Big Shoes to Fill
Names carry so much meaning. I love to hear stories about names, and why people have the name they do. I love to hear about who they are named after and who that person was in the lives of their parents when they named them. Or perhaps their name was given to the parents by the Lord, in a dream, or during prayer time, or by someone close to them.
The story of my name isn't exciting. At all. My parents liked the names Emily and Lauren and couldn't decide. On the way to hospital they decided on Emily. Kinda lame.
But, Emily was also a family name. It was my great grandmother's name. Emily's life was easy by any means; yet she was one of the most loving and joyful people. She was born in Italy in 1909 and was the oldest of 9 children. Because of that had a lot of responsibilities at a very young age. She had to do most of the household chores. At the age of 15 she got married to man that was twice her age. The story goes that Jospeh Leuzze had moved to her village and saw her from his window as she was washing clothes and hangin them out to dry. He thought she was very beautiful and soon asked for her father's permission to to marry her. He agreed, thinking that he would have one less mouth to feed. Emily agreed in an effort to get away from the chaos she was living in. Shortly after they married they moved to America and started a family. Jospeh and Emily had 3 boys named Cosmo, Vincent, and Jospeh. Not too long after their youngest Joseph was born, their marriage began to get very difficult. Jospeh was not an easy man to live with. He was very strict, very harsh, and at times very mean. In his anger and his desperation he took his boys from Emily and would not let her see them. He brought his two older boys; Cosmo and Vincent; to live in Italy with their relatives there. The youngest, Jospeh; only a few years old at the time; was sent to live with a cousin in Massachusetts. Joseph and Emily reconciled, only because Emily had made a decision to become a Christian; one that Joseph had made earlier on. Now reunited and agreeing to raise their family in Lord, the two brought their boys back home and raised them in upstate New York.
Finding the Lord did not make Joseph much less strict or harsh. He was legalistic in many ways and a very jealous man. Most Italians greet each other with hugs and a kiss or two on the cheek. Jospeh would get upset when Emily greeted other men that way, even at times limiting her to how many friends she could see or have visit. But Emily remained joyful, and still had a huge heart that was full of love of everyone she met. She would do anything for anyone and was known for her kindness and her servant's heart. She prayed for people, cooked for people, helped however and when ever she could. When she loved, she loved big. Her sons grew up, got married and began to have children of their own. Eventually Emily was grandmother and then a great-grandmother. She soon became known as Nana. Her and Jospeh retired to Florida and eventually moved in with their youngest son Joseph and his wife when they could no longer care for themselves.
That's how I remember her. White hair that was always in a bun but always had fly aways everywhere. When she hugged you, she pulled you into her chest and she squeezed you so tight. The love oozed out of her. She smiled when she saw you, not just with her face but with her eyes as well. They were always lit up when family was around. She would pull me onto her lap and I instantly felt safe. She always made sure we gave Great Grandpa a hug and kiss too; even though should probably tell he scared me a little bit. I knew he loved me too, but not in the same big, expressive way that my Nana did. She spent her days crocheting the most beautiful blankets to give to family and friends and these toy octopuses. At least that's what I thougth they were. A round corcheted head with several braided yarn tentacles. Listen, they were cute and my sister and I loved them.
Shortly after her husband passed away Nana had to move into a nursing home as she needed much more care than she once had needed. Nana did not let the nursing home stop her from continuing to croctching and making friends in her new home. When Nana went to be with the Lord, she left behind a legacy of tremendous love and incredible faith.
Recently my grandma gave me her bible. One that my grandparents had given her in 1964. As I flip through the pages I see verses and chapters she has underlined, things she has written in the margins. The pages are worn and have yellowed with time. It is obvious that she spent a lot of time with this Bible and that even in her oder years, she still continued to grow in her love of and understanding of the Lord. What an example she has set, just by simply living her life.
I find myself thinking about her more and more lately. And missing her. And wondering if one my grandchildren will feel the same fond memories of me when I'm gone. Will this Emily be remembered in the same way as that Emily was? Will my sweet potato recipe be a staple at every family Thanksgiving? Will I have a bread that when my grandchildren make, they immediately get transported back to a different time and place and the memories that surround it? Will the joy in my face and the embrace of my hugs become a lasting memory for my family? Am I person that loves big and serves many? Will the pages of my Bible be worn and stained with age and treasured? Will I leave a foundation of faith on which my family can continue to build upon? Will I leave a legacy that my children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and generations will reap the blessings of?
Whether or not I was named after my Nana, I'm Emily too. Nana left some big shoes to fill. And this Emily plans to fill them and leave behind some big shoes of my own for the next Emily.