Frances Guardi, known to her loved ones as “Fran,” came to America from Sicily when she was just 11 years old. Her son, Alex, remembers many of the stories she told about living in German and American-occupied Sicily and her excitement about coming to America. Alex says, “My mom always told interesting stories about how proud she was to be brought to this country.”
Upon moving to America, Fran assimilated to American culture and left behind her Sicilian roots. According to Alex, “She really didn’t push the cultural pride aspect of it. She was American.”
When Fran’s husband passed away from cancer, she found herself having to support her family all by herself. Alex describes his mother as determined and very intelligent. Fran tried many different occupations including working as a dental hygienist’s assistant and retail employee. Eventually, an opportunity arose for Fran to work in the landlord’s office of an eight-building apartment complex.
Alex confides, “And the person who interviewed her, not to get political, was Donald Trump. It was his father’s building complex.” Donald told her to go get a license and come back. So, Fran did just that. She got her real estate license in Staten Island and was hired by Donald Trump. She worked her way up to managing an entire complex – the one her family lived in – and eventually was given another complex to manage in Staten Island.
Fran’s work allowed her children to attend parochial grammar schools and college. Alex says, “She really dedicated her life to raising my sister and me.” Fran’s devotion extended not only to her family but also to her neighbors and community. Alex says, “She had a tough life, right? She lost a husband, her parents, and her daughter died ten years ago. That shook her, but it never shook her faith. She always said, ‘Something good will come from this… just wait’.”
Fran was an especially positive person, who loved to do mind exercises and was into politics and sports. She was an avid Yankees and Giants fan. Alex mentions that the day before her first stroke, he talked to her three times about just that – politics and sports. The day of her stroke, Alex’s cousin, Angela, called him saying, “I can’t get in touch with your mom.” Alex wasn’t initially worried because she could have been anywhere. However, Angela found her passed out on the floor of her bedroom. Alex admits, “Life was very difficult from then on.” Fran lost her speech and most of her motor skills. And although she had trouble communicating verbally, she was aware of her surroundings – she knew what was going on. But upon her admission to the hospital, the staff there characterized her as “confused.”
It was a different story, however, when Fran was eventually taken to Regional Hospice’s Center for Comfort Care & Healing. The nurses treated her with empathy and made the effort to understand her. They approached her with love and compassion, not worrying about her potential fogginess. When Alex told Fran she would be going to Regional Hospice, he told her, “The treatments are over, the injections, the MRIs, and all this nonsense. We are going to bring you to a nice place.” Fran’s experience at the Center was beautiful. Her family was happy that they decided to admit her. Not only did she receive incredible end-of-life care, but she also was treated with love, respect, and compassion.
When the Regional Hospice chaplain asked Fran’s denomination and was told that she was very religious, the chaplain said, “Well, I’ll pray with her.” He then took the extra step of contacting Alex’s parish priest to advise him of the situation. And when Fran’s English faltered, the priest spoke in Italian with her.
Alex remembers telling his mom, “You’re good. Everything you need you have.” Fran’s family had full access to her and spent a wonderful Easter at the Center and really celebrated it. Fran told her family, “I just want a place where I can sit, have coffee, and look out and see nature,” which her Center suite provided.
When a nurse asked the family, “What can we do better?,” Alex said, “Just keep hiring the type of people that you hire.”
At the end, Fran was serenaded with “Ave Maria” in Italian accompanied by a guitar. In the moments after her passing, Center staff laid rose petals on her bed. Alex remembers, “Everything was bright. There was no sorrow. It was just very peaceful. Everything was just right.”
He says that Fran taught him to believe that everything works for a reason, and he believes that his family’s decision to come to the Regional Hospice was perfect. He says, “This was right. This was intended to be this way. She went off as she should have, with her family around her in a wonderful place.”