At first the pain was too much. I didn’t want to think or feel. I wanted to be numb and repress my emotions. But strangely, now I am now finding comfort in the opposite. I need to talk about him, write down memories and remember the special moments we had together.
Processing grief is like an ocean, rolling up and down unpredictably. Submerged until you can’t breathe, you’re almost drowning and then you are finally able to come up for air, for hope. My brother-in-law, Umberto, passed away this month after a long battle with cancer.
Writing as Therapy
I know writing and journaling is good therapy for many traumatic situations, so why not for loss and death. Actually, there is science behind writing to help with the grieving process. It doesn’t have to be public writing, like a blog. Any kind of writing has therapeutic power.
He loved cooking, food and people. As a young man, Umberto studied at a culinary school. His passion landed him in Monte Carlo, working as a waiter at the Hotel de Paris. One day, a friend who was on the personal waitstaff of the Royal Family of Monaco became sick and Umberto was asked to take his place. The Royals enjoyed his service so much they ask for him to be their permanent personal waiter. It’s no wonder, Umberto was loaded with good looks, personality and culinary acumen.
Umberto ended up in Philadelphia where he opened a successful restaurant downtown, The Monte Carlo Living Room. The restaurant received much critical acclaim and was known as one of the top restaurants in Philadelphia.
During this time, he met and married my sister, Alane. Alane was a journalist and an assistant editor of an epicurian food magazine. One of her assignments was to write a story about Umberto and his famous restaurant. That was how they met. It was love a first sight. Together they had two boys, Umberto Jr. and Marco.
Umberto was extremely creative: he liked to design. He built and designed an Italian restaurant in Ardmore that he converted from a bank. He retained parts of the bank to give the restaurant a special flair and used the bank’s vault as a private dining area. He had a huge imagination!
Some of my fondest memories of Umberto was of him managing at his restaurant, Primavera, or entertaining with his family at his home. Sometimes he would personally craft special off the menu dishes for me in the restaurant’s kitchen. He was an artist with food and he aimed to please. I loved the twinkle in his eye when he would beak out a bottle of rare wine from his cellar to share with us. Umberto’s face would beam joyfully as he described the qualities and nuances of the wine. He was more than a fine restaurateur, he had the gift of hospitality.
What Say You?
Umberto’s favorite family greeting was, “What say you”? It was customarily delivered with a chuckle and a smile. But it was his Italian accent that made the phrase so charming and memorable. Umberto could light up a room!
IL SUO RETAGGIO E’ ANOCORA TRA NOI – His Legacy Is Still With Us
Friends and Family
Always a jovial host, Umberto delighted in gourmet food, fine wine and conversation. He loved to see people having a good time, eating and enjoying each other’s company. My brother-in-law loved his friends and family.
We celebrated many family occasions at Ristorante Primavera in Wayne, Pa. It was the spot for making great memories. Alane and Umberto were so gracious about letting the family use their restaurant.
Not too long ago my brothers and sisters and I, esteemed my mother for her 85th birthday at the restaurant. Here I am enjoying a laugh and a hug with Umberto at her birthday party.
It was a rare treat when Umberto and Alane joined my husband, Steven and I on vacation in Kauai. Vacations are extremely difficult to plan for busy restaurant owners. They were both dedicated, hard workers.
Though they lived on different coasts Steve always had a special bond and relationship with his brother-in-law. They were close in age, only a few days apart. They were joined at the heart.
The Final Days
This past summer, my mother surprised me and all my siblings by inviting us, along with our families, to Florida for vacation. There were over thirty people at the gathering. It was a great reunion on the beach!
That get-together was the last quality time my family and I spent with Umberto. It was a gift. It wasn’t too long after, he was diagnosed with stage four cancer and had to be hospitalized. We did fly back to Philadelphia to see him in the hospital but by then he was a different man.
Words can’t adequately describe what I feel for Umberto but it is a good feeling when I look back at all the beautiful times we had together. He added so much joy to my life. For that I am grateful. I always have the comfort of knowing that we both belong to Christ and we will be in His loving arms for eternity.
As you hold your loved ones close this holiday season, focus on gratitude.
The Eichberg family wishes you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. All the best for 2017.
~ Blessings, Linda
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34: 18 NLT