Saturday, October 16, 2004
Family Ties
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I began to think about hereditary factors and DNA. How I have dealt with this news and the role my faith has played was also influenced by my genes. Perhaps it is best described as the influence of the strong role models I have had throughout my life. My family is full of strong women role models. Starting with my mother, and continuing on, I could write pages about amazing women of great courage and faith throughout my family tree. Today I want to share briefly about one.

Many years ago in Italy during World War II, a beautiful young woman named Josephine fell in love with an American soldier. When the war was over he sent for her to be his bride. Following her heart, Josephine bravely boarded a boat and came to America. Her love for her husband never wavered and together they proudly raised three children. I had the privilege of growing up just five houses down the street and knowing her as my Aunt Josephine.

There are four things I believe describe Aunt Josephine. First was her love for her family. She protected and loved her children unconditionally and the love for her husband was without question. Second was her unshakable faith and her devotion to the Blessed Mother. I cannot remember seeing her at mass without her rosary in hand and her head bowed in prayer. She once brought me a rosary from the Vatican blessed by the Pope and as a child I couldn’t wait to go to mass so I could say my rosary with her and my mother. Life in America was not perfect and no matter how hard the struggles, and some were immense, her faith was steadfast, her prayers louder, and her dedication stronger.

The third thing was her love for all things Italian: the country, the heritage, the food, the music, the art, the jewelry, the people, the language, everything. And if she could, she would have brought the entire country back home piece by piece in her suitcase, which at times felt like she had. She inspired me to love my heritage and love the country. And finally, her passion and exuberance for life was contagious. She found joy in the simplest of things. Whether it be watching a flower blossom from just a cutting, eating the first fruit off the tree, walking in the waves at the ocean, or sharing something she cooked from scratch, everything brought her joy as though she were experiencing it for the first time. I have never met anyone else who could find such joy and also bring such joy to life.

When people ask me, “Where did you learn to be strong?” Or “How do you find blessings when you are faced with something that seems so terrible?” Or when they say, “I don’t know if I could be so brave.” To me the answer is simple. I can introduce them to each of the strong women in my life who have been role models and I can tell them a story about a beautiful young woman named Josephine who fell in love with an American soldier.

Rest peacefully, Aunt Josephine. Ti Voglio Bene.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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