On September 21, 2006 we laid my dear grandmother Josephine to rest. At the cemetery, as the priest finished the closing prayers, he asked that we please take a moment to think about who my grandmother became in her life time, her accomplishments, her way of being, and all that we loved about her. He then introduced us to a custom that is unusual in the United States, but common in Italy and that was for us to applaud her life as a sign of admiration, celebration, and dignified appreciation.
Even though it seemed awkward at first, the applause soon became louder, more intense, and lasted for an unusually long period of time as we each began to express our sense of pride and admiration for my grandmother.
You may remember watching the funeral coverage of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in April 2005 that drew millions to Rome. I remember my own curiosity of the mourners• applause when his coffin was brought out. This tradition is more common as a way to commend a respected individual’s sacrifice and dedication, like the Pope.
My grandmother’s life accomplishments were humble, but who she was as a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, friend, etc. • that in and of itself was well worth the love and affection we expressed through our applause.
The applause was a way for us to thank my grandmother. It was an expression of our gratitude for who she was to each of us. Our applause was also a way for us to express our sincere and pure emotions in the moment. The experience of the applause certainly served up a very different perception for me as I shifted from a perspective of mourning her loss to a perspective of celebrating her life. Since that day, I’ve carried with me these two questions that may also be helpful for you.
- What would it look like for me to continue to show my gratitude and appreciation for my ancestors?
- What would it be like for each of us, everyday, to applaud the lives of those we love?
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Christina Lombardo, PCC, CPCC (Christina@LifeTrekCoaching.com)
LifeTrek Coaching International