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.