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1 May 2007 | 33 Main St, Salem, NH
You died very peacefully Wednesday morning at around 2:00 a.m. with Uncle Serge at your side. I imagine you floated away like a piece of white down on the outside air. You just softly,
And now, we exhale, sigh, relieved that you went well.
I want to bottle you somehow. Concentrate who you are into an elixir that I can save and - break glass - take in an emergency. I don’t want to forget any little thing.
I don’t think a day will pass when I don’t hear your voice in my head saying one of your famous sayings.
“I avoid work.”
“Why sure why not.”
“And Here! My life was so strange! No one could predict it.”
“I’m so grateful for my life.”
“God has plans for each and every one of us.”
“Work is not a rabbit. It won’t run away from you.”
“Money is not yours. It is given to you for safe keeping.”
“I’m 39-plus.” “I don’t need anything.”
“Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts.”
“No matter what bad happens-something good comes from it.”
“God is in charge.”
If her saying held no significance for you the first time you heard it, it became an unshakable part of your consciousness by the 18th time.
Nana you were sweet without being sugary. When someone once told her, “You know the trouble with you Mary? You talk too much.” she quickly replied, “Thanks for listening.” She liked her tea with six sugars and two cookies.
She sang, clapped and playfully growled with her great-grandkids.
Each birthday card had the word “special” in it and was signed “All my love and God’s Blessings, Old Nana”. Each birthday brought a call from opera-singer Nana belting out a birthday song.
Nana, you were funny and never took yourself too seriously. You were feisty yet easygoing. During a visit at SalemHaven, I asked how she was, and she replied, “Kina punk.” Then she’d shrug as if to say, “But what can I do?”
Nana lived a full life. She showed us Perogi. Pinnochle. Polka. She danced the Charleston. She loved travel regardless of the mode- plane, balloon, boat, bicycle, train, car or foot. She once told me that she and her friend walked to Hartford from Bridgeport in a single day; this may or may not be true, but if so that is 54 miles!
Over the last 10 years we saw her lose: the freedom to drive, her independence, her home in Oneida, her physical mobility, the ability to swallow, she lost her sight, her hearing, her memory, her privacy. For some, having these things defines a good life. She lost them all, and what happened to her? She persevered! She never complained. She’d just shrug while the rest of us sat astonished. What was her Secret? How did she deal with all that life threw at her?
Faith. She showed us again and again that believing in God and praying to Him paid off. Saint Anthony found anything she prayed for, and soon after the request was made. Tom’s keys were discovered in a large meadow field. Pop (Alexey) found employment after being unemployed just an hour or two. Nana and Ania found Alexey and Serge at the State fairgrounds on the busiest day, just after a freak rainstorm. Nana was once lost in the woods looking for escaped cows, and a sheepdog appeared. The dog helped her find the cows, herd them into the barn, and walk Nana to her house. Nana went into the house, found her best cut of meat, chopped it up and brought it out to feed the dog. The dog had gone, never before seen and not seen since.
Nana would awaken after a snowstorm to a shoveled driveway, and yet none of her neighbors admitted to the charitable act. One neighbor saw someone shoveling her driveway, waved to the person and walked on. Growing up watching this, it became evident to us that Nana had some hidden power connection with the Big Guy. He did what she asked. Knowing Nana was to watch the power of faith, and the evidence was undeniable whether or not you still believed in God.
Who was Mary Cryvoff to us? She was Sister, Grandma, “My favorite Mother-in-Law”, Mom, Nana. She became our unspoken Matriarch. Our example. Our model. Our spiritual guide.
We all looked to her to lead the way – to show us how to live, how to age gracefully. Whatever big decisions Nana made, she first asked God to let her know if she was doing the right thing. She said, when you know the right thing, you feel it deep down in your heart. Once her heart was pointed in the right direction, there was no stopping her from going forward. She got married because she felt it was the right thing to do, even if she had to hide it from her own parents for a year. She prayed for us, you know. She prayed for us all daily that we might know the right thing. She loved us with prayer.
Thank you Nana for your constant prayer.
Thank your for your simple, strong and unpreachy faith.
Greatest Thanks to Almighty God for Mary.
(Read at St. Joseph's Parish)
Life, God and Alex Trebek
My earliest memory of Mary Cryvoff, "Nana," has remained vivid over the years.
