100 Candles: Celebrating What Would Have Been Nan’s 100th Birthday

4 May 1923, Evelyn Carmella D’Urso was born in Wayne, PA to Michael and Mary (Maffei) Durso.

Nan was a woman of many talents, a lot of love and life, and was a joy to those around her. Her last birthday with us was her 89th birthday, 4 May 2012. Aunt Kathy, Uncle Dave, mom, dad and I went to Legal Seafoods with Nan to celebrate her. This was two months before her cancer diagnosis where she was given only 6 months (and she lasted only 6 months).

Nan died three months shy of her 90th birthday. I have celebrated her birthday every year since her death, and even after the Celiac diagnosis in 2018, I’ve made her favourite cake: strawberry shortcake, gluten-free. Strawberry shortcake was Nan’s favourite and a tradition every birthday.

This year was a very special year: HER 100TH! Although she is not with us in the physical realm, she’s very much with me in spirit. David and I decided to celebrate her birthday twice. We also decided to celebrate what would have been Great Grandma’s 113th birthday (mom’s grandmom was 3 May).

On Monday, 1 May 2023, David and I went to a Taste of Britain and had a tea party in both Nan’s and Great Grandma’s honour.

David had me pick for him. Once Jen, our server, mentioned a frittata and baked beans, I saw the expression on David’s face and I told Jen: “Gluten-free tea sandwiches for me, frittata and baked beans for David. With two pots of Orange Oolong tea.”

The orange oolong tea was delicious. We toasted their honour and wished them both a happy birthday. Both women loved tea and both women loved going to tea parties. Both David and I love tea, and we both loved our meals. He let me try a bit of the frittata and while I’m not a fan of eggs, they were delicious. I let him try some of my gluten-free tea sandwiches and he thought the tuna and chicken were amazing.

David was impressed and he wants to go back, along with Erich, Justin, and Devon. I want to bring Kelcee, Kaitie and some other friends. Maybe we can all have a tea party!

Yesterday was Nan’s 100th birthday. David picked me up and we headed over to Saint Augustine’s cemetery. Nan and Grandpa C are buried with Grandpa C’s mother and father, under a tree towards the back of the cemetery.

Yesterday was breezy and chilly; 58 degrees, which is chilly for May. There were a few clouds in the sky, but it was mostly sunny. I led the way for David and once we got to the plot, I told him that the two others were Grandpa C’s mom and dad, whom I never met, and Grandpa C died 5 years before I was born.

I then said, “Happy 100th birthday, Nan! I’d like for you to meet David. I love David very much and he’s taking great care of me.”

He chimed in, “I try. You raised a wonderful woman and she takes great care of me as well. We try to take care of each other. You were like a mother to her and I’m grateful for you.”

I broke down crying and David held me and he started to cry too. We held each other in the middle of the cemetery. We paid our respects, wished her “Happy 100th birthday!” again and told her we would be back, with flowers next time.

David and I had a special birthday dinner for Nan. Kosher coq au vin blanc. I had extra gluten-free shrimp scampi left and David had it with his chicken.

As tradition, I made a gluten-free strawberry shortcake. We had that for dessert and fed each other.

I know Nan, his mom, Great Grandma and all of our other relatives were celebrating with us, and smiling.

Happy 100th birthday, Nan, we love and miss you.

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

One thought on “100 Candles: Celebrating What Would Have Been Nan’s 100th Birthday”

  1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    I’m all verklempt after seeing how you and David observed Nan’s 100th birthday and your great grandma’s 113th. Mrs. Shady’s b-day was Tuesday and our granddaughter turned 26 today. Did you know that my mother’s name was also Evelyn? I know you have posted those nostalgic pictures before, taken on this date in 2012 and showing Nan’s 89th and last birthday celebration. I feel deep pain knowing that soon after, Nan took ill and you lost her. She was a very important influence in your life, a great woman who loved and guided you. She is missed so very much, and yet always with you in spirit, always a part of you, part of who you are today. I was especially touched by the kind, generous and profound words David uttered that day at Nan’s gravesite. A very special moment for you both. I would have been in tears, too. I hope you and David and your friends return soon to that restaurant where you enjoyed a great meal and their special tea, and when you do, be sure to order some gf strawberry shortcake in Nan’s memory.

    Happy birthday in heaven to Nan and your great grandma. Have a safe and happy weekend, dear friend JM!


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