister Karen and her family. Their heads are perpetually tilted up, singing in unison a familiar carol, just as Beverly and her loved ones used to do.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

20 December 2010

Rosemary Auricchio Rooney, July 12, 1924 - December 13, 2010

The Sean Rooney that Beverly Eckert had fallen in love with was once a small boy who doted on his mother, Rosemary. So close was the boy to his mother that on one occasion, when he was asked to sit on the steps of the family house for a few seconds for a photo, he began to whimper because he could not be close enough at that moment to his mama. His sour expression is caught for eternity in the snap of that camera's shutter.

Rosemary Rooney told me this story with a sense of pride when I visited with her and with some of Sean's siblings in Buffalo in October, and she showed me that photo. She clearly relished the closeness she shared with the young Sean, and this closeness lasted until the very end of his life, on September 11, 2001.

And as Beverly grew to love Sean in the months after they met, she also grew to love Rosemary, who opened her house and her heart to her at a time when openness and warmth were in short supply on the home front for Beverly. In the Rooney household, Beverly was charmed by the relaxed, lively and generous spirit of a family in which good food was shared at the dinner table, along with large helpings of love, good humor and mutual respect between each child and parent. Beverly told me how loving and gregarious Rosemary was, what an easy, informal and good-hearted relationship she had with Sean and her other children.

Rosemary Rooney passed away on December 13 at her home, among children she loved so dearly. News of a grave illness came out of the blue a few weeks previous, and so her family had time to prepare for the inevitable goodbyes. They had a chance, a welcome, precious time to return a small portion of the great mountain of love she had doled out during her long life to Sean and Beverly and all her children and grandchildren and others close to hear large and generous heart.

The departure of every soul from this sweet earth is different. We never know whether there will be time to say goodbye to those who hold a part of our hearts. Best, then, to cherish the ones we love each day, so they always know, no matter what happens, how much they mean to us.