This past week has been a whirlwind! We were away for Labor Day Weekend and had a wonderful last hurrah with family and friends. Yesterday was Sean’s first day of school (third grade) and overall it went very well. Next week Abby starts preschool three mornings a week and in the meantime I am trying to potty train her, which has not gone nearly as well as I had hoped or as my experience teaching her older brother to use the toilet went.
There is so much that I have wanted to write about here recently, including the last three day-by-day accounts about my trip to BlogHer`12. However, the time keeps getting away from me. Likewise, I have fallen way behind in keeping up with the blogs (reading and commenting) that I follow. With the school year back in session I am also re-committing to doing a better job with the housekeeping responsibilities I have as a Stay at Home Mom. So that being a priority has kept me from spending as much time on the internet. That said, I wanted to post something here this week, but have not felt very inspired or been able to steal the time to do so.
While cleaning and organizing this week, I came across the eulogy that I wrote and gave at my maternal grandmother’s funeral in February 2000 and thought it might be nice to share it here. I was very close to my Grandma Dee and her death hit me very hard, especially because it was seven months before Bob and I were getting married and I had hoped she would be there to celebrate with us.
I found re-reading my Grandma Dee’s eulogy twelve and half years after her death to be fascinating and also therapeutic. I did not love writing back then, like I do today. I recall struggling to put into words what I wanted to say about my grandmother. I still remember the night before her funeral standing in a hotel room with my then fiancé Bob wordsmithing and trying to put my thoughts about Grandma Dee into a format that made sense and was a worthy tribute to her life and legacy.
I give Bob a lot of credit for helping me to make this eulogy what it is — something I believe that my grandma would be proud of and that I think speaks to the incredible woman, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend and Christian that she was in her lifetime her on Earth.
Eulogy in Honor of My Dear Grandma Dee
I would like to share with you a quote by Helen Keller that comforts and inspires me during times of loss.
“What we have once enjoyed and loved deeply we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
There are so many qualities I learned from my Grandma Dee that will always be a part of me and I would like to share some of them with you:
Grandma Dee and Grandpa Jack moved to Hilton Head when I was four and my sister Megan was nine. When we visited them we would spend our days playing at the beach by the ocean or at the pool by their villa. Thought I am sure we used up much energy, by the time Grandma was ready for us to go to bed, we were usually still pretty riled up. So she invented contests to see who fall asleep first as a creative way of getting us to calm down and rest. She would announce the “winner” the next morning and reward Meg or I with old jewelry as our prize. I am sure she probably just alternated each night which of us go to “win,” but even so, her clever game worked and got us to go to bed at a decent time!
As we got older the contests to fall asleep probably we not as effective anymore as the had once been, so Grandma Dee came up with a new way to calm us down at night so we could get a good night’s rest. This new approach we termed “Department Store Stories.” Before bedtime Grandma Dee would tuck us in and then proceed to create a story for us about she and our mother taking us to a department store to shop and then how one-day when it was closing time they “accidentally” left us behind. She would tell of how we really didn’t mind being left behind because we spent the night exploring every department of the store, playing with the toys, trying on new clothes and jumping on the beds. Grandma Dee’s creative “department store stories” were great fun to hear and managed to help us wind down for the night.
As most of you know, Grandma Dee was VERY ORGANIZED. If you ever set foot in her kitchen or opened any cabinet or closet in her home this quality was immediately obvious. She had an amazing collection of containers and baggies. If a cereal box was getting low she would immediately transfer it into a smaller container, as to not take up more space than necessary in her cabinets. If the milk carton was getting low, she would fill an old peanut butter jar to open up more room for other things in the refrigerator.
Even to the very end we could tell Grandma Dee had not lost her passion for organization. On the day she died Mom, Dad and I went to her room at the assisted living facility where she had lived the past year and half to collect her things. As we went through them we came across many boxes and containers each of which seemed to have a “theme” such as, wrapping paper and bows, safety pins, buttons and so forth. Though some things were mixed in with others, it appeared that she successfully maintained her sense of organization to the best of her ability in her last days.
Generosity (from the heart)
Many of you are probably familiar with the Shel Silverstein book called The Giving Tree. It is one of my favorites and six years ago I gave Grandma Dee a copy for Christmas.
