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Photo ofGianna Ripo

my grandma was born in Jamaica, New York, in 1926, and spoke fluent Italian. She was always in the kitchen baking or cooking anything imaginable: pinole, biscotti, fettuccine. Everything she made was  on point and delicious. She was always happy and loved to laugh and smile, but wasn’t afraid to tell her grandchildren when they were misbehaving. She had five kids, nine grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. She was my inspiration.  Unfortunately, her health was tested. The first hardship happened when she slipped on a towel, broke her hip, and had to go to the hospital to have an operation. I was extremely worried. We often visited her in the hospital, and she would say that the food was disgusting and that she wanted to go home. We all missed her cooking. While recovering, her knees started to hurt, and she started using a walker.  When she returned home, she needed extra care. My siblings, parents and I went to her house every Sunday. My aunts and uncles would visit on the other days and eat meals with her. We realized that we didn’t have her for- ever, so each time we went to see her, we were excited. We played cards and board games after dinner. She was always happy to see us and would always give us candy even though my dad didn’t approve.  Although she was home, she still had difficulties with mobility. It was hard to see her becoming helpless while attempting everyday activities. She still loved watching the Food Network, but she became worse as time passed. We had to start hiring live-in caretakers, and sometimes they wouldn’t al- ways perform their job correctly. She started taking a lot of medication. Her health remained stable, but she stopped watching television and slept or read instead. I often asked her what she was reading, and it was always a biography. She was excited to share what she learned. We hired several care- takers that we liked, and they stayed for a while. Unfortunately, no one was perfect, and they ended up leaving. Time passed, and a lot changed.  When my grandma’s health declined, life became chaotic. She became bed- ridden and was helpless. We were still going to her house every Sunday, but instead of going for only a couple of hours, we were there all day. My dad would cook whatever she wanted. We got her a music speaker so she could listen to music. She would sleep more and wouldn’t talk or respond as much. We would still talk to her even though she looked like she wasn’t paying attention. Her body started to shut down.  On December 19, 2019, my dad was at my grandma’s house while my mom was out. I was home making dinner. I called my dad, and his voice sounded raspy like he just cried, and I had a gut feeling of what happened. Then he told me that she passed. As I heard the words come out of my dad’s mouth, I didn’t know what to do.  My aunt wanted me to make a slideshow of my grandma’s life with family and friends for her funeral. It had about 100 pictures and four songs. Two of them were “A Bushel and a Peck,” which she would sing to me to get me to stop crying and “As Time Goes By,” which was her favorite song.  My grandma had a significant impact on my life, and I miss her. She taught me so much, and I will always remember her smile. She made an impact on everyone around her and always wanted to help whoever needed it. She’s inspired me to do as much as I can to help the people around me, and I will always think of her. I’ve learned that people don’t live forever and that there is no promise of tomorrow. 

© Gianna Ripo. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.