December 15, 2013
In Memoriam: Santa Natalie Fichera, 1925-2013
By: Joseph S. Fichera
My mother, Santa Natalie Fichera, died Saturday December 14, 2013 in the early morning hours at the age of 88. She died after losing a battle with a suddenly rapidly advancing leukemia.
Her death, during the Christmas season, a time of joy and celebration, is poetic. Christmas is likely the reason why my immigrant Italian grandparents named their daughter, my mother, “Santa Natale.” And, Christmas is likely why my parents named their son “Joseph” and their daughter “Virginia Mary.” Christmas is about a family and it is intertwined with my family.
Losing both parents in the same year and in less than four months makes me wonder why, the same as Job asked God why bad things happened to him and all that he loved in the Bible’s Book of Job. But as it is explained to him, there is no explanation and we must accept what we don’t understand and move on.
Throughout her life my mother’s love was to be the advocate for her children, particularly her only son. No detail about me was insignificant to her (Sometimes I loved this; sometimes I didn’t.) While it may seem cliche, the center of our home was the kitchen. Here, all things were discussed and decided. And my mother was the kitchen’s master, our source of nourishment physically, emotionally and intellectually. She loved the art of conversation, even when others may not have been good listeners. My mother taught me so much.
She was the youngest of four daughters of Natale and Angelina Finocchiaro who came to America from Sicily about 100 years ago. She took care of her parents as they got older (both died in their late 80′s) as well as raised her family with her husband, Sebastian. She made sure God was in every room of our house. She decorated our home with our redemption in mind. In each room there was a reminder of our Catholic faith, of Jesus, the saints, the cross.
While my father was the family’s consummate general, my mother was its commander. She ran the house and was the savvy buyer of goods and services for us. She expected that the family’s hard earned money would receive the value for what she purchased. She made sure that everyone delivered on what they promised. Whether they be a large department store or a local handyman each had to live up to her informed standards and scrutiny. (We all have heard of “Consumer Reports” magazine today but she subscribed to it in the 1960′s.) Few salespeople, service providers or others, if any, could win an argument with my mother about the quality of a product or about his or her duty to her to perform as promised or expected.
When I was younger, my mother worked as a hairdresser and, though she didn’t finish high school and her own father was illiterate, for her children she willed it to be, and made it be, a far different story. Her son and her daughter went on to earn Ivy League degrees with the son earning one from Princeton and from Yale. She and my father made personal sacrifices for this goal and to give us opportunities they didn’t have. They always focused their love on their children with little attention to their own needs. The only exception was that my father’s one directive to me was to take care of my mother, the woman he called his “Doll” thoughout their 65 years of marriage.
Oscar Wilde said, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”
With my father’s death in August 2013, my parents are now both at peace and reunited. There is much I still need to do to honor them. I don’t wish to burden friends at Christmas with my loss or sorrow; I only wish you will help keep me on the right path in the new year and for all the years to come.
In loving memory by her only son,
Joseph Sebastian Fichera
My father, Sebastian Joseph Fichera, died in August 2013. Please see Sebastian Joseph Fichera