Where was her village?

I’ve been meaning to write this post since February 20th. How do I know? Because that’s the day I heard about 85 year old Oriella Cazzanello; a woman from Northern Italy, who traveled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, and paid €10,000 to kill herself.

I first heard this story on my way to work. I listen to Teresa Tomeo’s Catholic Connection Radio Show on Ave Maria Radio in the morning and she gives me the news. I find that it’s never just news, it’s always information that makes you think and shapes your day.

Mrs. Cazzanello said she felt “weighed down by ageing and the inevitable loss of the looks of which she was proud”.

85 year old Oriella Caszzenello paid  €10,000 in self-assisted suicide

This took place at an assisted suicide clinic. A clinic. Even the naming convention of this place is horrid. A clinic. Makes it sound clean and spa-like, doesn’t it? I imagine Mrs. Cazzanello tried to gain love and attention from others to overcome her feelings of loneliness by working on her outward appearance. Society says we are supposed to be perfectly airbrushed, perfectly blemish free, perfectly perfect to be acceptable, to gain entry into the spotlight of popularity.

According to the Daily Mail:

Her brother and other relatives had not heard from her since the end of January, but were not unduly concerned, as Mrs Cazzanello, was an ‘independent’ person who would often take herself on spa weekends.

I was upset that this woman felt lonely. Granted, I can’t take all accountability for how anyone feels. I understand that it is one’s right to feel the way they want to. I couldn’t help but obsess over this beautiful woman. She looked like my grandmother and maybe how she would look now if she were still alive.

Where was everyone? It takes a village to raise a child, and so too, it takes a village to love our elders and care for them. Her family said she was independent. Maybe she was too proud to reach out. Maybe she felt cast aside, unlovable, unwanted and easily discarded. Maybe she didn’t want to spend another day feeling lonely. Can you imagine the loneliness day in and day out? No one calling you, stopping by to see you. Why would they? You’re independent, right? Maybe so, but that still doesn’t mean we don’t rave the human touch, interaction, dialogue, interest and sharing. Isn’t that what we, on some level, try to do in this medium of blogging? To fill gap because we need to be social. It’s called social media! We need real, intimate connection.

When I was in high school, my parents took care of my step-father’s 2nd cousin who was around 80 at the time. Her name was Helen, but we called her Honey – and man could she trap fly’s with her sweetness. Honey was hilarious, witty and full of sass. All you had to do was mention Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and she’d lose it with some very colorful (not safe for children) commentary. It would really get her goat. Women should be classy and respect themselves.”In my day…” and that was it. She’d bring up modesty in dress, demeanor and speech. Themes that are at the forefront of the public square still, today.

I loved spending time with her after school, talking about her first date and her first job. We would walk to the beach or hang out in her room. I would go through her jewelry box, just to get her to remember the stories associated with them. I’d sit on the edge of her bed and play with her silvery hair. I remember the soft nubby-ness of her blanket and the satin edges.

The time I spent with her was invaluable. I think it’s because of her that I love our older, and wiser family members. Even if they aren’t my blood family, I will gravitate toward an 82 year old over a 42 year old any day. If you need or want to know anything, ask them. I would rather go to them than the internet, I can tell you that! In fact, I still have a brooch Honey gave me. It’s tarnished now, and a stone fell out of it, but I cherish it for what it brings me, a smile and comfort in knowing that I got to know a special woman at a very impressionable time in my life.

I guess my point here is, call your grandmother, or grandfather and tell them you love them, plan to see them and don’t break your commitment. Love them. Cherish them. Laugh with them. Have them listen to your bad day and help you through it. Visit an elderly care facility. Spend time with them. What’s a game of checkers to you? If that scares you, talk to elderly members of your parish. I always, always, stop by to say hello to this man. He is the sweetest person ever and he says he’s always glad I came over to say hello. Our conversation doesn’t go farther then me telling him to stay out of trouble, but I make eye contact and I hug him. I have my boys say hello, look right into his soft eyes and shake his hand.  Teach your children to love them and honor them. To recognize that they are to be honored and respected.

I implore you to value all human life and pray for Oriella Cazzanello’s soul.

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13 thoughts on “Where was her village?

  1. My fathers last years were filled with Alzheimers as sad as it was every time I took him for a cat ride (we did that while my mom was at mass) it was a new adventure. He was always happy to see me and we spent many memorable hours together.Love them while they are here and never forget that a hello or just a simple smile does wonders. Keep teasing your senior at church I am sure he just loves it.

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    1. He totally loves it. You can tell just the moment I come into focus. His eyes brighten and a smile comes across his face because he knows the ribbing is about to begin.

      I love that you took those rides with your dad. Have you read My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell?

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    1. People can be lonely anywhere – even with tons of people around. Big cities, like NYC, you hear all the time how lonely people are. If everyone is minding their own business, sure, it can get lonely really quickly. If everyone is always staring into their smartphones and not at each other, loneliness… Marriages, families, friendships, workplaces – lonely. And yes, it’s very sad.

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  2. My husband and I just walked in the door, coming back from lunch with his mom who is 89 today, and I read this story. Which is beautifully written by the way.

    I can’t help but think about my mom, who I check in with every day because she lives alone, and my grandparents who lived with us for a time before they passed away. Our elders are a gift. I feel sad for those who don’t realize that.
    My heart and my prayer go out to Oriella Cazzanello and all those who feel lonely.

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  3. Excellent post, Cristina! It’s so sad that no one knew how lonely & desperate this woman felt – or even worse, maybe they did know but they didn’t do anything to try and help her. We can’t save everyone, but there are so many things that we can do (big or small) to let others know we care. Sometimes that can make all the difference to someone. Thanks very much for writing this post and reminding us!

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