Friday, 5 December 2014

R.I.P. Mary Cebalo

A week ago today was the funeral of Mary Cebalo, my Grandmother. Grandma was born in 1921 in Kalgoolie, Western Australia. Her parents, my great parents, were from the island of Korcula, in what is now the Republic of Croatia, that said, Grandma would be quick to tell us that she was Yugoslav, not Croatian.

Grandma had, from an early age, a deep love of literature and history. The first stirrings of my love of poetry began around her dining room table where she would read of recite or read some of her favourite poems and then encourage me to recite one of my favourites.

My interest in history and my belief that the current state of the world can only be understood was likewise nurtured by her and my grandfather's long talks which would cover everything from Alexander the Great, to the Roman Empire, to the history of Balkan Region to 20th century Australian History.

Grandma loved school and hoped to become a teacher herself; I don't doubt that she would have been a good one. Unfortunately, economic necessity forced her to leave school at only 14. I suspect this was one of the things that formed another key aspect of who she was, her strong sense of social justice. Grandma talked a lot about what life was like before the war, how difficult things could be for people from poor families if they became sick. She also, in spite of growing up in the Australia of the 'the White Australia Policy' was always adamant that anyone, regardless of colour, was welcome in her home and around her table. I know some people wonder why, in spite of my relatively conservative views on a number of social and cultural issues, I continue to identify with the political left; I think a good part of the credit or blame, depending on how you view it, belongs to Grandma.

I've mentioned her table, without a doubt my fondest memories of her have to do with her cooking. Grandma made an amazing pasta, she cooked a traditional Croatian recipe, similar to what the Italians would call Bolognese, although it would have taken more courage than I've ever possessed to call her pasta Bolognese within her hearing. Likewise, she made an excellent rissott. Yes, that is the same thing most people call 'rissotto'; no, we're slavs, we spell it without the vowel on the end.

Grandma, like most Croatians, was baptised and confirmed a Catholic. She didn't practice the faith, at least not as far back as I can remember. She did however, retain a deep love for the sacred heart. A picture of the sacred heart, which belonged to her parents, hang over her bed through most of her life. When she was unable to stay at home anymore and had to move into a hospice, that picture came to me. I'm not generally one for sentiment but I do love to think about the fact that I know have a holy object which belonged to my great parents is something that touched me deeply.

I ask you all who read this, please pray for the soul of Mary Cebalo.


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