On June 11, 1933, Augustine, “Gus” Fanelli (known as Gussie by those who loved him), arrived into the world in South Philadelphia to Lena and Joseph. On September 12, 2015, God decided Gussie should be released from his suffering after bravely battling Parkinson’s Disease, bladder cancer and an infection resulting as a complication from Parkinson’s Disease. To say that those who love him miss him terribly is a gross understatement. His kindness, his understanding and his sense of humor are just A few tiny pieces of what made him such a wonderful human being. It is no wonder the Lord wanted him with Him.
Knowing that he is with the Lord does not make it easier for those who are still on Earth, left to wonder how life will be without his presence, his smile, his words of wisdom. It will prove to be an arduous undertaking, especially by me and my sister, to whom he has been a rock, a best friend, a moral compass, and a parent whose fairness and genuine goodness are the bar to which we can only aspire to reach as parents ourselves.
In attempting to deal with my father’s inevitable death this summer, I couldn’t help but think of a lesson I teach to my high school Spanish classes every year, the Mexican and Latin American tradition of the day of the dead (el Día de los muertos). To those who celebrate this day (ironically on my birthday, or All Saints’ Day), death is part of life. It is not to be feared. Each November 1, the loved ones of the departed gather to remember those who have gone to the Lord and celebrate their lives through stories, symbolic offerings, photos and parties. I think the tradition is beautiful but not one that most Americans easily embrace, especially me. I don’t cope well with death, and to be honest, I pictured my father as invincible, so although he was ailing and 82, I still thought he would beat the odds as he had done in the past. Therefore, his death is still a shock to me.
While thinking of the Day of the Dead, I thought, why not celebrate my father’s life all the time, whenever I feel like it? And why just limit to me and my family? So, having spent the last 9 years as a blogger, I decided to do what I do best- start a blog to commemorate the life of my dear father to help me and my family cope with our loss, but also to open it up to extended family and friends to share memories, funny stories and photos with everyone else. I would love for everyone who sees this to subscribe to it and comment regularly with a contribution, or email me a photo to share with everyone. It won’t help us miss my dear father any less, but it will help us all to remember the impact he made on the life of every person with whom he came in contact, be it in the family, in the South Philly and Springfield neighborhoods, the police force, the army, the town watch, his colleagues, the Men of Malvern, the Knights of Columbus, the Sons of Italy, his hunting crew, his friends and so many other people with whom he came in contact. He even charmed the staff at the nursing home where he convalesced in the spring.
So please, comment on posts, email me photos (just snap a picture of it on your phone or scan it if you have a scanner), share a story. You will be helping me and my sister and our four daughters learn things about our Gussie that we may not know, and hopefully bring a smile to the faces of others who loved him as well.
For now I leave you with my two favorite photos of me and my father- one of him with me when I was a screaming new born (he called me chicken legs, as you can see) and one with him from 2001. I hope you will share your memories as well.
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