Friday, April 9, 2010

Eulogy

My father actually gave the eulogy at my grandmother's funeral on Thursday, but I wrote it for him, allowing us both to say something about Grannie at the same time.  I orginally wrote the story from his point of view, even though it was my story.  For my blog, I've changed it back to my point of view instead of my dad's.  By the way, he did a fabulous job.  I'm not sure I could have said these things without completely dissolving.

I have a lot more to say about the funeral and visitation, but I'm wiped out.  Completely.  I'll update later this weekend.  For now, for all who are interested, here's the eulogy:

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think you can get a pretty good picture of my grandmother just by looking inside her coffee table. 

Apparently anything of great importance gets stored there. 

One day, while searching for a lost address, I discovered these three contents (among many others, of course, but I’ll just hit the highlights).  First, I found my dad’s Ph.D. dissertation.  You probably won’t be surprised that the book was covered in a plastic bag, with the original letter that he wrote her neatly laid on top.  My guess is that the book was not in there for casual perusal, as the topic was nuclear fusion.  Rather it remained there for decades because she was proud of my dad.  Grannie was proud of her entire family, physicist or not.  No matter the skill mastered, the accolades received – large or small, no matter whatever stature in life, Grannie would always find something to praise, something to applaud, something that made your heart swell with pride and make you feel good about yourself.  Even when I was in the depths of despair, she somehow managed to help me see the positives in any situation, to ease the heavy burden off my shoulders for a few minutes, and let me bask in the light of her praise and affirmation. 

I love the fact that my dad’s dissertation was hidden in a drawer, for it shows her unceasing humility.  She was a woman with a true servant’s heart, who waved away thanks and praise because for her, all she was doing was giving out of her heart.  I am sure that there were times when she didn’t want to do what she was doing, but one would never be able to tell.  The fact that she never kept track of her immeasurable good works enabled her to continue giving freely.  She never felt entitled, or the need to be repaid.  She never sat back to get what she was “owed.”  She gave until she could give no more.  Eventually the wagon master (an affectionate term bestowed upon her by her sweet sisters whom she drove to all their appointments, shopping, etc.) had to hand over the reins.  She always said that she wanted to go out before she had to become dependent on anyone else, but I think God gave purpose to her long bout with cancer.  Because she could no longer be self-sufficient, she left this earth knowing how to receive, and how to let go.  And essentially, she left giving all of us one last gift – the opportunity to serve and love her the way she first loved us.

Moving on, the next thing I found was the Coral Sands Inn & Seaside Cottages folder.  I didn’t spend too much time looking inside, but it is quite possible that there was a good 3 decades worth of receipts in there, as Grannie was not the type to throw away such “important papers.”  Being the second youngest in her family of five siblings, she was one of the last to have grandchildren, so when the first one arrived, it was time for her to take her very own granddaughter, sit her down in the sand and commence building drizzle sandcastles.  It was to be her shining moment of grandmotherhood.  Unfortunately, hopes were dashed.  Quickly.  As soon as I was plopped in the sand, I screeched, “Yucky!”  With that, I had to be whisked away to the pool where I could be happily sand-free.  Fortunately for Grannie, I eventually got over her fear of sand and never disappointed my grandmother again.  All’s well that ends well, for Coral Sands brought years of joy to Grannie, so much so that she planned a few Carson Family Reunions there.  It will forever be a place that holds millions of memories for me, as well as many of us.  I can see her floating in a gully in the ocean (she did actually fall asleep in the ocean once). I can picture her still in the gazebo, staring out into the sea, soaking in the peace that seemed to keep her going, no matter what trials may lay ahead.

The last thing I found, tucked in a drawer, was a list of phone numbers for all the major news networks.  We are talking about FOX news, CNN, the whole nine yards.  If this doesn’t say “feisty” I’m really not sure what does.  I think she had a pioneer woman spirit that she got from my Grannie Miner.  She didn’t hesitate to share her opinion, which mostly started with the words, “I just don’t understand why…”  Unfortunately, I, too, inherited the stubborn, opinionated gene.  Therefore there were several subjects that we mutually agreed to disagree on and were not broached…most of the time.  However, even after those conversations that became a bit more heated than anticipated, love won.  And this, I think, fully encapsulates what Grannie was all about. Love.  For everyone.  In whatever way possible, Grannie loved the people around her in whatever way she could.  She listened to the stories of those who bagged her groceries and of those who helped her choose dresses for her great-grandchildren.  She wrote letters to supervisors praising employees that went out of their way to help her.  She left bigger than expected tips for the housekeeping staff at Coral Sands, staff that I am sure every year fight over who gets to clean her room.  She smiled at every baby and chatted with every child within a twenty-foot radius of her.  And each one of them always smiled and talked back.  None of them, nor their parents, ever shirked away simply because they saw the love emanating from her eyes. 

Oh to love as she has loved!  I know that my mother was not perfect, as none of us can possibly be, but I think God must have thought she was pretty darn close since He shared His big day with her.  Just as Jesus has come back to us, risen from the dead, so will Grannie be alive in our hearts and in our actions as we seek to love as she did.  It is our job to carry on her legacy of caring about everyone, to rise to the tasks set before us, be they great or small.  To carry out this mission is to honor her every day for the rest of our lives.

Just so you know, Grannie knew you loved you fiercely and deeply.  Over an over, as she lay in the hospital bed, she reiterated how blessed she felt, as her room and her house were never without company.  The boxes of cards and letters she saved over the years testify to the richness and fullness of her life on earth.  Now has come the time for us to release her fully into our Father’s faithful hands and to those who have gone before her.  Oh to hear the sound of her welcoming.  Perhaps what gives me the greatest joy is knowing that after 52 years, she and Howard are back together again.

A line from her favorite hymn, Amazing Grace, is the most fitting conclusion I can bring.

And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

7 comments :

  1. Beautifully written. But more importantly, beautifully articulated. Thank you for sharing.
    LoriAnn

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  2. She sounds wonderful! What beautiful memories. I, too, lost my grandma right before Christmas. No one could ever take their place; Grandmas have special spots in our hearts. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  3. I appreciate your blog. The topics hit so close to home for me right now that it is hard for me to know how to respond. Your processing helps me process. I learn to appreciate that my mom can squeeze my hand and tell me that she loves me even as I see her losing abilities week by week, unable to get out of bed or lift her own cup. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your journey with me.

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  4. I'm so sorry for the grief you are feeling. My mom passed away last year, so this was especially touching to me. It's a wonderful tribute to someone who sounds like she was a wonderful woman.

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  5. What a beautiful eulogy! Your grandma sounds like an amazing and beautiful human being - thank you for sharing a little bit of her life with us.

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  6. Very beautiful! Your grandmother sounds like a precious woman! I lost my grandfather the beginning of this summer! It is still hard to believe that that stubborn, "naughty" man is no longer around to call us silly names or play a game of cards with. He is greatly missed, but what a joy to know that they are done with this imperfect world and there bodies are perfected, now, in Christ!

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  7. Jen, I want to share the following verse with you. It has brought me a lot of comfort as I am coming to terms with the sudden death of a cousin. Phililippians 1:6 says this, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." The good work that Christ began in your grandmother isn't finished until the return of Christ. How awesome is that!

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