Thursday, January 13, 2011

Calvary in the Parking Lot

My Uncle Armand passed away on August 15, 1991, the Feast of the Assumption.  I have wonderful childhood memories of  times spent together, especially Christmas Eve parties at his home where we could hardly wait for Santa Claus to come. My father would play the guitar and sing Italian songs accompanied by my Uncle Armand who played the mandolin along with their brothers who played various instruments. I never realized that when Santa came, there would be one less musician in the room.  The parties would end after midnight, and my private tradition when we arrived back home would  be to put on my pajamas, and go quietly into the living room to watch A Christmas Carol, the original black and white movie with Alistair Sim  as Scrooge on our big 25 inch console television.

My uncle and his wife lived only a few blocks away from us in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn,  and I was always happy when they visited us or when we would visit them, and often I would enjoy spending time with their children, my first cousins. My uncle would search his pocket change and give me the quarters that he found, and I would look forward to spending them on pizza, comic books, penny candy, devil dogs, maybe a new Spalding ball. My aunt and uncle would sometimes meet us to "go for the paper" which meant buying the first edition of the Daily News when it arrived on the newsstands sometime after 9 PM,  and,  since we were out why not  "go for coffee".  Going for coffee evolved into having huge desserts at Garfield's cafeteria or having a plateful of those little square hamburgers at the White Castle.  I would usually order a hot chocolate with whipped cream and a cinnamon bun and the young lady behind the counter playfully greeted  me as  "Cinnamon Bun" when we walked through the door.  So many details of these happy times came to my mind.  My uncle always called me, "Joanie"

I  had attended a Traditional Mass that day.  At that time there were few so-called "Indult" Masses "approved" by Pope John Paul II.  I was glad for this opportunity, and in my state of grief  I especially appreciated its solemnity.  The priest friend of mine who celebrated the Latin Mass said that it was a blessing that my uncle had passed away on the day of a beautiful feast of Our Lady.  I prayed for my uncle during Mass and tried to comfort myself in the blessing of his passing on the Feast of the Assumption.

My brother and his wife had a favorite place to eat in our Brooklyn neighborhood, the Aegean Isles Restaurant, and we had gone there for dinner. It was a quiet restaurant with no loud music so we could talk.  I am sure we spoke of my uncle at dinner, but what we were to experience leaving the restaurant was so extraordinary that it is all that I can remember of that evening.

We must have stayed in the restaurant for a long time because when we left the sun had already set and it was dark  We started toward my brother's car which had been parked in the restaurant's small parking lot.  As we walked, my brother said that it would be nice if God gave us a sign about our uncle, something to let us know that he is at peace. I said that Fr. Karl said that  it was a good sign that the died on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.  He said, "I know, but that's not enough.  You want more."  

We were now close to the car. "Signs are all around," I said.   I turned around and with a gesture of my hand said, "You just have to look for them."  There on the cement wall, where I had gestured was the shadow of a hill with a cross and two smaller hills, one on each side in perfect symmetry. It was Calvary in silhouette.  I remember my brother saying, "Wow!  Look at that!"  We had to find out what had caused the image, and so tracing back, somewhere in the distance behind us, we saw a trash container with various pieces of wood in it and other debris around it.  Somehow, the reflected light of the moon and/or streetlights had turned what was worthless into a sacred scene. 

"More" signs:  My uncle had been in Calvary hospice, and he was buried in Holy Rood Cemetery.   

The definition of Holy Rood:  
Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) (often capital) the cross on which Christ was crucified

I believe this sign was meant especially for my brother who never took my little signs too seriously.  I had heard him tell of our experience that night many times  over the years with the reverence of one speaking of a small miracle, and I believe it was to even further strengthen his faith and devotion to Christ crucified.  My brother was to become very ill, and showed amazing courage and joy in his final days.  I believe it was significant that he passed away on Good Friday.

Joan Virzera


  1. Signs are everywhere its true, I live by the penny rule, when you find a penny you know a loved one is there with you.

    1. Thank you for your comment, and may we all find pennies when we need them.