Friday, February 1, 2013

Grandma Kosta

Almost two weeks ago, after decades of bravely battling diabetes, Brian's Grandma decided to stop receiving dialysis treatment. We all knew the significance of that decision and of course, so did she. On Wednesday last week, Brian and I rode the train in to Tufts Medical Center to visit Grandma and say goodbye. One week later, Grandma Kosta passed away peacefully in a room that looked out over the expressway and into South Boston, her beloved hometown.

I have started a few blog entries about Grandma Kosta this past week, but I haven't been able to finish any of them. That's partly because I haven't been able to collect my thoughts on all of this just yet, but it's mostly because nothing I have written seems to capture enough of this fabulous lady. So tonight, with permission, I'm going to post the eulogy that Brian wrote last night and delivered today at Grandma's funeral. This is Grandma Kosta.

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Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

For twenty-three years, I was blessed to live under the same roof as my grandmother. I have many fond memories of growing up on Marine Road with my grandma, Agnes Kosta. However, the holidays at our home have always owned a special place in my heart.

I can remember back to one holiday morning when I was in high school. Like I often did on these mornings, I ran up the back steps of our frigid hallway to visit my grandmother. It might have been Christmas, or it could have been New Years, but it didn’t matter. I expected to open the door and see the usual: Grandma layering the “lakror” (spinach pie) or hovering over the stove top stirring the kielbasa. Instead, I opened the door and there was Grandma: sitting at the kitchen table in her little nook, almost waiting for the door to open. And as soon as it did, I was not greeted with the typical “Happy New Year” or “Merry Christmas,” but rather the following question….

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

I froze. Was she OK? Instead of clarifying her question, she repeated it again:

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

Now, my Grandmother wasn’t a drinker, but that didn’t stop me from taking a quick glance around the kitchen to see if there was an empty wine bottle or shot glass that would explain such a stange question.

I responded… Um Grandma, what are you talking about?

She looked at me. That’s how I want you to start my eulogy, Brian. You need to ask, “Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?”

At the time, I’m sure I muttered something along the lines of “sure Grandma” and dove into some of her delicious cooking. After Grandma’s unusual question, we quickly returned to our holiday morning rituals as usual. But, I also remember walking back down those frigid back steps telling myself that I would some day honor her request. Today, I have the privilege of remembering Agnes Lazar Kosta with all of you… I hope, in just the way she wanted us to.

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

To many people in South Boston, she was Mrs. Kosta…

Mrs. Kosta and her husband Teddy ran the “M Street Deli” for 30 years. The corner store was known by the locals affectionately as “Ted’s” probably because you were more likely to bum a free bar of candy or receive a discount on milk if Ted was behind the counter as opposed to Mrs. Kosta. But, Mrs. Kosta was equally as important to the livelihood of the store as her husband. I can just picture her running up and down the steps from the store to her home, trying to simultaneously manage both the household and the store. For over 30 years, Mrs. Kosta and the M Street Deli were a source of comfort and happy memories for so many people in our community.

Mrs. Kosta was also a walker. Like clockwork, you would find Mrs. Kosta doing her loop around Castle Island at the same time every morning. And man, could she move. My mother used to try and walk with her, but she could not keep up. Mrs. Kosta loved her morning walks. I’m sure they provided time to reflect, to think, and to enjoy her beautiful hometown.

I always thought that one of the hardest experiences for Mrs. Kosta was when her diabetes took away her ability to walk. I could not imagine what it must have been like to once so effortlessly breeze around Castle Island and then years later struggle to walk to your own kitchen. Despite these frustrations, Mrs. Kosta still bravely carried on her fight against diabetes. She was an inspiration to so many.

