At my grandfather’s brief memorial service a year and a half ago, I said a few words and told the story of Herschel’s Last Laugh as I found it in The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. It was quite fitting and I think went over well.
On Friday, we had a memorial for my grandmother, who had passed away a few weeks ago in North Carolina. The memorial was a church service and Mom asked me to give a eulogy. I went back and forth on how I wanted to do it. All in attendance liked what I came up with and I think Grammie would have, also. It is attached below.
I looked to two types of stories for this event – personal stories to convey what was special for us about Grammie, and folktales to help understand why death must happen. The day was full of stories, it’s how people share what they will miss and how they were connected to her. The stories expanded beyond just Grammie stories as the sharing went on. It was all very important to marking the loss and moving on.
As everyone here should know, my grandmother and grandfather were married in North Carolina in 1963. 46 years ago, they moved back to Sodus Point and built their life together. A woman of two worlds, of North and South, Grammie was also as genuine as they come.
As with many good stories, my story of Grammie today has 3 parts – gratitude, generosity, and generations.
Grammie never forgot someone who helped her or Papa. As we sat sorting through the contents of their lives this past summer, she would often spend time to let us know how wonderful her friends were and detailing the latest visit.
My Mom said:
One of the last conversations I had with her was two days before she died and she thanked me for helping her last summer with the sale she had. She was moving back to North Carolina and had to get rid of just about all of her possessions. Anytime anyone did anything for her, she would always thank them profusely. She would always say “I can’t thank you enough” so when I think of her, I think of gratitude.
And it fits.
In more recent years, we got to share some first-time experiences with Grammie. A ride in a limo at our wedding. A brief stop at Chimney Bluffs beach. For these, too, she was grateful and it was a pleasure to share in her delight.
Grammie was not only grateful, but she gave from her heart. And you couldn’t refuse if you wanted to. She always had new factoids or household tips ready to share. I think that, had we had the chance, she would have loved a tour of Pinterest, every tip imaginable at her fingertips.
When I was in high school, we both were collecting postcards, and we would often sit and share our latest together. She would have some set aside just for me each time.
For Mom, there are two huge examples of Grammie’s generosity:
I went to live with my dad and his new wife, Evonne, in North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. She had three sons from a previous marriage and was looking forward to having daughters. The transition for me was not an easy one, but we got through it and things went along pretty good for a while. Then in my senior year of high school, we moved back to Sodus Point. It was a great year for me, I was a senior, had my own car and a part time job at the Star Market in Sodus. I guess I never noticed that Evonne was now the one in transition. Sometime during that year, we had a falling out and hardly spoke to each other for months. I graduated that June and the day after graduation, she had a party for me, which was a total surprise. She baked a beautiful cake and decorated the dining room and made me feel very special.
When I started to plan my wedding, in 1972, she offered to make my wedding gown. She loved to sew and was very good at it. She did a beautiful job, it was exactly what I wanted.
A few years ago, Grammie had a scare that left her in a coma for some time. In Mom’s words:
As I sat by her bed one day, I talked to her and thanked her for the many things she had done for me, including the graduation party and the wedding gown. I didn’t know if she could hear me or not. But then, she miraculously recovered after almost three months. She and I had many long talks after that and I finally got to say thank you to her when she was conscious
We were all grateful at that point, to have more time with her.
At the time of her passing, Grammie had 2 sons and 2 stepdaughters, 11 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was happiest surrounded by her babies. She was downright ecstatic to get down to North Carolina to spend time with the newest addition, baby Madison. Which brings to mind a story, originally from Madagascar back in the mists of time when the world was very young….
The Creator asked the Malagasy whether they preferred to die the way a banana plant dies or the way the moon dies. The banana tree, although it only lives for a short period of time, produces many new shoots that grow right out of their parent plant, sprouting around it while it is still alive and continuing to grow even after it has died. The moon, in contrast, although it is eternal and never truly dies, does not grow and does not produce new life. The Malagasy chose the banana plant because when it dies many new banana plants will still grow from its base. But when the moon dies, it leaves no children, siblings, or subsequent generations behind.
Grammie delighted in her family. She has gone on to reunite with Larry and Papa and those shoots she has left behind will forever remember the soft touch of her hand, her laughter…. and her gratitude.