My Grandmother and Friend

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, our family gathered together to celebrate the life of my beloved grandmother. It was a warm sunny day. The sky was clear and blue. In fact, it was the nicest weather we’ve had all year. 

Shortly after my grandmothers passing, I wrote this compilation of thoughts and things that come to mind when I think of her. Writing it brought me comfort, and reminded me that though she is gone in the flesh, her spirit lives on through the virtues she taught by her example in life. I made a few changes, and on Saturday, God gave me the privilege of sharing it in honor of my grandmother’s life.


Who can find a virtuous women?  For her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10

These words echoed in my mind as I left the hospital that cold night in February, shortly after my grandmother quietly slipped off and met the Lord. 

There is no doubt in my mind, whether you called her Mom, Mom-Mom, Aunt, or just plain Mary; if you knew Mary Cianelli Kalmbacher, then you have known virtue. 

What can now be said of her?  Where do I even begin? 


Mary, circa 1946

Long before I knew her as Mom-Mom, she was known as the daughter of Bernardo and Frances Cianelli, and a sister to Camy, Tony, Phil, Mitty, Sis and Louise. Although I know little of her childhood, I am certain her siblings would agree that she was the kind of individual who always put others first, even as a young girl. 

Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop were married for 66 years, and I always knew my grandmother as the kind of wife that my grandfather was confident to trust with his heart, his home, and his wallet. She was the kind of mother, grandmother, and friend that one would aspire to be a little more like, and today, we can all agree that she is the kind of women who will be deeply missed. 

Although Mom-Mom was certainly capable of becoming an accomplished career woman outside the home, she chose the less than glamorous job of serving her husband Ed, my mother Shirley, Shawn, myself, and you, the many people gathered here today, celebrating her life. This choice made her rich in ways that far exceeded the worldly wealth any job title or career may have yielded. In fact, Mom-Mom was among the few woman to whom the traditional role of wife and help mate was considered to be honorable.  While other wives sought fulfillment away from the home and complained of being just a housewife, Mom-Mom embraced her role, and excelled in it.  As I recall her life now, I am all too aware of how much this decision influenced and shaped the lives of many of us sitting here today. To her, being a homemaker was not just a set of exhausting chores that lasted from dawn until dusk, rather, her days were a labor of love from beginning to end.  Regardless of whether she got up early to take care of Pop-Pop, start a load of laundry or dishes, cook breakfast for Shawn and I before school, or greet the children that she babysat in her home, Mom-Mom knew that her day was about more than mopping floors, cooking meals, and making beds. Although she did those things with proficiency and ease, her greatest accomplishments were her ability to serve, and her capacity to love. 

Mom-Mom was highly loved because she was genuinely kind. She especially loved children, and her arms reached beyond those that she called her own to others like Nicole Wilson, Jeff Finkle, Mandy Rowe, and Chris, Alex and Sarah Smoot. Not surprisingly, the love that she gave so freely to them and many others came back to her, for I’ve never met anyone that didn’t love or have a kind word to say of her.  

When I think about life with Mom-Mom, I recall things like watered down Kool Aid, frequent visits to Great Grandmom’s house on Otsego Street, Slurpees from 7-11, card games like solitaire and go fish, playgrounds and parks, family reunions and good food, gardening and canning, and watching television shows like The Price is Right, Dallas and Dynasty.  I recall Blondie blaring “Call Me,” on the hi-fi in her living room, sleepovers in curlers and her borrowed terry cloth robe, home cooked meals made from scratch, French braids in my hair, painted nails, and polyester pants.  

I am reminded of her unconditional love, her deep faith in God, her heartwarming laughter, and her genuine friendship. Most of all, I am reminded of the virtues she lived by and taught each of us by example: honesty, hard work, love, grace, serving, and forgiving.   

As I sat by her bed side and reflected on her legacy in the final moments of her life, I realized just how blessed I was to have had her as my grandmother and friend for 41 years. It is rare for a grandparent-grandchild relationship to be so essential, but then, Mom-Mom was a rare and exceptional woman. She was our matriarch; the regal leader in our family. She baked and cooked and babysat and served, becoming such an integral part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine life without her.

Now that I have a grandson of my own, I hope that I can carve out the same legacy for our next generation; to be the same kind of grandmother to Lucas (and those who come after him) who leaves a Godly legacy of love, virtue, patience, friendship, and faith, just like Mom-Mom.

I love you, Mom-Mom.


4 Replies to “My Grandmother and Friend”

  1. Very beautifully and lovingly written; she was truly a blessing!

  2. Beautiful… Praise God for the generational blessings her life has already left…. Look at you friend! Love ya!

  3. She loved you like she did Shawn and I, and we are blessed indeed!

  4. Your words capture Aunt Mary perfectly. Yes, she was my babysitter but she was and always will be my Aunt in my mind. Through her loving care I flourished and made lifelong friends. She truly was a very special woman, Danielle, and we were all lucky to have had her in our lives.

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