a dear friend, gratitude, and joy

As leaves unfurl, buds swell, tulips stand tall in full regalia, later up here in the hills than the lowlands, I’m reminded how time continues to march forward, whether we’re ready or not. This perpetual rhythm is something that inspires Pietro in my book, From Ashes The Song, leading him to the realization that if nature can recover from the frozen lifelessness of winter, so Assunta can recover from her grief.

The story is inspired by the true story of two Italian immigrants, Pietro and Assunta, as told to me by their daughter, Irene Smylnycky.

Sadly, Irene passed away last week. Until a few short weeks ago, she lived independently at 90 years old, with all her faculties. The day she suffered a stroke she’d intended to make perogies for the annual Easter feast she cooked for her family, because family was the most important thing in her life.

Gathering everyone around the table meant more to her than anything else, nourishing them was a way to express her love. But then she found a multitude of ways to make the people in her life feel important. I, too, was a beneficiary on our visits, which always ended with tea and whatever cake she’d made that week, and on our trip to Italy in 2009 to trace a world her parents had left behind a hundred years earlier.

Irene voiced her gratitude every day. And she knew how to touch the lives of the people around her just as her parents did. Her father, Pietro, did it through his music, her mother, Assunta, through her joy of being with others.

I will miss her greatly. And I will continue to be inspired by her example. I will be eternally grateful for her friendship, for her stories, and for the song. Rest in peace, my dear friend, Irene.

Pietro's childhood home
Susan, Teresina, Irene
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