Our special kids now have an angel in Heaven, our beautiful mother, Viola.
For those who are unaware, this past weekend, we lost our beautiful mother due to complications from routine heart surgery. Though we fight against perfection, our mother was the perfect mother for us. She was always there to support us and her grandchildren, including Jennifer, Katie, and Emily, her special grandchildren. Our mother was especially proud of our work with the book, and would often accompany us, along with our father, to our various talks throughout the state of Massachusetts. She loved to meet special parents, hear their stories, and offer them an ear and a warm embrace. Since our mother was such a big force in our lives and the lives of so many others, we wanted to honor her by posting her eulogy (see below). The eulogy was given by Patty’s oldest child, Julianne, who delivered it beautifully. We encourage you to read it and to take the time to tell us about the special parent or parent figure in your life. Thank you all for your continued support. If you wish to honor our mother or to support us, please spread The Movement of Imperfection by sharing with the world the many gifts of special children. Thank you.
Gina and Patty
Eulogy for Viola Terrasi given by Julianne Konjoian, her oldest grandchild.
A vibrant flower. A finely tuned instrument. A radiant and proud woman. That’s the definition of the name Viola, rare and elegant like my beloved grandmother who held it. My grandmother never liked her name; she wanted a name that was easily recognized like those of her sisters, Angie, Anne, Mary, and Nanci.
But her name was not common, nor was my grandmother.
To anyone who knew Viola, it’s hard to imagine this day would ever come. For to think of my grandmother was to think of life. Her beautiful smile, her sparkling blue eyes, her warm embraces, even her perfectly coifed head. She had always been the portrait of beauty, life, good health, and youth, something she was quite proud of. For example, it wasn’t uncommon for her to act like a giddy school when asked to show her ID to get the coveted senior discount.
But her pride went far beyond her youth and appearance. There was nothing that made her prouder than her family. If she wasn’t talking about Bob’s musical ability, she was bragging about Gina and Patty’s book. In fact, she made selling books her life’s work. She once sold two books to a telemarketer who called to sell her windows. And could usually be found lurking in bookstores secretly placing her daughter’s book in the Oprah’s Top Picks section.
From the time they were little until the time of her death, my grandmother was a vital part of her children’s lives. She was the only mother who attended her son Bob’s Men’s League Hockey game. And once got into a fight in the stands with an opposing husband at one of Gina’s adult basketball games. She was beaming with pride about Patty’s videography skills and was most impressed when Patty filmed a torn seam in her carpeting to file a complaint with the rug company. If you were a friend of one of her children, she not only made it a point to meet you, but to embrace you, get to know you, and make you feel special.
Her love for her children extended to me and her six other grandchildren. Nana always made us feel special, greeting us with a warm smile and open arms and then grabbing our cheeks to tell us how cute we were. Her love for us was never shown more than when she experienced the challenges of learning two of her grandchildren, Jennifer and Katie, had disabilities. She, who grew up at a time when disabilities were not discussed, became not only their advocates but advocates for all children with special needs. At Gina and Patty’s talks, she could be found embracing parents of special needs children to offer them comfort, support, and love.
It’s not surprising given my grandmother’s tremendous heart.
When her sisters, in laws, nieces and nephews, friends, and neighbors were in need. or were celebrating a life milestone, Vi was the first one to pick up the phone or to mail a card. This rare thoughtfulness was shown the week before her surgery when we discovered a birthday card for her son-in-law Mike made out a week before his birthday. She underlined the words that described her love for him.
Anyone who came in contact with her could see that my grandmother embodied the definition of extrovert; she was a natural connector, bringing together people with each other and with God and her beloved St. Theresa. She said the St. Theresa novena for friends and family members in need and constantly told us of seeing roses that proved her prayers were heard often telling us, “You’ll never believe this, I turned on the TV and there on the table of the soap opera was a beautiful rose.”
There was no one this natural born connector connected better with than her husband Tony of 53 years. Whether they were gracefully waltzing on the dance floor at a wedding, walking the fairways of Twin Springs golf course, or spending time watching a grandchild perform, they were always the perfect match even when it came to their clothes.
My grandfather always told his children that marriage was about giving 110%. That was my grandmother, always giving of herself to make her husband happy. If she wasn’t cooking him delicious and healthy meals, she was picking out his clothes, and reminding him to take his vitamins. When she found out she was going to have her operation, she was more concerned for his health. “Please watch out for your father. Make sure he goes for his walks and eats healthy. Don’t let him fry everything.”
My grandmother was the first to tell you that she wasn’t strong. Yet, in the weeks and final moments leading up to her surgery, she was a tower of strength. Her beautiful humor shined through even as she was preparing to be taken in for her surgery. When the nurse went to place a surgical cap over her head, she joked, “Don’t mess the hair!”
Though my grandmother’s death was shocking and seemed unfair, please do not be sad for her. Upon the sudden death of Gina’s mother-in-law, she said. “If I go suddenly like that, do not cry for me. That’s how I want to go. I don’t want to be sick and grow feeble.”
So grandmother, we’re happy that you have your wish. It’s ironic that you who loved so much, ultimately died from a heart that was too full.
And though you were taken too soon in our eyes, you will forever remain beautiful and youthful in our minds. And you will be reunited with your mother and father and brother and sister who you so beautifully honored in life. And of course, you will find roses for all who still need you on earth in the greatest garden of all – the garden of heaven.
I would like to end by borrowing from my younger cousins who used to always spell her name on the birthday cards they made for her and choose an adjective for each letter.
V – is for vibrant
I – is for illuminating
O – is original
L – is for loving
A – is for amazon.com, where you can purchase her daughters’ book.
Rest in peace sweet grandmother, Viola. Your light in our lives — and in this world – will live on forever.