Saturday, July 9, 2005

From:  Mervin Avants (

Here is a picture of the whole family.  Gail (56) on the left, Sabrina (21), Mike (26), me (61), and our other son, Brian, (30).

In June, Mike and Sabrina got married.  Brian got his Ph.D. and Mike got his B.S.  Brian is spending the next couple of months at Utrecht University, near Amsterdam, and happened to be in London at the time of the terror attacks a few days ago.  Gail was very upset.  But, as I knew at the time, he was simply there en route to Amsterdam - nowhere near the action.  He is now safely ensconced in an apartment on - or near - the Utrecht campus.

Mike and Sabrina are back at Pearl Harbor enjoying their lives for the summer because neither of them is taking any courses.  They are both such nice kids - you would really like them.  I hope everything works out wonderfully in their lives.  They truly deserve it.

(Click on the thumbnail to see it full size.)



In Memoriam

b. September 10, 1910  d. March 23, 2005 - She loved her family.


  • These two pictures of Lillian Costa Avants were taken 70 years apart - 1933 and 2003.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

HUDSON- Lillian A. (Costa) Avants, 94, of Hudson and formerly of Marlborough died Wednesday March 23, 2005 in the Hospice Residence on Coes Pond in Worcester after a short illness.

She leaves her son, Mervin T. Avants, Jr., and his wife Gail of Tampa, Florida; two grandsons, Brian Avants of Philadelphia, PA and Michael Avants of Honolulu, Hawaii; her former husband Mervin T. Avants of Hammond, Louisiana.

She was the sister of the late Mary Mendes, Evelyn Nowasacki, Helen Costa, Joseph Costa, Alice Costa, Dorothy Winn, and Edward Costa.

She was born in Hudson, the daughter of the late Joseph and Fannie (Silva) Costa and was a graduate of the former St. Michael's Academy. She worked as a supervisor at Madonna Hall Infirmary in Marlborough for several years. As a young lady she danced professionally in New York City at the Roxy Theater and, for a short time, as a member of the well-known Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. She was a homemaker who loved her family dearly, to include her many nephews and nieces, and her close friends at Brigham Circle, where she lived in recent years.

Her funeral and burial will be private. At her request there are no calling hours. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen Street, Framingham, MA 01701.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Fitzgerald & Collins Funeral Home (, 378 Lincoln Street, Marlborough.

 Here is a letter from Mervin T. Avants, Jr., Lillian's son and
Paul and Jean Gardner's cousin.

April 6, 2005

My mother passed away last month, slowly and gently, at peace both physically and mentally, with no discomfort, receiving the best care available. My last words to her were, “You know, Grammy and Eddie and Helen and the others are waiting for you.” She answered, “Yes indeed.”

 At the beginning of her final journey, while she was strong and alert, she was surrounded by her family. My wife Gail, Sons Brian and Mike, and Sabrina, Mike’s fiancé, were all staying with her and spent many hours enjoying her stories and taking care of her. It was wonderful to see. I was deeply proud of the kids and the compassion and caring they showed. Sabrina became a part of the family during those gentle days together. My mother was dying, entirely aware of her condition, but as happy as I had ever seen her. She treasured her time with Brian, Mike, and Sabrina, and took great pleasure in each of her waking hours during the seven or eight days they spent with her. She always cared deeply for my wife Gail, and Gail was there for her at the end, spending a month nursing her. Gail went beyond anything that could have been expected. I will always be grateful, and my mother loved her for it and thoroughly appreciated her attendance and care. Most other family members and friends in the area were able to visit early, while she was strong enough to appreciate their presence. For those restricted by distance to the telephone, she understood and was grateful for the calls and concern. I was proud of my mother. She was remarkable, with a personalized memory for every visitor and kind words for all. She was gracious with everyone, (even the health care workers she truly did not want to see,) she was earthy and elegant, funny, always loving. She focused on the comfort of others at the end and made her final experience as pleasant for the rest of us as possible. I have attached a few observations that represent her wit and wisdom. She conducted herself with extraordinary grace and impressed us all.

 She drove her car, loved her life and her lifestyle, and lived independently until she suddenly took ill in late January. Then, after a few not-so-pleasant days in the hospital, she was able to begin her final journey under circumstances that she chose, moving at her own pace, without discomfort or pain. She spent her life trying to teach me, and would be pleased to know that her final lesson was to dispel my fear of death. She faced death without anxiety, and left the world calmly and peacefully, while sleeping. In her final days and hours she was clearly content with her situation and her God. The last day we spoke I asked her what she would like to go back and change in her life. She said, “Not a thing. I’m satisfied.”

 Mervin T. Avants, Jr.


