It was Christmas Day, which fell on a Wednesday in 2013. And Grandma Paula—82 years old and drifting toward the end of an agonizingly long battle with lung cancer—was only now catching up on the The Times' Sunday edition. I sat next to her at the kitchen table, keeping her company while futzing around on my phone. It must have been the late afternoon, as sunlight filtered through the partially closed blinds and bathed the kitchen in sepia.

I glanced at Grandma, then at the front page of The Times, angled toward me as she powered through the meat of the paper. A headline about the newly elected Pope Francis occupied much of that page.

Now, my Great-Grandma Becker, Grandma Paula's mother, hated the Catholic Church. She felt that they were complicit with the Nazis, who murdered most of her family/my family in Poland. And Great-Grandma Becker made sure to pass that … passion on to her daughter.

"So," I said, breaking the long silence between us. "What do think of the new pope?"

"Not much!" Grandma said.

She chuckled softly, smiled at me, and went on reading her favorite newspaper.