Touching God for the First Time

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Dad, during his Gymnastics Days

My Dad passed away Five Years ago this Morning.
My Mother and I were with him.
He was Ninety Years Old.
During his battle with Cancer, he chose Home Hospice Care.
We took care of him.
One of those things that you can in no way be prepared for,
But as the Universal Prayer goes,
“Dear God, Please turn me into someone who can do this!”
On the day he died, I sent this Letter to my Nephews and Niece.
Today, in memoriam, I am posting it here:

24 July 2011

Hello, KIDS!

There are a few things I would like to share with you about this last few days… These are in no particular order, neither of chronology nor significance. But I would like to share them with you, perhaps in an attempt to help bring you some closure; perhaps it is to help bring some to myself.
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Two nights ago, GRANDPA had a relatively good night. He was calm, and slept decently well, all things considered. He had a minor bout with feeling his sugar was low at 2am or so. He awoke, took his blood sugar, misread it and thought it was frighteningly low. So GRANDMA made him some food, and he slept the rest of the night in his chair lift.
GRANDMA even commented to me the next morning that she thought it was one of the best nights he’d had in awhile.

Serving his Country in WW II

Serving his Country in WW II

I did remind him the day before that CHRISTOPHER was coming on August 8th. He tuned into that, looked directly at me, leaned forward, and stated with clarity, “There’s a Mozzarella in the fridge!”
I also told him, CHRIS, that you’d gotten your Visa settled, and were definitely coming. I explained that without your Visa, you would not be able to get back in the country of Japan, Again, leaning forward and speaking very directly, he quipped sharply & surprisingly loudly, “GOOD!”
That’s your GRANDPA! 🙂

Yesterday, he was sort of OK. Spent most of the day in his chair, a bit in and out. But with medications and the disease progressing, this was understandable.
In the morning, VERNA, the Nurse’s Aide working with us, a Jamaican woman with a heavy accent, came to bathe him and stay with him while GRANDMA and I went out to do a little shopping.
When she left in the afternoon, she said, “Good Bye” and GRANDPA kissed her hand. GRANDMA laughed and said to VERNA, “He’s still flirting with other women! He’s Ninety Years Old!” VERNA smiled and took it all in stride.



Last night was very difficult. GRANDPA was very restless and having trouble communicating. We gave him some vicadin, but it didn’t help. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, so we started the roxynol (morphine). He was confused and having a difficult time. He wanted to be in his chair. GRANDMA was taking such good care of him. I have never seen anything like that! Even when he couldn’t communicate, she would remain firm with him until she could understand exactly what he needed and she would get it for him. And with each thing she did, she would kiss him and then caress his white hair and say, “I Love You!” Struggling to speak, he would pucker his lips up to her standing above him, kiss her back and say, “I Love You too!”
But by about 3am, GRANDMA could see that his breathing wasn’t right. I called the hospice and spoke to the on duty nurse. She called the Doctor & called us back telling us we could increase the roxynol. GRANDPA relaxed in his chair. I was on the couch. GRANDMA curled up in the loveseat to be near GRANDPA. We drifted off to sleep for half an hour or so. Then, GRANDPA awoke with a bit of a roar. He was very weak but insisted on getting back to bed.
We got him to the bedroom, and back to bed, and he was agitated, thrusting about, and contorting in all kinds of positions because of the pain. He laid down on a diagonal, taking up most of their small full-size bed. GRANDMA laughed, looking at the little bit of space left for her, and asked, “Where am I supposed to go here?”
But we couldn’t move him.
GRANDMA told me to go back to sleep. (“back”???) and she would handle it.

I came back to the doorway and checked in on them a few minutes later, and I saw that GRANDMA, at 84 years old, had curled up, upside down with her head at the foot of the bed, on a diagonal, just so she could be beside him.
I went back to the couch and tried to sleep. By this point, it was already approaching sunrise. After a short while, I awoke to GRANDMA calling my name. She said, “I need you. He wants to get up. I don’t know what for or where he thinks he’s going.”
I went in with GRANDMA. GRANDPA’s breathing was very heavy and labored. There was obviously a great deal of fluid in his lungs by this point. Very loud and very noisy. I asked him if he wanted to get up, but he did not respond to that. His arms were stretching and flailing about in different seemingly random directions. And then the rattle of his breathing stopped. Silence, except for the steady stream of the oxygen hose.
6:57 am.
GRANDMA was in a panic. I called the hospice and told them that he had stopped breathing. They said that they were sorry, and would send someone right away to deal with the aftermath.
GRANDMA sat on the edge of the bed. I stood next to her, with my arm on her shoulder.
GRANDPA was still, lying with his left arm outstretched straight across the night table, wrist bent downward, index finger pointed with the three fingers beyond it cascading below, his thumb in the foreground, thumbnail facing outward.
GRANDMA and I sat/stood in silence looking at his arm, which was so beautifully posed.
“What painting is it,” she asked me after awhile, “that has a hand like that?”
I recognized what she meant right away.
“That’s MICHAELANGELO’s ‘CREATION’,” I replied, “It’s his famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And that hand is MAN touching GOD for the first time.”



GRANDMA smiled and gave a little sound as we took in what we were looking at.
Finally, GRANDPA had found peace, and he was letting us know.

