The week of February 17th, 2020 started out with a little tension. My Nana was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. She fought this 2 years prior and beat it, so it was a little tense but I felt good about her health. I captured my business week in "Top of Mind". Typically, I would cover the next week in business and share a lesson. However, I had a month that felt like 1 long week. It was all a blur.
On February 22nd, 2020, my Nana, Gabriella Carfagno went home to be with the Lord. I've never experienced loss like this in my life. I've shared on recent episodes about my mom and her battle with COVID-19. My Nana was my second mom. My dad would pick me up on weekends and take me to his parent's house in Plymouth Meeting, PA. I would stay there and spend the majority of time with my Nana & Pop-Pop. They raised me half of the week, while my mom did the other. As much as I love my dad, I always say that Nana & Pop were my parents. They taught me by example a lasting & enduring marriage. That's why the GE culture that I talk about in "Top of Mind" rubbed me the wrong way. Nana & Pop-Pop were my rocks growing up. Nana loved on me as her own son, tirelessly serving all of my needs. Pop-Pop was the man I sought approval and affirmation. They are a huge reason we left NY to come back home to the Philly Area in 2018. They were over 80 at that point and we didn't know how much longer we had. We wanted to spend Sunday dinners with them verses quarterly trips from NY. Anyway, the week Nana was in the hospital was a roller coaster. She was okay, then on a ventilator and fighting for her life, then okay and I was making plans with case management for her to go home. Then she was on life support and gone. I was there by her side the whole week. This would not have been possible if I was still in NY. Since this is a podcast to help others, I'm trying to speak outwardly verses inwardly as I have been in a lot of pain over her loss.
So let me give you all a kick in the butt. Are you stuck in a job you hate? Do you have loved ones at distance that you don't see enough? Do you talk all the time about making a change, yet remain in your comfortable life? What are you waiting for!? I was there in the summer of 2017. We were living in NY for 15 years and desperately wanting to come home. We were comfortable in our life, friends, church, and super-optimized solo cleaning business. I'm so thankful that we made the move, otherwise I would have missed those precious final moments with my Nana and the ability to keep my Pop company and love on him as he suffered the loss of his wife of 63 1/2 years. I'm thankful to my dear friends Vincent Pugliese, Billy Altman, and Ed Weidman for encouraging me to follow our dream. I'm thankful for Ian Traynor for trusting in me and the solo cleaning business I built as he made the sale & transition so simple for me to leave. We are humbled and so grateful. I miss you Nana!
My wife and I handled a lot of the funeral arrangements to allow Pop to grieve. The funeral was on March 2nd, 2020, the day after my 43rd birthday. I was blessed with the opportunity to eulogize my Nana, which I included at the bottom of the show notes. After the funeral, I was still highly engaged in helping settle up finances for my Pop and help his youngest & autistic son David (my uncle). Our family was at the house every day for a week or two and then the world stopped. On Friday March 13th, Teresa and I were gearing up for our annual honeymoon retreat. It is our time each year to reset, enjoy each other's company, and plan out our business year. We had to cancel that trip as COVID-19 started it's viral attack on our county and the governor of PA shut life down piece-by-piece to contain the spread. During a vital time where my Pop needed companionship and the love of his family, we couldn't see him or hug him. It was like losing Nana again.
This is what my month was like personally. That's why business was a blur. I operated in priority-only mode. During this time, I did accomplish a few things worth sharing:
Life doesn't stop when the world does. And don't ever feel the pain of regret because you chose to stay comfortable. Here's the eulogy to my Nana -
A Tribute to the Life of Gabriella Carfagno
Like a Sunflower by Ken Carfagno III, March 2, 2020
God designed His sunflowers to bloom in the summer and to always position their face to directly receive the sun's gaze. Sunflowers are tough, able to tolerate heat and drought. They also yield many seeds prior to expiration.
My Nana loved sunflowers and I believe it's because she was so much like them. Gabriella Anna Carfagno was born on Memorial Day. Like the sunflower, she bloomed in summer.
Gay was the heart and soul of the Carfagno family. She always knew what to do, when we needed her, and that was often. She selflessly slaved away in the kitchen every day to keep us well fed. To call her a homemaker would be grossly underestimated. Not only did she raise 3 boys, but worked full-time outside of the home for over 25 years to help support the family. She never shied away from sharing her opinion on any matter. She knew exactly when to rip your food out from underneath your chin if it was too cold. She knew how to correct and comfort us. Yet she was tender, allowing her boys to cuddle up to her on the couch as she rubbed our hair. Her passing has left a huge hole in each of our hearts that will take a long time to heal. And when it does heal, our hearts will never be what they were before. Scars will remain as a permanent mark of her imprint upon us. She taught us how to love, how to serve, and recently, how to fight. Like the sunflower, she was tough.
It's easy to see why sunflowers are often thought of as "spiritual" flowers as they always face the "Son". Many consider them to be a symbol of true faith and loyalty to something that is much bigger and brighter than themselves. That was my Nana. She had true faith in God and unwavering loyalty to her family, which are both much bigger than herself. Like the sunflower, her example has yielded many seeds of faith, love, and service to everyone who knew her.
The Lord has called her home. She won't have to turn to face the Son anymore. He surrounds her all the time.
I love you Nana. Thank you for everything!