I remember her standing among family and neighbors at the dining table in her upstate New York farmhouse. The feast is ready. Laughter and conversations are echoing off the walls and checkered linoleum.
I remember she used to read us countless stories from any book we would give her. Charlotte's Web to the feats of Evel Knievel - it didn't matter.
I remember her tirelessly playing traffic cop as we rode our tricycles in circles around her in our driveway
After our visits, she would return to her small Cape Cod house and independent life in Oneida, NY.
Well into her 100th year, she would pray each day - for each of us and others. Prayer was an integral part of her life. She was just as familiar talking with the Saints as with us.
One day at the farm, our uncle lost his car keys somewhere in the fields. Hope of finding them was slipping fast. Mary made a quick petition to St. Anthony - and the keys were found.
Knowing that Nana prayed for you everyday meant that you were never truly alone. Her quiet and constant vigil kept watch over you even if no one else cared.
I had grown to place my faith in Mary. But she placed hers in God and Alex Trebek.
She awoke early and walked to church everyday. For her, God was everywhere but chose to work in small ways. He was all-powerful but subtle.
The same could be said of Alex Trebek. And for that, she devoted every evening to Jeopardy. Her day may have started with the Lord, but it ended with Alex.
Prayer strengthened her faith. And Alex strengthened her mind. Plus, the Daily Double questions provided fruitful conversation during the hours in between.
I remember how determined she was.
She always struck me - like my other grandmother, Lucia, as a woman born a generation too early. She did not shy away from getting her hands dirty. She was in many ways a modern woman. She drove a green Ford Mustang.
Her greatest fear was being a burden to others. This was a trait well-known, and it forced many friends and family to find creative ways to deliver assistance.
After winter storms, neighbors would stealthily shovel a driveway. In the summers, her lawn would magically mow itself while she was away. After family had left for a long roadtrip home, a few extra dollars might turn up in her wallet or in her desk.
This was a necessary tactic since she led a life of words and deeds - and they were rarely in conflict.
“Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts," she would say.
The day's little random events provided numerous opportunities to spread her philosophy.
Procrastination is futile. "Work isn't a rabbit. It won't run away from you."
My father and I would try every year to fly her back to New Hampshire for Thankgsgiving in our little Cessna 182. We would pick her up from the desolate Kamp Airport outside Oneida, NY.
We were always greeted by her devoted friends eager to give Mary a proper sendoff for the holidays.
We would load her suitcase, which always seemed heavier than possible, and a bag filled with snacks like kielbasa, frozen chocolate chip cookies and plenty of garlic.
No matter the rain, snow squalls or turbulence, she would be grinning from the back seat as the miles slipped by. She exuded complete confidence in us even when we may have secretly questioned our own.
I remember being by her side during her last days at the Salem Haven home.
She would awake from from her derilium and look at me, tell me she was sorry and loved me.
She would try to sing a song from the old country just as she had done when I was child and then fade away. Then, for a few moments, she would awake with eyes that were resilient and strong.
During my brief time, I saw saw her wrestle with a body and mind that had slowly betrayed her after long journey. Her stubbornness became diluted with confusion and then acceptance.
On the last day, I remember she showed me that you never stop questioning, learning or loving.
Obituary from The Oneida Daily Dispatch
May/11/2007 | Oneida, NY
SALEM, N.H. - C. Mary (Cepuch) Cryvoff, 99, died Wednesday at Salemhaven Nursing Home, Salem, N.H.
Mary was born and educated in Poland and Bridgeport, Conn. She was a resident of Salem for the past five years, formerly of Oneida, N.Y.
Mary was a secretary and bookkeeper for Bridgeport Brass Company in Bridgeport, Conn. She was a member of St. Joseph Church in Salem, N.H., and the National Polish Alliance, where she was a former national secretary.
She was predeceased by her husband, Alexey Cryvoff.
She is survived by a daughter, Anna and her husband, Richard Willis of Salem, N.H.; a son, Serge and his wife, Helen Cryvoff of Fishkill, N.Y.; a brother, Michael Cepuch of Trumbull, Conn.; five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass will be held Friday, May 11 at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Church, Salem, N.H. Burial will be in Pine Grove Cemetery, Salem, N.H. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Joseph Church, 33 Main St., Salem, N.H. 03079 or Salemhaven Activities Fund, 23 Geremonty Drive, Salem, N.H. 03079. To send a message of condolence to the family, visit the obituary at www.douglasandjohnson.com