At the funeral mass for Carol Bucco Saturday, Monsignor Salemi brought the very sad crowd in attendance at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church to laughter when he said Carol died kicking and screaming, referring to the way she faced life and corrected wrongs. He also said, bringing more relaxation to a crowd obviously in serious mourning, that on a church trip to Europe a few years ago, he had a conversation with Carol: “She did all the talking, I did all the listening.” It was obvious Monsignor loved and knew Carol Bucco as well as everyone else who attended the mass, shed tears, and offered solace to Tony and the Bucco progeny of two generations.
Monsignor was right about Carol. She was well known for her research, for keeping records, for remembering when laws were passed, discussions were had. And she challenged those who denied it. I knew Carol Bucco well. I have known her since we lived around the corner with each other, since her daughter Marita and Jonell Belicose were the adorable flower girls at my daughter Kathy’s wedding decades ago. I’ve known her from the times we disagreed politically, but never lost our friendship over it. I’ve been there when she’s stood up at council meetings protecting her beloved Highlands. And after she was taken to the hospital a few days before she died, I was on the phone with her. She called me from Riverview to let me know some things on the agenda for that night’s Highlands council she wanted to be sure were addressed. She knew there were many who would miss her resounding voice on the Zoom call during the public portion.
Everybody who knew Carol knew this side of Carol. They also knew she was a loving mother, who adored those Sunday Zoom sessions with her family scattered across several states. They knew her as the friend always there to help, the advocate for her neighbors in her condo association, the more forceful and outspoken half of the couple obviously so much more in love after more than 50 some odd years of marriage.
But when I mourn Carol’s loss, I immediately make myself feel better by thinking of the special part of Carol I knew that few know about.
I visited Carol every Sunday, not really for the social aspects of it, but because of Carol’s several other medical problems that prevented her and Tony from attending mass every Sunday and receiving communion. Many months ago, Carol asked if I could bring her communion ‘once in a while, if it isn’t too much trouble.” It was never too much trouble, for me, it was truly a joy. So I stopped in with Communion every Sunday.
It was always the same. Carol and Tony would be sitting in the living room, waiting for my visit right after 9:30 mass. I’d call to be sure they were up and ready, Carol would laugh and answer the phone, not with “hello” but with, “yes, we’re here.” Or “how could I answer the phone if I wasn’t home?”
So I’d go in and there they were, Tony on the couch, Carol in ‘her chair,’ both watching a mass on tv. Carol watched two or three different masses from different churches every Sunday, recording them so she would be sure not to miss one. She’d point out the very elaborate vestments on one priest, the incredible homilies of another priest, the magnificent choir at a third church. She had respect and awe for each of them. And prayed with all of them.
We would chat for a few minutes, exchange news and opinions on the affairs of the day, and then the mood would change as both Carol and Tony prepared to receive communion. There was no more talking after that, at least not with me. This was Carol and Tony’s time to have a conversation with their God. They each held out their hands, said a few silent prayers, then reverently looked up, said Amen, and received their God. They bowed in prayer then, as I left without another word, nothing to disturb their prayers or thanksgiving and supplication.
That’s the Carol I knew and will always remember. A devout woman who loved her God and her fellow man, loved her husband, her children, her grandchildren. And because of it all, in spite other health issues she has had over the years, she remained happy, cheerful, and uncomplaining.
Carol Bucco. I will miss her, but I will always remember her. And the lessons she taught me.