Dedication - Memories
by Virginia Anne Bonito
My mother died about a year ago. Though she had some serious heart problems, we all - her family and many friends - thought she would be with us for many more years than we had with her. I am happy that she saw the birth of The Mnemosyne Foundation, through its official incorporation process, and I was especially anxious to share with her the pleasure of launching the Website and of watching this fledgling Foundation take root and grow. She had always been there through my challenges and small triumphs. She was surely my Muse. So, with the unanimous endorsement of the Board of Directors, all of whom knew her, I am dedicating The The Mnemosyne Foundation first and foremost to her, but also to all the unsung muses who bring out the best in us.
The death of someone very dear to us presents the dilemma of a very strange 'time warp' - a lifetime so entwined with one's own, in one brief moment, seemingly ended. It is followed by moments full of reflection and of feelings about that person and about life. By way of getting to know Lydia, I would like to put down here some of the things that were so freely expressed about her when she passed away - - a great lady, so classy, so much vitality, so sassy, a mind of her own and yet so engaging, a 'corker,' our glue, the person who loved life and knew how to live, bright, intelligent, our best friend, so fine a mother, the earth mother - and on and on, a resounding cry to ourselves and to each other that she is still too alive in our minds to be able to surrender her. She had some magic in her for sure.
Personally, I think it came from the fact that she never lost the child in her. Even when she was petulant and outspoken there was always clarity, enmeshed, oddly enough, with a guilelessness that was as welcome as a fresh breath of air in a world fraught with veiled actions. She had the solid values that were so much a part of her generation but she was also so easily in the moment - right up to the Tuesday she died. I was leaving the house bound for Paris and she was feeling so enervated. But that special spark was there: "Oh you are always in black. Put some color on!"
Her passion for life was so evident but so unforced. It flowed ever so easily through her enthusiasm and thirst to be with people and to be in the day. She was a jovial; she had the gift of being able to aim high but to take pleasure in the simplest things. She loved the earth, especially its trees and animals - she gave donations to save the gorillas and the whales, to the Wilderness Society and to the Indians, and on and on. She was frugal - she'd drive us crazy deliberating over cans of string beans to find the brand with the best price. Yet, she made it possible not only to protect her family with her resources, but to pick up the banner (when no charitable foundation would) to restore the extraordinary Renaissance monument to Saint Anne created by Andrea Sansovino and Raphael.
By profession my mother was a travel agent. She loved sending people off on vacations and they loved the trips she helped them plan. She, too, loved to travel - to see what the many diverse cultures on this planet had created and had to offer - and so off she went (sometimes with one of us, sometimes on her own) to South America, Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, Russia (in the mid '70s, when it was just opening itself to tourists), Greece, Spain, Alaska, and Scandinavia. But, always true to her heritage, and to the first voyage she made as a very little girl, she loved Italy the most, especially Bergamo. She was so proud to have been a Bergamasca.
She loved her childhood homes - the one in Italy for the year she spent in Endine, north of Bergamo, and the one on 230th Street in the Bronx. She put much love and loveliness into the homes she made for her family as well. She loved food and music and dancing. She loved Dante and Opera and Andy Pettit and Yatzee and her Beanies, but most of all she loved people, with heart and enthusiasm and interest. She cherished her dear friends and family members, and felt lucky for the love they returned to her. She had a special place in her heart for children. Above all, she was a protector of those precious values that help us to find the true path. She was the epitome of a 21st century Renaissance woman.
Is it a wonder, then, that she could connect with some part of each and every one of those who knew her and we with her? If her body had let her, she would have gone on for a real long time, and would have continued to be the best part of anyone's day. And for all the difficulty in it, we would have loved to continue taking care of her, to insure that that would happen.
I think, in the end, it was her vitality that won out; and I am sure that she is in her beautiful best self - feeling as fresh as that strikingly lovely, romantic young woman looking into the mirror on her wedding day. Lately she was so desperately missing her parents, and my dad, and the many cats that took as much care of us as we of them, and the many dear friends and relatives who had died. So now she has the best of both worlds - and like the good angels and the guides, she will find a new energy to remain with each and every one of us - keeping us company, watching over us, making sure we laugh, and giving us a 'whack' every once in a while if we stray too far from being our own best selves.
She surely was the better part of me. More than my mother, I had the great good luck to find in her my best friend. She was my balance; she let me have the dialogue I needed to spread my wings and fly, and, at the same time, she always made me feel like I was on solid ground. To be sure, like all close family members, we had our ups and downs, our fierce fights, strong differences of opinion, and our squabbles. No matter, she made me feel centered and strong - able to face anything just knowing she was alive in this world. Especially in the days immediately after she passed away, and from time to time since, I have felt like I am lost at sea. But, then, she always did come through for everyone, and I know that she is still the compass and that she will give the means to find our way to the reason locked in the mystery of death and, in turn, the mystery of life.
Early on, my mother shared with me a funny story about the night I was born. When she awoke, after the delivery, it was an hour or two past midnight. She was at Mother Cabrini Hospital, in a very simple room, alone. All was dark but for a single dim light that shone on a cross on the wall opposite her. She thought she was dead, and mumbled to herself, "Well Lyd, you're a goner." When I kissed her good bye before leaving the house, little thinking it would be for the last time, on the day that she died, earlier that morning she had confessed to me that she was ready to go. She had suffered vascular problems almost all her life and, later, serious heart disease. Though I chastised her for being willing to leave us, I knew in my heart that she was truly, as usual, in flow with the nature and order of things. In fact, she was so in tune with the rhythm of existence that I think she was honestly wishing for the next great adventure. Her death left us all with a profound sense of loss that has led us - family and friends alike - to come to understand the essence of what drove her - she just loved being.
As I attempt to reconcile my new connection to her - should it be only through memory, though I am almost certain it is more than that - I know she will continue to be my muse. I will continue to share with her my tribulations, seeking her sound advice. But I especially look forward to sharing with her the wonderful things to come, to continue the journey we started when I was born to her - hopefully with her near, the wind in my sails - and to honor what she so willingly taught me about living and being.
Some years ago, my mother made the decision to help restore the St. Anne monument in Rome, on behalf of herself and her children, in honor of my Dad. With a new sense of purpose and direction, in this year following the lessons held in her passing, I dedicate The The Mnemosyne Foundation to Lydia Bonito.
Virginia Anne Bonito
June 26, 2002
Bronx, New York
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