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

To friends and family, she was “Ag” or “Aggie…”

Born down on A street, raised up on D street, Aggie seemed to know everybody. And if she didn’t know you, she knew your mother or your father (or thought that she did). Aggie was a fixture at this Albanian Orthodox church for many years. She enjoyed Sunday mass, followed by coffee hour downstairs in the hall. As we all know, Aggie would sit downstairs and hold court for hours. As anyone here knows, Aggie’s voice carried across the room.

Aggie seemed to make friends wherever she went. No matter how foreign or unfamiliar the environment, Aggie would find an audience. And no matter who was her audience, we all know that Aggie was brutally honest. She held no punches. She told it like it was. But, that’s why people loved her. Beyond the brutal honesty was someone who truly cared for other people. Aggie’s charm, good humor, and storytelling were infectious.

Aggie was a friend. She was a sister to George and to Rita. She was an aunt. She was a cousin. Aggie was special to so many people.

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

To six people in this room, she was “Grandma”…

Grandma loved her six grandkids and her two great grandkids. One of Grandma’s proudest possessions was her license plate: “Four Kings. Two Queens.” Her kings (Marc, Greg, Michael, and myself) and her queens (Taryn and Rachel) would often seek her counsel, her company, and her cooking. Grandma was a constant source of love and strength in our lives. For her great-grandkids, she was a constant source of peanut M&M’s (Grandma was no fool… she knew how to bribe). For my brother, Greg, she was a constant source of harassment, following him around the streets of South Boston in her Oldsmobile. And she was a constant source of entertainment. One of our favorite traditions was gathering around Grandma on Christmas and her birthday, watching her open her gifts. We’d smile as she complained that she never wins on Marc’s scratch tickets and we’d laugh when she’d turn to whatever relative gave her a sweater or slippers and say, “No, no, no. Take it back.” That was Grandma.

Grandma loved her grandkids and she made our lives that much richer. She hosted all of the holidays for us, and she eagerly attended all of our special events. For each one of us, Grandma was like a second mother and helped shape the adults that we have become.

Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

To Linda, Janice, and Susan, she was “Mom” or “Ma”…

Mothers and daughters have a special bond, but the bond among Linda, Janice, Susan, and their mother was truly special. For years, Ma took care of her three daughters. She loved them more than life itself. Her kids were everything to her, and Ma raised three wonderful daughters. Ma always joked that she had four daughters by including her sister-in-law Georgia Tracey in that company. But, I know she only said this because her daughters meant the world to her… and so did Gia.

Ma never had any sons, but took in her sons-in-law like they were her own. And when Ma grew old, all those years of love and care were returned to her, as her own daughters, sons, and Gia selflessly took care of Ma and comforted her in the later, difficult years of her life. Fittingly, some of Ma’s last words to her daughters were “always stick together.” Don’t worry, Ma… they will. We all will. I once heard that all a parent wants is to make life better for her kids. Grandma, you sure did that. And I know that Linda, Janice, and Susan are forever grateful.

And lastly… Who was Agnes Lazar Kosta?

To her husband, she was Agnes… her soulmate.

Agnes met Ted when they were teenagers. They fell in love, they married young, and they raised a wonderful family together. They ran a store. They traveled the world. They did everything together. (Except go to the Pen). It was more than twenty years ago when Ted left this world too soon. And I watched a piece of Agnes go with him. I cannot imagine how hard the past twenty years of her life must have been. How can a person go on without her soulmate? But, Agnes did go on. She carried on the family traditions and she made our family stronger. Now, Agnes and Ted are reunited. They watch over us, as they hold hands and go for walks together. Mr. and Mrs. Kosta. Daddy and Ma. Grandma and Grandpa. Agnes and Ted. Together again.

Agnes Lazar Kosta. Mrs. Kosta. Aggie. Grandma. Ma. Agnes. You were so many things to so many people. You were one of a kind. Even though we called you by different names, to all of us, you were an angel who made this world a better place.

Goodbye Agnes Lazar Kosta. We thank you and we love you. 

 Agnes Lazar Kosta
April 1, 1926 - January 30, 2013

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