Lessons From Our Grandmothers


In February, my boyfriend Nick’s grandmother died. The grieving is still harboring in our thoughts, the sound of her voice in our heads and the memory of her laying in her hospital bed still fresh in our minds. “Grandma” was very special to Nick and his family. She was also a very holy woman who had a passion for life along with a colorful sense of humor that could put a smile on your face in a matter of minutes.

Shortly before she went into the hospital—and following the death of her husband of 58 years—she made the decision to travel and see Nick and I in Los Angeles. It would have been her first vacation and flight since 1986. It felt like the biggest honor to have her choose to come see us first. We could not wait to have her in our home and show her around Hollywood. With Nick’s mom Mary in tow, the two lovely ladies were Los Angeles bound for a week of fun in the Southern California sun.

It was the first time I met Grandma and was introduced as Nick’s boyfriend, which was a special moment for Nick as he always had a sense of nervousness around telling his grandparents about us. To his ease, Grandma was not only accepting and showed such unconditional love, but she also was a firm believer that God never judged. Grandma treated us like any other couple and loved seeing how much we cared for each other. Her overall trip to LA was wonderful and filled with lots of laughs and memories, especially driving her to see the Pacific Ocean and hitting up some of Beverly Hills’ most famous bakeries. Grandma had a huge sweet tooth, which we all appreciated very much.

Many months after Grandma’s visit, she went in for a suggested heart surgery, which was supposed to help with her shortness of breath and boost her energy. Unfortunately, Grandma had two strokes during surgery. This was a massive devastation to Nick and his family as Grandma became immobile.

Seeing her not being able to drive, walk or go as she pleased was heart wrenching. It broke us down seeing Grandma lose her freedom. Once news of her stroke came, Nick and I booked a flight to Chicago so we could visit with her in the hospital. Grandma laid in her hospital bed with all kinds of different machines around her. It was a different sight than seeing her walk with a big smile in California.
She did not remember anything about the stroke or surgery but was aware something bad had happened. While we were sitting around her, a doctor came into the room and asked who all these people were, she smiled and said, “That is my daughter, Mary, my grandson Nick and my grandson Matt.” That made my heart so happy. Grandma was still so proud to tell everyone in the hospital that we came in from Los Angeles to see her and nicknamed us the “Sunshine Boys.” Before we traveled back home, she told us we brought light wherever we went.

Less than a year later, Grandma eventually passed on. We had gotten to see her a few times since she was in the hospital, but each visit we could see her spirit was getting ready to go. Her charm and contagious smile was there until the very end, and she never once complained about her situation. Not once. She was the prime example of a fighter and held on through the holidays. A big part of us had a sense of peace in her passing knowing that she was going to be met by her late husband on the other side. They could be free together, reunited as one. They had such a loving relationship that Nick and I admired and continue to strive for – that old-fashioned, long lasting love.

Matt Jacobi GrandmothersRecently, I went home to Arizona to see my own grandma, Clare DeAgostine, who we call “Nanny.” If you asked all 7 of her children, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-great children about what Nanny is like, they would all say she is the nicest woman you will ever meet. Being in her presence is always eventful, and she has the magic to make you feel like the most special person in the room. One of the many things I am so thankful for that Nanny has given me is the belief that all love is love and equal in her eyes. She led the way in showing her support for gay rights and equality in our family ever since I can remember. As a gay person, having that love and acceptance is pure gold.

During our day together, Nanny and I spent time out and about running errands. We got to talking about Nick’s grandma, and how he was feeling. Grandma’s passing put a lot into perspective for me. You never know when somebody close to you is going to leave the Earth. I was very young when my dad’s parents passed on, so the relationship with my Nanny is uniquely close.

While we sat across from each other, she leaned in and said to me, “As much joy Nick’s grandma brought to his life, you must remember that he brought so much into hers.” Those words hit the core of my soul, so much so it made me think and reflect with gratitude. I believe a lesson is to be learned for all of us from what my Nanny said: As much love we think we get from someone else, we must remember we are giving back a lot too.

We never know what we are doing for others. Love is so powerful, the most powerful form of emotion you can possibly feel. When it is bounced back from person to person, the energy of that feeling is indescribable. So, when you have that special bond with someone in your life, whether it is a family member, best friend, mentor or lover, don’t take it for granted. Allow for positivity to feed on positivity and cherish each moment you have with one another.

We all have “sunshine” within us. Choose to use it at its fullest.

With Gratitude,

Matt Jacobi

Matthew Jacobi