Michele “Mike” Grispino
January 21, 1947 – January 1, 2020
Dad’s Eulogy by Maria Teresa
Acute. Myeloid. Leukemia. When we heard those words our hearts sank. We were devastated and scared. The mortality rate was just 90 days. That was two and a half years ago. That is how my father died, but I’d rather focus on how he LIVED.
Everyone dad encountered fell in love with him. He was easy to love and he pulled you in to his light. Every Doctor, Nurse, Tech, Orderly, everyone that walked into his hospital room was greeted with a smile and, “Hello, What’s your name?” “Nice to meet you ((Mariana)) TANK you.” If mom was there which she was 99.9% of they time they’d also be offered cookies, candy, a sandwich and even pasta Bolognese that she whipped up IN THE HOSPITAL. To feed the entire floor of course. They both brought so much light to Rhoads 6 & 7 of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. We are eternally grateful to the entire team and other families there who showed both my parents so much love, support and hope. They always made the best of it, never ever asking once “Why me??”. Just forward momentum and a can-do spirit.
Days before he died dad’s oncologist told me, “Maria, you’re father is a miracle. I have no other explanation. I believe it’s his purity of heart, goodness, unwavering kindness, and his bright spirit that’s kept him with us this entire time.” I couldn’t agree more- my father IS a miracle and continues to shine incredibly bright, his warmth is as bright as the summer Calabrian sun. The best things in this world cannot be seen or touched but felt by the heart, and my father was ALL heart <3. ️(Frankford- pause) His spirit is indomitable, even his body- small but mighty!! He was aware and lucid till the end, often opening his eyes and reminding us with these three words:, “I LOVE YOU”. When the medicine stopped working, when the platelets just wouldn’t hold in his body, even during blastocyst crisis, he looked pretty darn good! Cancer never touched his spirit, HE was stronger, HE WAS THE GRIZZLY Bear ️(if you want to know that story you will have to ask his best friends Sal & Lou) the doctors never experienced someone who went through AML leukemia like my dad. He threw up maybe once, through the hardest chemo and Bone Marrow transplant, he kept up with his walking and hardly dropped weight (thank you mom!)
At the end, a bag of platelets infused in him was likened to “putting a piece of paper into a raging fire.” They gave him 24 hours to live on December 23rd. His last rights were read to him. But three days later, the day after Christmas he was still eating and fighting. That morning he ate a bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, spinach, bacon and coffee. And of course continued to chug water because “it’s good for you!” That morning the hospitalist came in to tell us, “I’m so sorry I feel bad telling you this, because you don’t look THAT bad and are completely coherent but there’s nothing more we can do. I’m recommending home hospice.”
Dad and I just looked at each other like “Well! We’re still here now!”… Dad finished his breakfast, finally looked up and replied, “You know? I’m really lucky. I’m so lucky. My father only lived to be 37 years old. He was just a kid when he died. I’m so lucky I got to live to be 72. I have a beautiful family and I had a wonderful life. I’m so lucky.” Even when faced with death, my father remained grateful, brave, patient and positive. What an incredible and exemplary human being he was.
The oldest of 5 kids, he was only 12 years old when his own father died. He took care of his family, taking over his father’s business (butcher shop and cantina) and learning more each day. Everyone who knows my dad, knows his heart and goodness, so it may sound ironic that he was a butcher. But he had such deep rooted respect, love and stewardship for the animals, he would always say ‘gli animali primi’ “first the animals eat and are cared for” then us. And as a butcher absolutely nothing went to waste, every single part of the animal was utilized, otherwise it would “be a sin” as he would say.
And so it was that he cared for the animals and made his father’s business thrive. He was trustworthy and a natural businessman, getting by, in the beginning, because of his father’s and grandfather’s good name. When he went to the market to buy animals he had no money. When the ranchers’ found out he was “the son of Vincenzo” without question they extended him credit.
Once when he was about 14 years old he bought a live lamb, he paid about 5 millalira for it, but he was quite aways from home and on foot. Little by little he carried the lamb, first on his shoulders, then he’d hold it’s hind legs and encourage it to walk wheel barrow style, before having to carry it some more……finally he came to a road and two young men pulled up in a car. Dad’s instincts thought, ‘oh no, they are going to rob me and steal the lamb.“ Instead, to his surprise, they offered 12 millalira! He earned 7 Millalira in a DAY! That was a lot of money to him and he got to walk home free.