Grandma Lillian Costa Avants had a lot of fun and a lot to say in life, and nothing changed on her deathbed. Brian recorded many comments on his computer, Mike recorded more on his camcorder, and I filled a notebook. Here are a few:

“All good things must come to an end. I was a good thing, now I’m coming to an end.” “They take all these kids 16 and 17 and put them behind bars when they smoke marijuana, and the real crooks get away with millions.”

“Merv, I’m dying.. .dying. . . and I don’t die. It gets my goat.”

“I feel so badly for Brian, sleeping on the hard, hard floor. [Brian slept on a yoga mat, Mike and Sabrina on an inflatable mattress.] Oh, dear me. Poor thing.”

“I don’t know where this journey is going to take me—it’s a mystery.”

“You can trust your flesh and blood.” [Watch out for strangers.]

“I know my own mind.” [Her response when she did not want to cooperate.] “I’m all set.” [Her response when she was satisfied.]

“I’m dying in a very nice way, with my family around me. This is a nice way to go, Brian.” To Brian, working with his Apple G-5: “That computer does everything—why doesn’t it tell you when I’m going to kick the bucket?”

[Cousin] Chet Nowasacki to my mother, as he was leaving: “You be good, Lillian.” My mother: “In this condition, what else could I be?”

After Chet left: “He’s a sweetheart. I love him. We had so much fun together. It makes me sad to leave him. He really needs me here.”

To Mary Nowasacki: “They used to call me the girl with the Million Dollar Legs. They ought to see them now.”

On the Red Sox and the salaries they pay: “I wouldn’t go to one of those games for free. With all the poverty all over the world, Pedro [Martinez] doesn’t have a brain in his head, and he makes millions.”

“Why don’t I die? It isn’t that I’m holding back, I want to go.”

“My grandsons are a couple of marvelous kids. I love them. I hate to leave them.” “Michael is lucky to have Sabrina. She is wonderful. And she is lucky to have him. Michael is nifty, he’s excellent, he can do anything. And he’s handsome.”

“Mike is so sweet and gentle. I hope Sabrina never hurts him.”

Pointing to her head: “I’ll never lose it up here. You’ve got to be strong, and hold your marbles. I’ve got all my marbles.”

“I have every miggle God gave me. I haven’t lost a miggle.” [A miggle is an ounce of brains.]

“Brian is so smart. And so good-looking. He’s like a smart movie star.”

“Brian with his Grandma is wonderful—takes me to the bathroom We did good He s so strong. He’s so sweet.”

“Jessica [Chet’s daughter] is so nice. She’s a great kid. Mary loves that daughter. I was thrilled to see Mary. I love her.”

“Dave [Jessica’s husband] is as nice as he is handsome.”

After one of my cousin Eleanor’s calls: “Eleanor loves me. This is breaking her heart. I miss her now. She has been a true sweetheart.”

“Eleanor married Warren. He was the best thing that happened.”

After a call from Raymond and Ann: “Ann was very good to me. She knows how to work and she is fun to be with. Raymond has good sense. He understands the world.”

“Raymond has common sense. He needs to take my place.” [in the family]

After I spoke with my cousin Paul on the phone: “Paul is a big success. He runs a bank, you know. He deserves it. Jean, Paul, and Linda [Gardner] had hard lives and they deserve the best of everything. Poor Linda. What could be more unfair?” [Linda died at 15 in an auto accident.]

 “Jean [Gardner] is like my daughter. I tell her not to spend money on me, but she won’t stop. What can I do? We are strong for each other.”

 After [Cousin] Debbie left, following a pleasant visit: “There goes a sweet kid. Frank is so nice. I love her and Steven and Michael. I saw Michael at Wal-Mart. He was so happy to see me, but not as happy as I was to see him. What a good boy.” [Cousin] “Sheri has been one of my best friends. We are years apart, but we speak the same language. She is a great mom. Alyssa is sugar, and that Philip is rugged!” Brian on the phone to Rebecca: “I never would have thought dying could be fun, but we’re all having such a good time, especially Grandma.”

 “You could not die in a better atmosphere. I’m dying happy.”

 [Cousin] “Donna is on the ball. She’s a Costa. She gets things done. There are no flies on that girl.”

 “I like Jeff so much. [Donna’s husband.] He is a teddy bear. He has a real heart.” After waking from a dream: “I woke up baking cherry muffins. They were so beautiful.” “Michel, a lot of people liked me that I did not care for. But, I was nice to everyone.” Brian, Mike, Sabrina and I played catch with a stuffed animal and hit Grandma. She said “It’s a good thing it wasn’t a ball from that black man, Pedro [Martinez.] It would have killed me.” Everyone laughed. “You’ve got to have fun in life—and death.”

 We were discussing her situation and I said, “You had 94 good years, Ma.” She said, “Merv, come on, I’m almost 95! Give credit where credit is due.”

