This morning I laid a wreath at the crypt that houses the body of Ernesto DiSabatino, my great-grandfather and founder of a community. As I sat quietly in prayer and thought, I was struck at what lay in front of me. A stone building and a wreath. Together they were suddenly symbolic of Ernesto’s gifts of building, compassion and community.
Ernesto built great structures and therefore the setting was appropriate. The crypt is elegant in its architectural simplicity. It is made of stone, the hallmark material used by Ernesto in the construction of St. Anthony’s church, St. Thomas’ Church and many other icons. Rev. Roberto Balducelli, O.S.F.S., coined the phrase, “malattia della pietra,” or “disease of the stone,” to illustrate Ernesto’s passion for building. Building of buildings, building of lives and the building of community. And build he did, passing on this three-pointed legacy to countless friends, hundreds of descendants and thousands of employees spanning generations.
Ernesto built lives. At my grandfather’s funeral, a little old Italian man by the name of Dominick “Cue Ball” Albano grabbed me. (He was aptly named Cue Ball because of his beautifully shaped head!) Since my grandfather was being laid to rest in the same crypt, Cue Ball was reminiscing about when Ernesto died in 1932. Around that time, Cue Ball had noticed a group of men, including my grandfather, using their hands to construct the beautiful stone structure that would become the final resting place of Ernesto, his sons and their spouses. Speaking only Italian, Cue Ball asked if they needed help. Understanding the plight of the Italian immigrant, my grandfather, in the tradition of Ernesto, stretched out his hand and never let go. For the next 60+ years, Cue Ball would be a member of our family as a carpenter, supervisor, retiree and friend. And he became symbolic of Ernesto’s never ending tradition to outstretch one’s hands for the advancement of another.
Ernesto built community. His family learned to speak English because of the generosity of members of the community that arrived before him. His family put food on the table because people were kind and trusting of his skills. With this in mind, Ernesto built community by giving back throughout his life. And his legacy lives on in the decoration on his grave. What a better representation than the simple wreath on the doors. Two wonderful women, born nearly a century apart from Ernesto, made the wreath and share his spirit. They work in the business he built and constructed the ornament of greens, pine cones and a bow as a means to raise money for a worthy charity. One wreath at a time, they are bringing dignity to a world that is too often cold and lonely.
During this holiest of seasons, take the time to reflect on the gifts given to us from generations prior and our obligation to do the same, regardless of your standing or struggle.
Merry Christmas Ernesto.