Just over two weeks ago the world lost a bright and brilliant star … the sort you never see until a dark night when thousands of stars light up the sky and one, somehow, seems to flicker and attract your eye.
As I’ve gotten older, my thoughts have danced with the idea of what will I leave behind. What will my legacy be? I hope that somehow, something I’ve done, someone whose life I have touched, some little moment that I can’t remember may have sent out a small flicker into the world like a butterfly’s wing that ripples through the winds and creates a hurricane … that somehow I have made a difference.
Peg Romano did! She made a difference! She epitomized the spirit of a strong American woman.
When I think of the quintessential American woman, I think of someone just like Peg. I think of someone who has an indescribable strength, an indefatigable sense of humor, an infinitesimally deep sense of love. I thought of her as a mother, as “Mom,” but as I think of her life and the amazing strength and resilience she showed, I think of her as Peg.
When other girls her age were planning their “coming out” parties, Peg was hanging off the edge of a sailboat, riding the wind and breaking tradition.
When other girls her age were headed off to college to find the right man to marry, Peg was studying and getting the first of THREE college degrees, earning her first bachelor’s degree the year she turned 20 … and marrying the son of Italian immigrants.
When other young women were raising their babies, Peg was struggling with the heartbreak of losing babies, finally having a baby girl, then losing even more babies before having a pair of sons less than a year apart.
When other young mothers were struggling with learning the ropes of motherhood and marriage, Peg packed up her very young family and headed off to Europe, living in Paris, managing a household in a foreign country still recovering from a world war.
When other young parents were furnishing their homes and tucking their young children into bed, Peg was moving once again to the far side of the country and making a home in the new and growing San Fernando Valley that would have residents today wondering how it could have ever looked so remote and isolated.
When society demanded women stay at home and be dutiful housewives, Peg discovered her husband had fallen in love with another woman and sought a gasp-inducing divorce in a time when divorces made headlines and only the rich and famous were thought to be so cavalier with what society still called a lifelong commitment.
Staring life in the face, no doubt daring life to try and knock her down, Peg went back to school to obtain two more more degrees – a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California, becoming a lifelong fan of Trojan football in the process, and a second bachelors – this one in nursing –and dedicated her life to her children and improving the lives of others.
With her daughter heading off to college and two sons in high school, Peg opted for the night shift to be home with her sons and make sure they knew they had the love and support they needed to pursue their passions.
As her children flew from the nest she’d so carefully built, Peg devoted herself to easing the lives of dozens of people facing death. As a Hospice nurse, she was there for those who knew the end of their life was near. In later years, she continued that devotion to others who needed comfort and solace when they had lost loved ones.
Peg found someone to love and take care of late in life. She moved in with a man who never stopped loving her. When he passed away as she sat by his side, she stoically moved on. She found a community where she could help others as she aged gracefully and begrudgingly.
I wish I had been there for more of her life. I can only imagine what a spitfire she must’ve been as a girl. I wonder what kind of fun she was at corporate parties as a young wife. I imagine the stern and loving voice she used as she corrected her kids while they were growing up and taught them of life and love and strength and self confidence and all the things I see now in her adult children.
I wonder how she dealt with the pain of a broken heart and the joy of finding love again. I am amazed at how she managed to seem so strong right up until the day she died.
I wonder how she managed to have such a startlingly fabulous sense of humor.
Just over two weeks ago, a brilliant star was extinguished – peacefully in the night.
We will spread her ashes at sea, as was her desire.
I hope some of them are picked up on the breeze as others ride the waves across the globe. I hope her spirit and strength and love somehow find their way everywhere.
As letters of condolence arrive in our mailbox and friends and family who knew her share stories and thoughts of her, I read and reread messages of love and adoration, stories of how Peg touched so many lives.
Mine is one of so many. I am indescribably lucky to have known her, to have laughed with her, to have hugged her and kissed her cheek and, hopefully, made even a single day of her life easier. She deserved so much more than the world gave her and gave so much more than she received.
There are so many definitions of “hero” in this world, but a woman who breaks tradition, struggles with loss, shares infinitesimal quantities of joy and peace, laughs, loves and truly lives – THAT is a hero. That is the spirit of a true, strong American woman – an inspiration.
May your soul rest in peace. May your memory be a blessing. May the ripples of the lives you touch leave a legacy that will outlive us all.