My father was a simple and very practical man, he never needed much and was always “happy”. But really it was more than that -he was truly content with life. You may think “Contentment” doesn’t sound good, you may liken it to ‘settling” however if you look up the definition of the words this is what you will find.
hap·pi·ness | \ ˈha-pē-nəs \
Happiness comes from an emotional reaction, from external stimuli, based upon happy or satisfying experiences, temporary, requires constant replenishment, dependent upon things going well, disappear in difficult times.
con·tent·ment | \ kən-ˈtent-mənt
Contentment comes from unconditional love, internal balance, unconditional self-love, is sustainable, consistent, independent of external conditions, endures during difficult times.
And that’s what dad was…he was truly content….Contento. He was a sunshine! Every room he walked into, would light up, he brought pure joy, fun and knowledge and laughter. His patience and wisdom were unparalleled and he was steadfast as a boulder. He never let his family down. He wholeheartedly felt the weight and what it meant to have and keep a “good name.” He wanted the legacy of his father’s good name to stay alive and be perpetuated through him. He not only continued his father’s legacy through their good name in Altomonte, Italy but he continued it across the Atlantic Ocean 10-fold!! My father has touched countless lives, the legacy he’s perpetuated through his goodness is immeasurable. He has made a positive impact in the lives of so many, his light goes on eternally, in each of us, in each of you. Be patient, be kind, “la parole che non dice e la migliora” ((SLOW DOWN)) when you’re angry the word that you DON’T say is the best word. AMA la sua persona con loro defetto. Love the person through their defects, cause we all have them. He. Lived. These. Words. He was the most Christ-like individual I’ve ever encountered.
And to my mamma, you are the Lion. You protect us all, through your selflessness, your sacrifice, you give the ultimate gift of yourself with every single fiber of your being, all your strength, through all your own pain, both physically and emotionally- you just keep going. You never left his side for a moment. Broken foot and all. You are a powerhouse, you nourished his body and soul with such tenacity. (pause) You deserve to rest now too, with us here, rest and be at peace knowing you left no stone unturned, never have I witnessed such a love between two people. You are soulmates forever-united, lovers in the truest sense of the word. Love is something that you DO and YOU DO it all, for daddy for all of us. Incredible survivor you are. No one could dream up a better confidant, advocate, supporter, caregiver and lover as you, mom. Daddy has told you himself but you know it- you were THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE. His wish for you is that we will care for you, but also that you will take time to take care of yourself.
I could go on forever about what kind of father he was- extraordinarily patient and how in all these years, my brother and I only saw him lose his temper maybe twice, (PAUSE) how he scooped me up into his arms right before a nasty crow got to me, how he always dyed Easter eggs with me despite the fact he hated getting his hands stained, how he taught me to ride a bike and how I used to wait for him at the corner of our street to come home from work. When I’d see the red Altomonte’s van I’d start pedaling home and we’d race, (me on my bike and he in the van) he always let me win. Or how I made him snuggle me to bed each night till I was 12. I could go on forever….and what a blessing to get to work together and see each other every day-what a gift!
So many have asked “What can I do?”, What can I do to help??? I’ll tell you how to honor him and assure his spirit lives on forever. It’s simple, live as he did— with patience, passion, fun, love, family, kindness, integrity, honor and a grateful heart. You can hug a nurse and thank a doctor. You can give the gift of LIFE by simply giving BLOOD, platelets and bone marrow. You can donate in his name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society for research and a cure.
In the 12 short years my dad knew his own father he recalls his dad saying, “Che sono questi facce lunghi?!!” What are these long faces? “La vita e bella e da godere!” Life is beautiful and to be embraced. With a smile and that beautiful twinkle in his eye- ADVICE Dad leaves us:
-EVERYTHING YOU DO, DO IT WITH PASSION!
-RICORDATI CHI SEI! REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!
-Look forward, never back, except to help the next one in line and see how far you’ve come.
-Always, always keep your faith, and be positive.
So, from this side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other, TUTTI LO SANÒ, everyone knows….You’re such a GOOD MAN, son, husband, brother, father & friend, business man, MICHELE GRISPINO il figlio di (son of) Vincenzo Grispino, impeccabile with your word, trustworthy, respected, loved & admired by everyone who knows your name.
What a blessing he was to ALL, but I KNOW I’m the luckiest girl in the world cause I got to call him Papá.