 Mike and Sabrina built a snowman in front of my mother’s window, facing the window, with bright red cherry tomatoes for eyes, a carrot for a nose, and raisins for the mouth. It was very visible, life-size, and the facial features stood out in the sun. After they finished and my mother woke up I said, “Wait, there’s someone at the window!” My mother’s eyes popped open wide and she said, “Who is that man? I told her it was a snowman Mike and Sabrina had built for her. She looked again and had her last genuine belly laugh.

 After Pete and Danielle Long left: “My God, they are nice kids. You can look at them and see they are clean and intelligent. What a future. Too bad I’m going to miss it.” After one of Cousin Richard’s get-well cards arrived, with a personal drawing, “Richard is as cute today as he was when he was a kid. He has never grown up. He is like [my brother] Eddie, a great artist, and very soft-hearted.”

 “Remember what I tell you—be good to Gail [my wife.] She’s your best friend.” “Your father wishes he could be here. But, he’s not up to par. Otherwise, wild horses couldn’t keep him away.”

 After making arrangements to go to dinner with Phil Naze, a local friend, she said, “That Phil is such a good guy.” I asked how she could be so sure, because she did not know Phil well. My mother said, “Merv, his aunt became a nun!”

 “Mike is very cute. He said to me, ‘Grandma, I’m like you. I love family.”

 “Gail is an angel, a true angel.”

 “Gail’s parents are lovely people. She comes from a nice family.”

  “I have faith in God. He has the people I love around me.”

 After I spoke on the phone with Bob Gustafson, my oldest friend. “Bob is like a son to me. I always felt close to that boy. His mother and I were pregnant at the same time and when she died [at Bob’s birth] it broke my heart. Then, as a little boy, you came home with him as your playmate. You have been best friends all your lives. Isn’t that wonderful? God’s hand kept me in touch with his mother through you and him.” Mike: “We will be leaving in the morning, Grandma.” Grandma: “We had a fine time. I am content. Remember that Grandma lived a long, long life, and died happy.” After Mike and Sabrina left at 5:30 in the morning: “Mike is such a wonderful kid. He has my sister Alice’s eyes. Sabrina is so sweet and pretty and—guess what—she’s sensible, too.” This was the only time I saw Grandma crying through the entire period. She talked about her sister Alice, who died at 17. She said Alice’s last words were, “Mama, I hate to die. I’m so young.”

 My mother woke and said she had a realistic dream where she was walking a friend’s baby and it looked like a monkey. Gail told her a story about visiting a grocery store with Mike when he was 3 or 4. They encountered a lady with a bizarrely unattractive baby hanging over her arm with legs dangling. Michael looked at the baby and said, loudly, “Mom, look, look—a monkey!” Gail said she was so embarrassed she fled to the back of the store and hid. Grandma had a hearty laugh to start that day.

 Visiting nurse to my mother, after taking her vital signs: “Your heart is strong and regular.” Grandma Lillian: “What’s the point?”

 After a call from Virginia Costa, her brother Joe’s wife. “Ginny was so good to Joe. She kept him alive.” [after his bout with polio in the I 950sj

 With the porta-potty in the living room: “If you’ve got company you don’t like, you put it in front of them!”

 “You’ve got to have a laugh, you’ve got to have a cry.”

 had a good life in this apartment. Everything was perfect. I was truly all set. But some of these old ladies got on my nerves.”

 [At Coes:] ‘1 miss my little apartment. I loved living there. It was so cozy.”

 “If I don’t make it until Raymond gets back—tell him he has to take my place, he is the one with the good common sense. He knows the world.”

 [On March 15th one of the Coes volunteers, Deb, brought fresh flowers. She had brought flowers the week before and my mother loved them. My mother had been sleeping but when the new flowers arrived she perked up immediately and explained to Deb, “Soon the apple blossoms will bloom. When I was a little girl my entire neighborhood [Forest Avenue in Hudson] was snow white with apple blossoms. It was a sight to see. Beautiful. But, no more. There will be no apple blossoms for me this year.” Deb said, ‘1 enjoyed talking with you so much last week. I went home and wrote down what you told me. Do you remember what you said?” My mother said, “Of course, but do you remember?” Deb said, “I wrote in my book the three things you said it takes to be happy—someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” On February 3, a visiting nurse examined my mother and solemnly said to me, “I give her two weeks...”: When she left, my mother said, “After the middle of March, I will fade away, when the daffodils and crocuses are starting to come up. Look how long you have to stay with me. See if I’m right!”




Death is nothing at all. I have slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed, at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect, without trace of shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant, it is the same as it ever was, there is an unbroken continuity. What is death but a negligible accident Why should I be out of mind because I am out sight? I am waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.

Canon Henry Scott Holland, Church of England (1847-1918)


"You know, Grammy and Eddie and Helen and the others are waiting for you."


"Yes, indeed."

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