The Goddess Speaks
A goddess? Me? Never. But I do have one desire that few of those closest to me would ever guess. I wish to become a member of the Gracious Ladies Society.
a gracious life
There isn't actually a set list of qualities that one must possess to become a member of this society. Gracious ladies are marked by the way they lead their lives, and they are easy to spot.
I am blessed with having known two such women. The first is my mother, who has proven to be the epitome of a gracious lady. I am awed by her kind and gentle manner. One of my friends has always referred to her as the "First Lady."
I first met the second lady, Florence Viotti, and her family one Sunday at church. Her daughters, Valentina and Victoria, are the same ages as my sister and me. Just as the four of us girls became fast friends, our parents formed a unique and close friendship that grew ever stronger over 30 years.
It was no surprise to me that Florence and my mother grew so close. They had the same ability to take a keen interest in the lives of those around them and a talent for making others feel good about themselves.
These two selfless women, with no regard for how they were feeling physically or emotionally, had a knack for making you feel that there was no place they would rather be, nothing else that they would rather be doing and no one else they would rather be with than you. I used to say that they were bonded by their graciousness and, thus, the Gracious Ladies Society was born.
Florence often said that she loved life so much that she wished she could live forever. It was obvious that she didn't just love life, she lived it to the fullest. What fascinated me most about her was her ability to bring out the best in each person. She never dwelled on the negative, she always concentrated on the qualities that made each person special.
I was touched one day when I was lamenting my inability to be kind to others and feeling an overwhelming sense of cynicism. Florence, in her no-nonsense way, told me I was one of the "loveliest" people she knew. She also said I was one of her favorite people and that she had only observed me as a "kind person with a big heart."
How I remember wishing that I could be as at ease and sincere with issuing these positive reinforcements as she was. I carry her words of praise and encouragement whenever I am feeling down.
It was a tremendous shock when my parents told me one morning last year that Florence had passed away. I felt a loss for which I was not prepared. She was just a few months away from her 84th birthday and had been looking forward to welcoming the new millennium. She had overcome years of health-related problems, handling them with so much energy that no one would ever guess she was not in perfect health.
In a world where it is becoming common to publicly take our bad moods out on others and where common courtesy is becoming a thing of the past, the last thing we needed was to lose a gracious lady of Florence's caliber. As one of her son-in-laws put it so eloquently, "She accepted me and loved me for who I am and she made me a better person for it."
Her husband of 57 years, Dante, now refers to her as his "Angel in Heaven." I can just picture the most gracious of angels looking down upon us with her thoughts of encouragement. And yes, her spirit will live on forever in my constant quest to attain the rank of Gracious Lady.
Nancy Talmadge-Cazinha is a mother of two who is a substitute teacher for the Department of Education. Next week she begins teaching Hawaiian language through the Adult Education Program at Aiea High School.
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