Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bright lights during a dark time

On February 13, 2009, my father, Augusto Ferrari -- otherwise known as "Nonno" to Carter and Nathaniel -- passed away after a tumultuous year-long battle with cancer.

Dad was diagnosed just before I became pregnant. He had a massive tumor on his right kidney and, last August, the kidney and the tumor were removed, only to find the cancer had spread to his lungs. Two month-long rounds of chemotherapy later, he complained of pain in his pelvic area, and cancer was found in his bones. A week of radiation therapy got rid of the pain, but by then it was too late. As January 2009 crossed into February my father became too weak to fight this most insidious disease.

He only got to hold his grandsons once, on New Year's Day, in a memorable visit that brought tears to his eyes and mine. My biggest regret is that he didn't get to see them at least one more time before he left us.

My parents have an amazing network of friends, people they've known since they came to Canada, as well as their fellow parishoners at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Mississauga. We had two visitation on February 16th, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, to accommodate the expected mourners. I didn't know anyone we could leave the boys with that wouldn't be with me and my mother at the funeral home, so we brought them with us.

As I sat with my mom in the viewing room, the boys were quietly sitting in their car seats in an anteroom, watched over by my mom's neighbor Norma Sabadin (who did daycare in her home until 2 years ago when she started caring exclusively for her very cute grandson Ethan). And as friends, acquaintances and work colleagues came in to give us their condolences, their sadness soon turned to smiles as they visited with the boys.

We were constantly complimented on how beautiful and how good they were being, and it felt good. It felt good to know that a little bit of Nonno lives on in them; perhaps his musical or artistic talent, or his easygoing and friendly nature, or his sense of humour and love of life.

Whatever happens, Carter and Nathaniel will always know who their Nonno was. They now have his Alpini hat, from his days in the mountaineering branch of the Italian army, a stylish adorned cap with a huge feather in it. And even though they don't understand it now, we'll tell them what their special role was in the days when we had to bid him goodbye. And wherever he is, we know that Nonno is watching you grow into bright and beautiful young men.

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