Sunday, January 6, 2013


Carmela Giordanella
December 14, 1940 to January 2, 2013
72 years and 19 days

always with her beautiful pearls on.  she loved them so.

my mom passed away on january 2, 2013.  she was ready to go, and we were finally ok with that.  she suffered a long, horrible illness (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) for a devastating 4 1/2 years. my mom, which we nicknamed, 'the tank', was just that: unstoppable, and tough.  you may have noticed i've been pretty absent from this blog for the last 4 to 6 months or so.  taking care of our mother became an all consuming priority.  my brother and sister and i did everything in our power to make her comfortable.  if there was a cure for this disease, we would have found it.  but there isn't a cure.  they say they are close to it, but yet many years away from 'a pill' or treatment plan that will stop the progression of it.   it's a nasty disease that literally scars your lungs so badly that it leaves you breathless, like your suffocating.  and ultimately you die from lack of oxygen.  it's an ugly disease, right to the very end.  i can honestly say it was the toughest 4 1/2 years of my life.  worse than anything i've ever known or experienced.  nothing, ever, has ever knocked my mother off her feet.  nothing.  except this disease.

my birthday.  from this picture i see elisa, my spitting image.

the last two months my mom was in palliative care, where she tried to be strong.  we took turns spending the day with her, making sure she was never alone.  over the last 4.5 years, we've tried to prepare ourselves for the end.  we thought we were ready for it.  we thought we had said and done what there was to be said or done.  but we have come to realize you can never, ever be prepared.

my mom liked to have fun, and a good laugh.  

you can't prepare yourself for the uglyness of death.  it was bitter, and ugly right till her last breath.  mom waited until after christmas, and new years, to finally decide to give up her fight.  she was ready. we were ready.  that morning, after the morphene had worn off somewhat, she got extremely restless, and wanted to get up and sit in a chair, she was asking to go home, she was very agitated.  the doctor ordered higher doses of morphene, and i'll never forget her eyes rolling into the back of her head, and her eyes closing, and from then on she was in a morphene induced coma.  that was the last time i saw my mothers eyes open.

she loves her boys my mamma does.  she loved her xavier like no other.  

shortly after, the doctor told us that we should be prepared for her to go at any time, with no more than 2 to 3 days left.  so we got the cots ready, and were prepared for at least a few more days of this.  but it wasn't to be.

told ya my mom liked to laugh.   having fun with my brothers halloween hat.

that night, at 2:30 am, her breathing was very laboured despite the morphene, and her chest was making all kinds of noises from the fluids in her lungs.  at one point she foamed at the mouth.  at that point we screamed for the nurse.  the nurse said she may have had a seizure.

me and my moms on my wedding day.  she walked me down the aisle.  

and i swear to god, i've never in my life ever seen this.... the colour from her face drained by the second, it was like a veil moving down her face, and then, i screamed, 'is this it?", i told her to , 'go mom, it's ok to go, you're ok, we'll be ok, we love you, and say hi to pappa for us".  the minute i said that, her heart stopped.  everything stopped.  we could literally feel and see her soul leave her body.  it was like a wind blowing through our hair.  it was the most incredible thing i've ever experienced in my life.  it was traumatic.  it was dramatic.  it was horrifying.

doesn't she look beautiful here?  on this day she wasn't feeling very well, but she insisted on going to watch the easter parade at my in-laws house.  she had her oxygen but took off the nose piece for the picture.
since that last night, when i close my eyes, that's all i see.  it's like a movie i have in my head that replays over and over again.  i pray to god that that image goes away over time and that when i do close my eyes, i see mom, and her beautiful face, and not the ugly face of death.  over time, it will.  i'm told time helps.

mom and dad having fun at one of our christmas dinners, with the toy mustache and lips found in their crackers.  too damned funny. 

my word of intention for this year is FORWARD.  moving forward, onward, life goes on.  my mom wanted us to. she didn't want us mourning.

see she loved her pearls.  


with her boys.  boy did she love her boys (and her pearls, see she had them on again)

we're heartbroken and miss her physical presence horribly, but our hearts are relieved that she is no longer suffering.  right now she is running and walking, and taking long deep satisfying breaths.

a picture from long long ago.  at the kitchen cleaning, or cooking up a masterpiece dinner in a matter of 5 minutes.  i remember those homemade dresses she used to make herself.  she'd slip into them after she came home from work.  

suffice to say, our hearts are broken, and it may take some time for me to get back to regular blogging, but i intend to get back to some sort of 'new' normal.  i know she's around.  i feel her presence over me. i know she's not far.  and this is exceptionally comforting.  right mom?

