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Once again I find myself posting in response to a funeral.

Positive message of the post:  live each day as if there were no other, gather around you the people that mean most to you, create community in your life.

My mother in law died several weeks back.  I never expected that would move heaven and earth.  You are where you come from, I used to say.  You are who you are with, I should have recognized.

Anna Mary Magdalene O’Keefe Ziamandanis… eulogized most beautifully by daughter Debra.

I never lived those early years with her.  I could not add to the richness that was conveyed at the funeral.  Never did I expect to experience the grief that did happen, that still does happen in odd moments.

As we gathered in the final days of Anna’s life, it became very clear just how much she had accomplished in life.  Here we were, some 15 of us, jammed into this small nursing home room, sitting on chairs, arms of chairs, the floor, chairs dragged in from who knows where, and the occasional person perched on the windowsill.  The first day, we had not planned ahead, so the staff brought us lunch.  After that, we were pros – we shared meals and we shared stories.  We became conscious of when our voices were bothersome to Anna, and when our conversation seemed to soothe her.  We lingered.  We teared up.  We laughed.  We stayed on a bit longer.  Eventually we said good night to her, unsure if there would be a tomorrow.

Both nights when I said good night to her, I said “You did this!  This is all because of you!  Thank you.”

Anna Mary Magdalene O’Keefe put her kids above all other priorities in life.  When they married, she made sure to develop a relationship with her children’s spouses and in laws.  When her children had children, those little ones moved to the #1 priority spot.  It was a pretty simple formula.

I came out of the funeral weekend wondering how I got so lucky to be surrounded by people like this. It was like a Win for Life lottery ticket in my pocket.

How?  By people like Anna Mary Magdalene O’Keefe, who constantly reminded us to value those around us, to live each day fully, to create bonds among us. Live by example, but find time to laugh.

This is The House that Anna Built:  family.  Family that enjoys time spent together.  Family that counts on each other in times of need.  Family that laughs often together.  A testament to her House was that room at the nursing home, packed with family unwilling to go home.  She gave us those relationships, and she modeled each and every day what should matter most to us.

Anna Mary Magdalene O’Keefe Ziamandanis – thank you.  Well done.  I hope we can live up to your example.

About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!


  1. What a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law Claire. I love the line “You are who you are with,” especially when it comes to family. That you could find joy and laughter in that tiny room is a testament to the company you keep and the family you married into.

  2. Beautiful tribute to an obviously very special person. I’m so sorry to have only met her briefly once….. but I’m sure we see little bits of her influence in all of you Ziamandanis’ .

  3. Stephen Ziamandanis

    Very Very nice touch. She loved you very much as well. We will all miss my mommy.

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