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RIP Nonna Vjollca

Sometimes you travel for the worst possible reasons. It’s a trip you’d hoped you wouldn’t have to make for a really long time. Maybe even forever. If we were lucky. If a miracle smiled down on us…

If. If. If…

I thought long and hard about writing this post. I somehow felt that it wasn’t my right to put these words to paper.

Because the depth of my relationship with my mother-in-law was nowhere close to my husband’s – HER SON, my sisters-in-law – HER DAUGHTERS, Naia’s great-grandfather – HER FATHER, her brother, her cousins, her friends as close as sisters, her nieces, her nephews and the list goes on and on and on and on – of the people who loved her and were touched by her in a life cut unfairly, unjustly short.

But it felt equally wrong to ignore an earthquake of this magnitude in our lives. To say nothing. To keep writing posts, and listicles, and restaurant recommendations on this blog, without a word.

And so here I am. Sitting in an Italian coffee shop in Seoul, that has nothing in common with any cafe I’ve ever been to in Italy. Allowing myself to grieve at last. In my way. The words allowing the wound to open enough to cry. The words providing a clear window into the simple truth that I haven’t grieved for the same reason it’s taken me this long to write this post.

I didn’t think it was my right. After all, who am I? To her…

But of course, all grief has it’s place. No matter what form it takes. No matter where it happens to reside.

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At a remembrance lunch for family members in Albania, her father described her life, as a “storm,” and it was that.

Living under the utter restriction of a Communist Dictator in Albania, I can only imagine how she longed to be free (as almost every Albanian I’ve ever met does). When Communism finally fell in 1991 and left the country poor and in ruins, she moved to Greece, then Italy, and finally Canada, pulling not only herself and her children out of poverty, but countless others along with her.

This priceless gift of opportunity for her children, given through hard work and the force of a will so immense it cannot be measured, may be her greatest legacy yet.

Nonna Vjollca, my greatest sadness is that your granddaughter will not have the privilege of knowing you. Even now, a month after your passing, I watch her growing and changing and learning at an impossible rate, and my anger at the absolute injustice of it all is always there, muted in the background, behind the inevitable laughter and joy of watching your child become who she is.

Sail free Nonna Vjollca. May you find peace in the rivers, oceans, and skies of the world as your soul travels to the furthest reaches of our Universe.

I hope it’s beautiful.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Shelley, I am so sorry to read of your loss. And it is your loss, too, even if you weren’t related by blood. What a happy face your mother-in-law has in these photos – pure joy with her son, her daughter(s), I think, and of course, her granddaughter, your blood link after all. I’m glad she got to meet and spend time with Naia and sorry it wasn’t decades more. She looks so young and vibrant; it had to be a virtual earthquake that took her from all of you too soon. My sympathies to Agri and all of you. Your post was just right.

    March 19, 2017
    • Thank you Lex. I was taken by surprise when the tears started flowing. I’d been pretty numb till then, so it was pretty cathartic. She was far too young, and though her and Naia didn’t get enough time together by far, at least they met and I have lots of pics and videos to show Naia when she gets older. Nonna loved her so, so much. πŸ™

      March 21, 2017
  2. So sorry for your loss Shelley. Grief lands where it lands and you have as much right to it as anyone. What a wonderful daughter-in-law she has!

    March 20, 2017
    • Thank you Alison. I’m one of these lucky individuals who has yet to lose anyone I was close enough to, to grieve. But you are right that grief lands where it lands. It’s something I’m realizing as we go through this process.

      March 21, 2017
  3. I am so sorry for your loss, Shelley. πŸ™ I cannot imagine losing a parent, so it must be very hard for your husband and of course for your entire family too.. Those photos are beautiful memories!

    March 20, 2017
    • Thank you Pooja. It is indeed one of the worst possible losses imaginable. πŸ™ I’m so glad we have all these wonderful photos of Nonna to show our little one in the future.

      March 21, 2017
  4. I’m glad you made your post. Nonna must be smiling up in heaven to see that her life has touched perfect strangers half way across the globe: what a beautiful smile she has, so happy and peaceful. What are you to her? Why, you are the wife of her son and the mother of her grandchild, so I would say, you are quite a bit to her. As she was to you. Last year a dear friend went between the veils, it was so hard for me being so far away, and I blogged a couple of times about it. I found it helpful. Sometimes we just have to express how we feel to the amazing community we find here in Blogsville. Thank you for writing about your grief and your deep loss. From what you have written about her, I am sure Nonna is watching over you and your family and always will do. what a blessed soul. xxx

    March 20, 2017
    • Thanks Debbie. I really hesitated with posting it, but it just felt so completely WRONG to keep writing other things as if nothing had happened. And it was surprisingly cathartic to write some things down, and even helped me to unearth some feelings, that I didn’t know were there.

      March 21, 2017
  5. beautifully written. Sorry for your loss.

    March 22, 2017
  6. So sorry for your loss, Shelley. But what a wonderful tribute to Nonna Vjollca. She must be smiling down on all of you and the world now. It is lovely to see her in all of these photos. You may not be related by blood as Lex said, but you are every part family to her and I am sure she smiled at you whenever you met her. She will always be remembered, through these photos and memories that all of you hold in your hearts. You are very courageous to have shared this, and take care.

    March 24, 2017
    • Thank you Mabel. She WILL always be remembered, and I’m so glad that we got to take some trips with her while she was still strong enough, so she could spend time with Naia. I wonder if Naia will hold any memory of those things…but anyway, we have the pictures and the stories to tell her about how much Nonna loved her. πŸ™‚

      March 26, 2017
  7. This is a beautiful post, Shelley! And incredibly sad for me cos I know how difficult it was for all of you. πŸ™ I don’t think I could read every word; it’s just too difficult. The pictures said so much and are filled with so much warmth. I’m glad Naia got to spend some time with her nonna.

    April 18, 2017
    • Thanks Cheryl. It was definitely a sad few years, with lots of ups and downs, but we’re so happy that Naia got to know and travel with her nonna. <3

      April 19, 2017

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