her brood.  yes, that's our friend matthew at the bottom with a black wig on (for fun).  i was in my moms arms crying because i wanted to try on the wig and matthew wouldn't let me.  

these images i've posted, is how i remember my mom in my heart.  when she was happy, healthy, funny, and a fierce mamma bear.  these are the memories i will forever hold onto.

we miss and love you mom, ti amiamo per sempre.

much love,  f


elizabeth said...

oh Francesca,

how brave and strong and wise you are. how fiercely you have looked straight into the heart of this and come out the other side. this is a beautiful testimony to your mother's spirit and the spirit she embued in you. I LOVE how you know, "right now she is running and walking, and taking long deep satisfying breaths." that, is peace. sending you so much love and ease as you go through the days ahead -- xoox, e

carlanda brown williamson said...

thank you frannie for sharing this. i have gone thru it with both parents and yes, you will survive. will it be easy, hell no. it is the hardest thing. she sounded wonderful and i wish i could have met her. she is free of pain and taking deep breaths, and she won't leave your side. i love you. carls

ileneharris said...

Beautiful and achingly brutal at the same time. I am so impressed you were able to write this

Francesca Di Leo said...

elizabeth, carlanda, and ilene, thank you xoxo

ilene, i had to write this. writing it out and putting it out into the world will help me to move on and forward.

i've wanted to write about her for the last 4.5 years but have never been able to find the words. until now.

thank you for your love and support.

Pam K said...

i too have walked in these shoes. It does get better but it will always be with you. I now feel that it is a privilege to have gone through this with both of my parents. Knowing that they were not alone, and we were all there for them while they made the transformation. It is funny that just today a smell transformed me back to when I was younger and eating Sunday dinner with my family.
In the Jewish faith, a mitzvah is a deed you do for someone with no thank you expected or recognition for what you do. It is a high honor.You did a great mitzvah for your mother. xoxo

Monika Schmid said...

Francesca, thank you for sharing this difficult blogpost with us. I have tears for you all and yet I have never even met you. The photos of your mum and family are so beautiful, you can tell your mum was an amazing woman. I hope you will find solace and healing in your art. Bright Blessings and comforting hugs, Monika xoxo

artlover said...

I feel your pain, and also feel your release knowing your mom is finally at peace from suffering~
I had a very similar experience, when my dad passed away, and literally saw the essence of everything my father was leave with the breath. The body was a mere cover containing his 'essence'..
It was a very moving experience for me. ~
About two days before he died, he got up, and said he was feeling better, and was hoping to go home soon.~ The day after he had similar experiences as your mom~ feeling unsettled etc..That night he died, and I was by his side.~
I think dying people go thru this experience.
Your mom will always be with you. Her physical presence his gone; but she lives in your heart.
Many blessings to you and your family. xox

Flowrsinherhair said...

what a beautiful post Francesca. You look just like your mum. That picture of you and her is awesome! Sounds like she was a special lady! You were so lucky to have that with her. You and your siblings honored her right to the end! What a blessing you gave her! Courage to you and you walk through the healing process. Soon you will only remember her fondly not her in agony but her as that "fierce mama bear".
What a beautiful legacy she left behind!
With love xoxoxox

Michelle Shopped said...

I don't even know where to begin, Francesca but something pulled me here this morning so I typed Mushroom Dreams into google and you were smack at the top. Then I saw your painting and scrolling down the page I knew. I am so very sorry, sweetheart! You are now the second person i've known who has described witnessing death and literally feeling and seeing the soul leave the body. I find that powerful and comforting and terrifying, me who has yet to lose a parent as I look to those who have for guidance when my turn comes. It sucks, effing sucks! Because while each of you made it to the other side, it is not the same side anymore, is it? I'll be thinking of Carmela and you, her baby, during my pasta class this Sat. Much love, prayers and thoughts for you today.

P.S. if the baby of your Mama's brood was you, I must say your girl is your spitting image.


Francesca Di Leo said...

hey patricia, oxxo
you'll have to make me a nice bowl of pasta with 'sugo' next time i visit you then.. and i hope that's soon. lol

and yes, i've been told many times that my little girl is my spitting image... particularly in her 'naughtyness'.

hug your parents and relish every minute.

xoxox love you patricia

Deedee said...

Francesca - love that name! Bridges of Madison County. I remember you when I was walking around completely alone on my first day at Squam. I'd never done anything like that in my life - alone! You were walking toward me on a path and I thought you had a puppy in your arms, but it was your big camera! I don't know if you remember that. We were in Misty's class. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your young mother. She is in easy peace now and knows how much she is loved. Take care!