I have attached for you an image of the MICHAELANGELO painting so you can see what I mean. It is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Someday when you get to Italy and see it, you might think of your Grandfather.

Also during his WW II Service

Also during his WW II Service, while having a break.

VERNA, the Jamaican Aide showed up this morning at around 10am.
I explained that I thought the nurse from JANSEN had called her to cancel. It was very hot in New York this morning. She sat with me for awhile.
“I knew,” she told me in her enchanting Jamaican accent. “He kissed me yesterday. I always know. Dis has hoppened to me several times. When dey kiss me, dey are saying, ‘Goodbye.'”
She told me that when GRANDMA and I went out yesterday, and she was alone with him, GRANDPA said to her, “I’m going home.”
“Whatchou talking about!?” I ask him. “You here in yah house now! You are home ahready!”
He say, “I go to my NEW house! You want to come with me?”
“He knew,” she told me, confidently and calmly.



Yesterday, less than 24 hours before any of this happened, my friend ANGELA (“A.J.” to some of you) came by the house. (She is an ordained Minister, by the way, and will officiate the brief service at Rose Hills for the internment on Friday, following the Mass.) She and I had gone for a cup of coffee, and talked about all this, wondering how close we were at that point.
She told me that most people when they are ready to die, experience visits from people who’ve gone before us, just before they are about to leave us. (This was also something I noticed in the hospice literature I read.) ANGELA asked me, “So, have you had a visit?”
I told her that the night before, in the middle of the night GRANDPA came from the bedroom, turned on the lamp, and settled into his chair. He was somewhat out of it at that point, Then I noticed that the lamp had begun flickering all over the ceiling like the Aurora Borealis. Then, abruptly, it went to pitch black.
“What? Who’s there?” GRANDPA stirred, as if talking to someone.
I got up and explained, “It’s OK, DAD. The bulb must be loose.” I went over and turned the light back on, noticing that the bulb was quite tight.”
“You had a visit!” ANGELA affirmed with a smile.
“Who was it from?” I asked.
“Who did you think of?” she retorted.
“CUZIN ALICE,” I told her. It felt as if she was there in the Living Room.
“Yep! You had a visit!” ANGELA repeated.

DAD and MOM with CUZIN ALICE and Three of the GrandKids

DAD and MOM with CUZIN ALICE and Three of the GrandKids

When you think of it, GRANDPA got everything he wanted!
He got to be at home, which he wanted very much. He had said so, many times.
He got to be with GRANDMA, lying next to her to his last moment, which we know was the most important thing in his life!

MOM and DAD, early on...

MOM and DAD, early on…

He got to save $300 by not having the optometrist make that house call! 🙂
He further saved $22 per hour by not ever giving in to having an on-site Nurse… 🙂
I truly believe all of these things, to one degree or another, made him Happy!
But you know what made him happiest of all?

DAD and MOM with the GrandKids

DAD and MOM with the GrandKids

All Four of You were his Pride and Joy!
Maybe it was because he was done with the toughest part (Parent Responsibilities, Working, etc.), and he felt he could just ENJOY you!
Maybe it was because he recognized that you were the most special kids in the whole wide world and he was so grateful that you were his!
Maybe it was because he had worked his whole life to raise a Family that would carry on his Family name and bloodline, and he never imagined how unbelievably WONDERFUL the actual people who would materialize to do that would actually be — until he met you! And then he knew that in some small way he had contributed to something very WONDERFUL in the World! And he was HAPPY.

With GrandSon, DANIEL

With GrandSon, DANIEL

OK… Well that’s as much as I know to tell you.

MOM and DAD with ME

MOM and DAD with ME

Sorry if this sounds a bit discombobulated, but didn’t sleep much last night! And have been trying to write this to you in sporadic moments betwixt and between all that is going on here today!

THANK YOU for being your GRANDMA’s Strength and Inspiration in & through all of this!
THANK YOU for all of the JOY you bring to them and to me; to your parents; to your other Aunts and Uncles; and to the WORLD!

I so Love what you are! I am so looking forward to All that you will Become!

At the Close of this Chapter,
With Gratitude & Love,
Uncle Arnie 🙂

DAD as a Boy, with a Favorite Cousin

DAD as a Boy, with a Favorite Cousin

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Leave a comment


  1. Lou Monteforte

     /  July 24, 2016

    Arnold Beautiful. It is amazing that it is 5 years since your dad died. Love Lou

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Gina Monteforte

     /  July 24, 2016

    As always Arnold, your words are beautiful. You’re love for your dad shines thru in every word!


    • Thanx, Gige!
      Much Appreciated!
      Why is it we understand So Much More about how they Loved us after they Go? 🙂 XXOO

      • Gina Monteforte

         /  July 25, 2016

        I think that is when we officially grow up 🙂

  3. Laura Mungioli

     /  July 25, 2016

    ❤ <3<3<3 Thank you for this :-*

  4. Sherry

     /  July 25, 2016

    I love this. Arnold, your writing is perfect – thanks for sharing.

  5. Such a beautiful tribute. You’ve created an enduring family legacy with your words.

  6. Rose Ann Harrigan

     /  July 28, 2016

    Such a kind and thoughtful sharing of a private moment. I thank you for that. As I wipe my tears, I am smiling because I know that your dad was fortunate to have the love of his life beside him at the end. I wish my dad could have had the same. Love and Hugs to you.


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