The Last Word

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Yeaaaaah I’ve been neglecting my personal blog. What better day to re-emerge than the last day of the year? I couldn’t keep all of my New Year’s Resolutions from last year, could I?

2015 was one hell of a year. I lost a ton of weight (then put some back on GOD DAMN IT HERE WE GO AGAIN IN 2016). I had a fantastic year in freelance, landing a new gig at the incredible G4@Syfygames (where I wrote about my personal Game of the Year), doing more incredible work with Walmart GameCenter, and seeing my most active and financially successful E3 conference ever. 2016 will be another year of triumphs (I hope) with continued freelance success, a new podcast venture (wink), and — most importantly — my entry into fatherhood with the coming birth of my daughter Olivia Rose in April. To say that my wife and I are excited about becoming parents is the understatement of the century.

Unfortunately this year is ending on a somber note for my family and I, having lost my paternal grandmother Evelyn Pasquine Fanelli on December 26. We said our final goodbyes to Grandmom yesterday at a beautiful ceremony fitting of a beautiful soul, and I cannot truly state how grateful we all are at the condolences and well-wishes we received from social media and face-to-face interactions alike.

I had a major responsibility at yesterday’s proceedings, chosen to read the eulogy for my grandmom before the end of her funeral mass. I spoke at my paternal grandfather’s funeral in 2006 as well, so I knew what was to be expected of me, but I still carried a lot of anxiety toward this undertaking. I wanted to celebrate her life, portray her as accurately as possible, and show how much we all loved her, and I only had five minutes max. I was the last word on Evelyn Fanelli, and I wanted to do that justice.

Below is that eulogy in its entirety. I can only hope that it honors Grandmom Evelyn and that all who read it get a proper window into this special, special woman.

May you all have a fantastic New Year’s Eve celebration, and I’ll see you in 2016.

Thank you God for everything.

Those five words ended every prayer ever when Grandmom Evelyn Fanelli was around. From Sunday dinners to Christmas brunches and every meal in between, before we started eating those five words were sure to be heard.

It’s a simple yet powerful prayer, one that embodies Grandmom’s attitude toward life perfectly. She was always thanking God for everything, from her health and her ability to dance in four different ballrooms a week – “I look good for 39” she’d say every birthday — to her family and the times we shared with her. Journals she kept next to her bedside use the same words in every entry: “grateful,” “thankful,” “family,” and “love.”

We are born from love. We grow, we learn, we live, we love, then we return to the love that created us. Grandmom loved life and it loved her back, blessing her with a loving husband, three wonderful children, and two grandchildren who turned out alright. She was a shining example to those she met — and will continue to be for those she never had the chance to meet — of kindness, warmth, and joy. Her door was always open, and a visitor’s arrival was always marked with a big hug and kiss on the cheek, even if that person had just seen her earlier in the day. To Grandmom it didn’t matter who you were, if you were in her company you were family.

If family was number one on Grandma’s list of most important things in life, then staying active was easily number two. Her days were defined by the bowling alleys and health clubs she frequented, but her nights on the ballroom dancing scene are where she truly shined. Strap a pair of dancing shoes on Evelyn Fanelli and she would transform into a dancing machine; I don’t think there’s a single dance floor in Delaware County that she hasn’t spun her way through at some point in her life.

She loved sharing those hobbies with her family too, showing videos of her twirling around a dance floor – videos that made me fatigued just watching them – and frequently taking her young grandchildren to MacDade Bowl on a summer afternoon. In fact, one of those summer trips to the alley will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I was about ten, and for some silly reason I thought bowling over 100 was the pinnacle of athletic achievement. Grandmom could do it with ease, frequently bowling in the 150s, while her stooge of a grandson would roll 70s and 80s. She’d constantly be telling me to straighten my body out and stop throwing to the side and I’d still throw the ball directly into the gutter. Despite my inability to compute what she was saying her smile never wavered, her warmth never cooled down.

One Thursday afternoon it seemed my time had finally come. I was looking at a 99 after the sixth frame and I could barely contain myself. Grandma was even more excited, sashaying around the lane and dancing around every time I hit those pins. I felt unstoppable thanks to her encouragement, there was no way I wasn’t hitting 100 on this day.

The seventh frame came and I threw two gutter balls. In my mind the choke was on and I was already in panic mode, but Grandma looked at me and said “you’ll be fine, just calm down and throw straight.” The eighth frame, two more gutters. The ninth, same thing. That 99 was going to haunt me for the rest of my life. First ball of the tenth frame also found the gutter and I was seconds away from losing my cool, when suddenly Grandmom took my hand, looked me in the eye, and said “it doesn’t matter what you throw next, I’ll still love you. I’ll always love you.” Like night and day the anxiety and nervousness left me, all eased by the love and serenity this woman always showed me, and I left that bowling alley with a score of 106. She even waited for the man at the desk to print me out a copy of the score so I could prove it to my parents when I got home.

I’d like to close by taking that simple prayer I started with and flipping the script, because this woman who spent her days thanking God for all of her blessings deserves a little gratitude herself.

Thank you Evelyn the wife for being the gold standard of wedded bliss for so many years, a perfect blueprint of how it’s done to your children and grandchildren alike.

Thank you Evelyn the dance partner for years of setting every ballroom in the Philadelphia area ablaze, always being the first one on the floor and the last one off of it.

Thank you Evelyn the mother for raising three incredible children, all successes in their own right, and starting a new branch of the Fanelli/Moroni family tree that continues to grow even today.

Thank you Evelyn the Grandmom for showering us with love and support, for being our biggest fan and our loudest cheerleader, a friend to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on, for the stories you’d read and the games you’d play, and for being a shining example for your two grandchildren on how life should be lived.

Most of all, and as simply as I could possibly think to say it:

Thank you, Grandmom, for everything.

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