Farewell Mom, I love you.

Eulogy of Theresa Chianelli-Santelli

December 26, 1931

September 26, 2020

Mom, I didn’t know God’s plan was different from my plan, but God’s plan was by far better. I am torn between feelings of sadness and joy. This may appear antithetical, but my joy is slowly eliminating my sadness, and this is why. 

While Mom lived a loving, abundant life,   she struggled with much pain toward the end. Despite her body giving up, her mind was determined as ever to continue being with the ones she loved. She maintained her strength and love right until her last days. I clearly remember talking to each day after Dad passed, and I would find her crying. I would say, “Mom but Dad was so sick. It will get better each day, I promise.”  She would then boldly say “that is not true, I will never stop missing your Dad until I am with him again.” Today she is with Dad again.

She was eager to move to her assisted living and be able to eat in the dining room. She bought a new dress, new shoes and painted her nails. The thought of being able to make friends and become a part of her new community was exciting.  Mom always loved the idea of sharing a meal with others. For her, it was about creating a notion of family. She loved to share with people and enjoyed the possibility of developing a close relationship. This always led to her calling those people her family. I brought this sign today, “Families Gather Here” a popular sign you see in the stores and online. This saying wasn’t just words for Mom, it was part of her identity. Families meant everything to Mom. She loved and connected with anyone she considered Family.

I would often debate with my Mom. I challenged her customs and her way of thinking. I pushed her to keep learning and growing her perspective. We debated about almost everything. From time to time, she would put me in the “dog house” about certain opinions we may have held.  Sometimes I would be in the “dog house” for weeks or even months. She would be silent.  My sister Diane would even call and say “oh boy Johnny, you’re in the dog house with Mom.” This was Mom’s way of making sure I was clear on her position. But here’s the thing, in the end, no matter how far I stretched her beliefs, she would always love me. 

Truth be told she never stopped loving. You know why? Because that was her faith. It wasn’t until these last few years did I fully understand my Mom. Then one day it was like an epiphany for me. 

Mom loved as Jesus loved. In John 13:34-35, Jesus taught, 

34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Mom was a faithful person. Today I brought this little cross from Germany which I assume was a gift from my Uncle Guy when he was stationed in the War. This cross hung at the door of every home Mom lived in. She wanted to be a protector like Jesus. I also brought her Rosary which she said every single day as a testament of her faith. She cared for people when they were sick, and she prayed for them even if they weren’t. She would even ask others to pray with her, creating an army of prayer warriors around anyone who she believed needed the strength of our Lord. 

I brought a box of Mom’s recipe cards that she used only to make cookies.  Everything else she cooked really never had a recipe. The recipes she did write however would have instructions like make a tighter fist of salt, fill the silver kettle with water, or heat the milk first. “Why?” you might ask, to which she would simply say “because that’s how I always do it.” Most importantly, whatever you did, you could never make one cookie a different size than the other or it would be a sin. 

I eventually realized it was never really about the food, but the food brought families together to gather in faith. 

I saw a quote the other day that reminds me of Mom. The quote reads:

“If you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”

Families, Faith, and Food. That is how I will remember Mom, and not for the dog house. 

Needles, thread and a deadly war.

A muse …

I have been thinking about my Grandfather this week. He is my Dad’s father. He barely spoke English often switching to Italian in the middle of a sentence. Always had pay close attention to his rapid Italian speech.

He was born in 1902 in Calabria Italy and came to America through Ellis Island in NY as a teenager.

I am reminded of him this week as I pick up masks from seamstresses all over our city for health professionals at our non-profit. I remember a story he told me when I was a young boy. Half in English and half in Italian as I looked to my Mom to interpret what I couldn’t understand.

He was a tailor in WWI. He shared he would move with the soldiers from region to region sewing and repairing uniforms. Essential I imagine, a basic needs for survival. He said: “It was a horrific memory, Giovanni.” He said, “I remember running from tent to tent with my sewing machine under my arm as bombs flew overhead.” “The worst part was feeling the crunch of those we lost to the war under my feet. As he clenched his teeth on his hand, as Italians do out of disgust. He didn’t like to talk about that war.

I’m reminded of him as I drive around the city to get masks for our health care workers at our non-profit clinic. These heroes are also on the frontline of a war. A war on a deadly virus. Seamstresses all around the city making masks as Grandpa made uniforms for the soldiers of the war.


99 Days of Gratitude Day 8- Love on the Rocks.

Today I am grateful for those in my life who love unconditionally.

I really didn’t fully understand the meaning of unconditional love throughout my life.  Understanding my experiences I believed that people have loved me. I believed that if people included me, that was a form of love. I felt love when I was giving love to others. Love came from times when I was serving others. I believed that love was putting yourself second giving my self away.

Today I understand love differently. Sometimes when we think about what something is not, It helps us understand its meaning.

Love is not made up of a series of conditions. It is impossible to love someone when your love has a rubric of  restrictive measure. It is like the new bride who believes she is going to change her husband to mold into what she believes a he should be without really knowing him. This is like the parent who smothers a child acting out their own brokenness creating dependence for their own gain.  Treating the child like an item. This is the type of love that always has a catch or strings attached or negotiated love. “If you do this for me, I will love you.”

