Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In memory of Sam Bellitto

Sam & Ginny with Hannah and Abi. This was taken shortly after we returned to the States.
This from Bill:

Today’s update begins with a prayer request for our family. Lena’s father, Sam Bellitto, passed away last Sunday, February 27. He was 74 years old. The showing and funeral were March 2 & 3 in Cleveland. Sam valiantly battled lung cancer for two years. They discovered the cancer and began chemo therapy while we were serving our first term in Peru. When we came home for itineration last July, Sam was doing extremely well. It was great to see him working on the house and yard, just like old times. 

Sam and I were very close. He was a friend who was easy to be close to. In a family otherwise dominated by women, we had to band together to do macho stuff. Sam was there for me when I wanted to watch an action-adventure movie instead of a romantic comedy; or, when there was a very urgent need to spend two hours wondering through a hardware store. If, on the way to the hardware store we happened to spot a garage sale with used tools—that was like winning bonus points.

Sam was a devout Catholic with an obvious love for the Lord. He served his local church community St. Barnabas for over 40 years. He taught CCD classes, helped on retreats (renewals) and served communion. One of the ways he served, even after he was diagnosed with cancer, was in taking communion to the local nursing home. He was a natural for that ministry because of his love for the Lord and his gift of gab. He had a way of making one feel appreciated. As his son-in-law, that meant grabbing my head and kissing me, mafia style, and patting my cheeks (again, like an old Italian) with his huge hands.

Once, Willy said, “Men don’t kiss men.”

Colton and I responded, “Except for Grandpa Sam!”

Willy said, “That’s different.”

I said, “Your right, Willy. That’s because Grandpa Sam kisses like an old Italian.”

My favorite memory of Sam involves our call to be missionaries in Peru. As a grandfather he was not pleased with our call, but as a Christian he was very supportive. Lena and I told him and Ginny about our call as missionaries before we told my parents. I delayed telling my parents because I feared my mother’s reaction. I often share that the call to be a missionary has very little to do with the difficulties of eating difficult foods (like bugs, which is what most people fear) and much more to do with leaving family and friends. Many times, those who stay behind pay just as heavy a price as those who are called to go. As such, I was not eager to tell my parents about our call. It eventually became critical and I feared that someone else would ask them about it, so I had to muster my courage and tell them. Coincidentally, in human terms, Sam and Ginny were visiting us at that time. I say “in human terms” because I don’t think it was a coincidence from God’s perspective. My mom bought a recliner at a local furniture store and asked me to pick it up in my van. Sam offered to go along. I said something like, “You’re going to want to reconsider that offer, Sam. I’m going to tell my parents about Peru and it’s not going to be pretty.”

He looked into my eyes and said, “That’s OK, I'll go with you.” He said it in a tone of voice that communicated that he understood what I was facing.

I said, “I should do this alone.”

He responded, “No. I’ll go with you.”

That was a tense ride, filled with all the great feelings of driving to the dentist’s office for a root canal.
When I got there, my brother-in-law, Tim, showed up at the same time. That was another “coincidence.”
I told Tim, “You might want to turn around. I’m going to tell mom and dad about Peru.”

Tim said, “That’s alright. I’ll go with you.”

So, the three of us carried in the chair. For my part, the chair was light in comparison to the weight of breaking my parent’s hearts by saying I’m about to take your grand-kids to a country you’ve hardly even heard of.

I told my parents, with Sam and Tim standing behind me. They were, of course, flabbergasted. My mother looked at Sam and said, “What do you think of this?”

Sam’s voice never took on more sincerity than in that moment. He looked down at the carpet and said, “We’re upset by it. We don’t like it. We’re worried about their safety and especially about missing the grandkids.” The he looked up at my parents and said, “But if God has called them. I’m not going to stand in His way.”

Sam spoke the very words that were on my heart, too. But he spoke them as one who was going through the same sacrifice that my parents were also being forced to make. His presence defused an extremely tense moment. I will never forget it. And I will never forget how God supplied my need through Sam. He was a faithful husband to Ginny; a faithful son to Lena’s grandparents, a loving father to Marie, Lena and Gina; a wonderful and affectionate grandfather to my children and a great friend and father-in-law to me.

When I think of him entering heaven, I like to think of him looking like he did when he was a young man, like his days in the Army, with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder. He’s walking up a small hill to the pearly gates. Standing under the arch of those gates is Jesus, dressed in white. He grabs Sam’s head and kisses him on both cheeks, like an old Italian. Then He pats him on his face and says, “Welcome home, Sam.”


Ruth Chowdhury said...

What an awesome tribute to your father-in-law. Sounds like he was a wonderful man. Praying for your family during this time. Wish I could hug you all!

Brenna Kate Simonds, Living Unveiled said...

Beautiful post, Bill.

Shawn said...

Thank you for sharing your memories with us. We are praying. You are dear friends. Alotta Pallottas

Becca said...

Had me in tears!

Marie Barnhart said...

Thanks for sharing the memories(and I thought telling my parents that I was going to Peru for a week was hard).I'm praying for all of you.

Emily Sandoval - Missionary Adventures in Peru said...

This brought tears to my eyes. It is really hard to leave family and friends but God provided the Shraders to be my second family in Peru.