I spent most of yesterday at a funeral in Philadelphia.
It was an Italian funeral which started with 3 hours in church, the viewing, the mass, Communion, the recessional. Then the burial in a small graveyard right behind the church. The afternoon blended into evening, ending with a catered 6 course dinner.
Leila was 90 when she died. She lived her entire life in a small Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Loved and loving, she was surrounded by sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends — in life and in death.
As I witnessed this gentle good-bye, I realized that Leila lived and died exactly the way I want to. She lived what I call a fundamental life. That’s not to say she denied herself any of the usual pleasures, a good meal, good wine, books, friends, community but she didn’t need all the “stuff” many people think they need today to feel happy.
Leila didn’t have the latest iPhone. She didn’t want or need high-speed internet, satellite television, Sirius radio or GPS. No constant noise, no endless entertainment, no need to shop for new clothes or new shoes or new anything, Leila already had everything she needed to be happy.
She cooked her own food. she cleaned her own house, washed her own clothes and walked, everywhere. And her house was beautiful. Always welcoming and always filled with friends or family or both, it wasn’t a decorator’s show home. Her furniture was not new; her dishes and silverware didn’t always match and sometimes we drank wine from Mason jars.
But Leila’s house, her home, was always filled with the aroma of homemade Italian or German food, quiet conversation, and laughter. Her door was always open and her smile was ready. This was a place where everyone felt at home.
I only met her a few times but each time I was struck by her joy, her kindness, the light in her eyes and the smile that lit up her face. I felt lucky to have spent some time with her. Those who spent their lifetimes in her presence must have felt truly blessed.
Leila left us this week but she left behind the sure knowledge that we don’t need “stuff” to fill up our lives; we need each other. We need simple acts of kindness. We need time alone, time with nature, time with those we love. We need to clear the clutter, stop the noise and come home, to ourselves and to our families.
We need to live more fundamental lives.
2 responses to “A Fundamental Life”
I am sorry for your loss and grateful for the reminder.
A while back, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, in which he relates a study that demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of strong community. Clearly, Leila was an anchor in her community.
Many years ago, I lost everything I owned. I was angry for two years until I realized that al I had lost was simply ‘stuff’. The things I needed were replaced. The items kept for sentimental reasons, well, I still have the memories. But the experience turned into one of my very best life lessons: It’s Only Stuff. Your post actually inspired me to write about the experience. You can read about it at https://katerussell010.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/its-only-stuff/
Leila sounds like the sort of woman I would love to be. I will hold your words as a reminder to strive for that fundamental life.
Thanks Kate. My brother Bob always used to joke that we were, “…not going to get his stuff.” He died young and I miss him to this day – https://write-on-target.com/2012/06/15/when-brothers-die-to-bob/ – but he taught me (as Leila did) that stuff doesn’t matter. Life, people, love, joy, community…they all matter.