If you are like me, then I will love you but if your different I can not love you. If you believe what I believe or if your life looks just like mine, then I can love you. If it is different, or makes me uncomfortable, then I can’t love.

This contingent love  is manipulative and judgmental.

If you think about it, it is like buying a house. The seller has a bottom price. The seller has a belief of what he or she wishes to get in return for their asset. The buyer also is looking out for his or her own interest. They want to get the as much value out of the buy as possible. They want to get the seller to do as many things possible to make sure the asset has value to them. This back and forth dynamic is a negotiation.

Can we negotiate to buy and sell love conditionally?

True love in relationships requires giving and receiving. This reminds me of a gas tank on a car. If you drive and drive until the tank is empty you will stop. There is a need to have your tank refilled constantly in order to keep your car running. Its important to take it to the car wash for care, wax it from time to time, vacuum the inside, have the oil changed, check the fluids and take it out for a ride. If you neglect your car, it will not provide for you needs either.

We need to have our tank filled with love consistently and often.

We make mistakes in love and relationships. Love means truth, grace and forgiveness.  Sustainable love requires needs all three ingredients. In an earlier blog in this series I mentioned the importance of truth without grace equals judgement from a book by Henry Cloud.  Love isn’t perfect. It requires mutuality and work. Love without growth eventually dies.  Couples can easily end up in with parallel lives, going through the motions making sure to cover all the “should haves” in life. Separate lives, lifeless, joyless and empty love can be the end result of no growth.

Love means loving yourself so you can love others. Love feels empty if you are not able to love yourself.  Giving love when you don’t love yourself may become inauthentic. This love is fake, almost desperate and attention seeking. This type of love can feel selfish and conditional. If you are running on empty, It would be hard to give something you don’t currently possess.

If you don’t have self love, it makes it hard to receive love from others, a self-fulling prophecy for emptiness.

First love God, then love yourself, then love others.

Today I am grateful for those who have stayed close to me and loved me unconditionally

Original Featured Photo, gifted by: Laura Riggle, Photographer.

Love on the rocks.

Daniel’s Blog

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge-Coral-ish Colors…Here comes the Sun

Here comes the sun

Something to ponder about Photo Challenge

Me, my camera and how I see the World,

Sky house

West Allis WI

99 Days of Gratitude Day 7-Home

I am feeling blessed today because God has given the gift of home.

When I was young my family made home for me. When I was in college my roommates made up home for me. In the work I do daily my colleagues make home. My son’s make home for me. My Husband makes home for me.

So what is home?

It’s not your location or the bricks and the mortar.

It’s a safe space that you find truth, joy, peace and hope. A place where people love you unconditionally with grace, truth and forgiveness.

My awesome friends and I are reading a book. In one of the chapters it’s speaks of truth and grace. It says, “When you combine truth and grace you yield forgiveness.” However truth without grace becomes judgment.

I am grateful to have home.

Home for me is a safe space in my life which is authentic, filled with grace, unconditional love, forgiveness, joy and hope.

A blessing from heaven.

The Snow Melts Somewhere

Me, my camera and how I see the world.

Sunset, stargazing in Michigan.

Bow down to the beauty that God has created.

A snap of my Husband Daniel on the beach at sunset on our honeymoon.

My Husband Blog

99 days of Gratitude Day 6 – Wisdom

Today I received my favorite annual Christmas Card.

It’s from my friend and teacher Mary Pat. Each year I await this card, but this year it got lost in the mail and arrived perfectly today.

I am thankful for the wisdom that Mary Pat built in my heart and in my mind.

She taught me to be wise. To love our patients, value them and be their student. “We all are teacher and all students,” she used to say to me years and years ago, so many I refuse to count!

Dear friend, today I am thankful to you for giving me the gift of your wisdom.

Peace and see you soon.



My Husbands Blog 99 Days of Gratitude Challenge

A few more…

While Shepard’s Watch

Unto us a Child is Born

99 Days of Gratitude Day 5-Brotherhood

Today I am thankful for my brother Josh.

It is his birthday today so Daniel, Reuben and I will celebrate him tonight.

Josh is a great man. He has been a part of my life for three years sharing struggles of life, love, relationships all in the context Brothers in Christ.

He is a passionate father.

He cares immensely about his Sons, Will and Graham and his baby daughter El.  Modern families are not easy but Josh is committed to be the best father he can be.

He is inspirational.

He has inspired me to be in truth, be me. In challenging of times, I would say Josh,  “I am a mess today.”  Josh says, yes, but a perfectly beautiful mess as God intended for you to be. After a few texts, or talking, we both would be back in the game.

Josh has a big heart.

We have shared so much together these past years that has shown me his big heart. His love for friends, family, passion for Christ all show Josh’s true self.

Josh is a great friend.

Daniel and I are grateful for Josh. He has been a big part of our life and journey of healing, love and relationship. Our friendship with Josh is precious one, which we hope lasts an eternity.

An amazing man, who I am grateful to call my brother.

Happy Birthday Josh, I am grateful for you all the time, but especially today.

My Husbands Blog 99 Days of Gratitude

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