The Line is Dead

She’s finally gone

after fighting for life for

6 months of painful half-life

and multiple causes of death.


Gone is my last link

with Grandma and Grandpa

and happy days in Larchmont,

Grandpa playing the mandolin,

me dancing,

and Grandma cooking

unimaginable treats.

Happy days in Larchmont,

the Larchmont one weekend

Aunt Nina and I revisited

with our respective spouses

and cried tears of nostalgia.


Aunt Nina died Saturday,

the last of the LaMannas,

the aunt who knit the best-ever

Christmas stockings for

my brother and sister and me

which I still drag out every year.

The aunt who let me

play with her jewelry

in her blue bedroom

in Larchmont

with light that slid in

through the venetian blinds

and danced a jitterbug

atop Renoir prints,

with twin beds

covered in puff-ball bed spreads,

kept so clean by Grandma and

Aunt Nina wanting to sleep

and me pestering her to play.


Aunt Nina took me home once by taxi,

back to the city I hated

when I was sick.

She nursed me on the ride

And said “hang in there”

and held my hand

as I said to her a month ago

as she lay shriveled into a ghost

of her former self.


Gone are the days

of spaghetti and meatballs,

Arancini and sugar cookies,

wine and mandolin,

chewing gum in the desk,

watching at the windows

with Grandpa, as evening

fell all around.

Days of Big Grandma Castiglione

in her light-filled, white-tiled,

lace-curtained, one-room apartment,

with holy water font

and the smell of steam

in the yellow kitchen.


Gone are the days of

visiting Nina as she raised

her two “adopted angels”

as they were called,

and, who, with my uncle, she crafted

into two magnificent children

and later had four grandchildren

who adored them both.

Larchmont repeated.


Gone are the days of

visiting Aunt Nina in Kent, CT

and later in Danbury,

now much older and

with my husband whom

Aunt Nina and Uncle Ray

welcomed with open arms

and grew to love,

my husband of almost 24 years

who never knew this love as a child

and so does not know its loss.


Gone are the days

of a phone call

every few weeks,

Aunt Nina always seeming

happy to hear my voice as

she exclaimed “Ellen!”

as we talked about problems:

difficulties in the best of marriages

the downhill spiral of my Mom

after Dad died,

Nina giving support while

my husband and I cared for Mom

during her difficult path to death,

Aunt Nina listening to me recount

the downhill spiral of my brother

as he spent 3 years

dying of lung cancer.

And we talked of our

problems with anxiety

and later of her sorrow and fears

as her friends were dying

and she was fighting Parkinson’s,

bravely shouldering through every day.


Gone are the days

of pasta salads and olives

and prosciutto and provolone

as Aunt Nina and Uncle Ray

visited our little barn upstate,

where we laughed and laughed

in the Memorial Days sunshine.


Gone gone gone

my Italian heritage,

the last of my blood elders.

Aunt Nina was there

For 63 years,

All of my life

and all I can do

is cry

and try

to imitate

her admirable character.

For the Lord giveth and

the Lord taketh away

but why such pain

when he taketh away?


Because love grew

year by year

visit by visit

phone call by phone call.

I did thank her,

before the end began,

in a foresightful note,

telling how great an aunt she was.

God put the thought in my head,

and for that I am grateful,

for now it is too late

for now the line is dead.

17 responses

  1. Oh, Ellen, I’m so sorry. What an absolutely beautiful eulogy and memoir. Your wonderful heritage lies always within you. I, too, had a zia Nina.


    April 22, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    • Thank you, Paul, on both counts. Was unsure while writing in grief. You are right and I hadn’t thought of that but the wonderful heritage is within. So we both had Zia Nina’s– funny.


      April 22, 2013 at 11:45 AM

  2. My condolences.
    May you always remember and celebrate her life.


    April 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM

  3. I’m just so very sorry!!


    April 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    • Thank you, Kathy, for your note here and your beautiful email! xxx ellen


      April 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM

  4. Genie

    Moving poem. I was right there with you mourning and celebrating her life.
    From God we come and to God we return.
    You were so blessed to have her in your life. And she was so blessed to have you in her life.


    April 22, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    • Thank you so very much, Genie! You are right– we belong to God. I hope she was lucky to have me because I certainly was blessed to have her!!


      April 22, 2013 at 2:44 PM

  5. How I could feel your aching heart. It was at that moment, my aching heart. Your memories will carry you through. I know this because of how beautiful and loving they are. You were all blessed to have each other.
    Love ya


    April 22, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    • Thank you so much, Yisraela. This is why I haven’t been following blogs much or posting until today. Will get to yours soon. xxx ellen


      April 22, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      • Ellen
        It’s ok. I understand more than you might imagine. Take your time and be well. Ok?
        with love


        April 22, 2013 at 7:15 PM

  6. A moving tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss, Ellen.
    Peace, Arjun.


    April 23, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    • Thank you so much, Arjun. Dear friend, I am going to your site right now to reread your poem, hopefully with more concentration. I so appreciate your writing.


      April 23, 2013 at 8:40 AM

  7. My deepest feelings of condolence.
    I’m so sorry to hear.
    We don’t stay on this earth for a long time,
    but we make deep friendships while here.
    These friendships are of the few things that transcend this life.
    And we remain connected
    whenever, and wherever we may go.


    April 23, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    • Thank you so very much, Bert. You knew from the beginning and now you know the ending. I am very grateful that you are there as a friend across the ocean. It is hard to feel the ties that live on after someone goes. But every once in awhile there’s a greeting from the other side.


      April 23, 2013 at 9:05 AM

  8. This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing your heart. I’m am so sorry for your loss!


    April 29, 2013 at 12:37 PM

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