The book is about how friends and family may grow and change through the years, but will always be there for each other. In the story there is a little boy who grows up with a very generous tree. The tree is generous not just materially, but like Grandma Dee was, from the heart.
The boy and the tree are great friends, but as the boy grows, he often looses touch with the tree for a while. There tree is so caring that whenever the boy (and then later when he becomes a man) returns to the tree, no matter what, the tree is always there for the boy to love and listen.
To me Grandma Dee was so much like “The Giving Tree.” She gave so much to everyone she met, friends and especially family and never asked for anything in return! I knew I could always count on her and that she would always be there for me.
I would like to share with you excerpts from two letters that Grandma Dee wrote to me just days before I began my college experience. These letters show what wisdom she possessed and how well she was able to express it.
Tuesday, August 8, 1993:
“My dream for you (has been) to see you through your high school days and (for you) to be accepted at the college of your choice…. I am excited for you as you enter this new phase of (your) life. You are ready for college and I hope you enjoy it one day at a time.”
Saturday, August 14, 1993 (four days later):
“I am so glad your college days are starting next week. Tomorrow, I will go to the alter (at church) and pray for you and your future. Hope I don’t cry, for I am really happy for you. A new way of life is a challenge and exciting. Just stay as sweet as you are.”
Grandma Dee had such an incredible faith in God for as long as I can remember. Life gave her great trials and challenges and she faced them with strength and trust that God would guide her.
A few days ago, mom and I were discussing what readings from the Bible to use in this service and we decided to look through Grandma Dee’s Bible to see if she had marked any favorite verses or passages. As I paged through her Bible I found a small piece of paper with some writing. There was no explanation of where she had gotten it or why she had written it down… it was just there, calling out to me, to be read at that very moment.
The paper was number 1-3 with the following directions:
- Tell God how you feel.
- Trust God’s judgement.
- Allow God to strengthen your faith.
I was awestruck by the profoundness of her seemingly simple directions.
Step #1: Tell God how I feel?
I wasn’t ready and have been struggling with that for the past few days since Grandma Dee died.
I truly believed that she would be here with us longer.
We had a deal, as some of you may recall, the deal was that “she would live to be a hundred and then we would discuss it!”
But she didn’t make it to 100, so there was no discussion and I know that is okay because of Step #2.
Step #2: Trust God’s judgement.
I trust that it was the right time for Grandma Dee to go to Heaven. I trust that God was ready for her to join God, Grandpa Jack, Grammy Hunt (her mom), her dad, her brother George and other family and friends who had gone before her.
I believe that she will be with me in spirit on our wedding day and when Bob and my children are born. And after experiencing what Alzheimer’s can take from a person’s mind, her spiritual presence at those moments in my life will mean more to us than I think her physical presence could have.
So with that trust, I must move on to Step #3.
Step #3: Allow God to Strengthen my faith.
I have enjoyed and loved Grandma Dee deeply for many years and learned so much from her that will always be a part of me.
Two weeks from today I will turn twenty-five and as I reflect on these past twenty-five years, I recognize what a tremendous example her strong faith was and will continue to be for me.
When you leave here today, I encourage you to strive to meet life’s challenges as Grandma Dee did…
- To tell God how you feel.
- To trust God’s judgement.
- And then allow God to strengthen your faith.
A few notes about the photos in this post:
The first is my all-time favorite of my Grandma Dee and me (when I was a toddler). It was taken in Ocean City, Maryland where our family vacationed many summers before my grandparents retired and moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina where they lived between 1979 – 1998.
The second was taken the day we picked up my wedding dress from the store where I bought it. Though my Grandma Dee did not live to see Bob and me get married, she did get to see me in my dress. It means so much to me to know that and to have this photo of us together.
The third was taken on Bob and my wedding day at my parents’ house/my childhood home in the dining room looking out at the backyard. It is my favorite picture of just me taken the day we got married. I recall our photographer telling me to look out the window and think about someone or something special, he might have been referring to my groom. Though of course I was (and still am) so in love with Bob that day, I chose in the moment to think about and picture my dear Grandma Dee looking at and smiling back at me on such a special and important day in my life. I love looking at this photo and knowing who and what I was imagining in that moment.
Have you ever written and/or given a eulogy at a loved one’s funeral or memorial service?
What did that person and/or experience mean to you?