Thursday, October 2, 2008

Grandma's Eulogy

Just this morning as I checked the news on-line, I read the title of an article reporting a recent study extolling the important influence a grandparent has on their grandchildren. I could not help but smile, as I did not need a scientific study to underline this fact. I have experienced it first hand.

This is one of those moments where it is difficult to know exactly what to say. I want so badly for it not to be true. We come to think of certain people as pillars in our life, a constant, immune to the buffeting winds of space and time. When those pillars are taken away we can become lost in anxiety and self-indulgent sadness. But experience has taught me that with time it becomes apparent that the upholding of ideals and the security another person gives us is not reliant on the changing nature of their physical bodies, but rather live on through the things we came to know of them and, in turn, what those things taught us about ourselves.

And Grandma taught me so many things. She was not a complicated woman. The simplicity of her tastes and passions were ripe soil for a growing girl. My heart is full of memories of her femininity and the strong message she sent for the importance of home, faith and family. Nothing made her happier than a warm, inviting home full of good smells, good friends and laughing children. Any time family came to visit, it was cause for celebration, evidenced by loving presentation of all-day efforts - fragrant roasts, flaky pastries and gooey pies. Memories of Grandma are encapsulated in the rich scent of after dinner coffee and the satisfied look of Grandpa's crossed arms at the table's head as she bustled about with domestic energy, somehow managing to clean up the kitchen and keep up with the adult conversation while letting my fumbling, childish hands help. Christmases were a presentation of warmth, magic and light and prayer was a part of every meal.

Grandma was good at growing things. A nurturer by nature, she nourished African violets, roses, vegetable gardens and children. She cared for her mother with great love and tenacity, visiting her every Sunday until the time of her death at the age of 96. Friends and family made the world go round and she spent her time in card clubs and quilting with the ladies at church. She taught us solitaire and rummy practically before we were able to hold the cards, and I cannot remember her ever saying "no" to a request to play. She kept a tin of buttons in the kitchen at the farm that seemed a field of treasure to me and she'd look through them with me, exchanging the tedium of the mundane for the enthusiastic eyes of a child, picking out the "best" ones to share with me. She found amusement in irony and oddities and met the changes and frustrations of life with expressions of perplexion more than worry.

The picture I paint of Grandma in my mind borders on the idyllic. We know that every person on this earth is flawed, but honestly in my examination of my memories, it is the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her disposition that rises to the surface again and again. I have no recollection of her ever raising her voice or losing her temper, though surely some of us had to have tried her patience. She was a patient and loyal wife and a soft and feminine woman. In today's world, where there is both opportunity and pressure for a woman to think of herself as more than "just a wife and mother", Grandma was an example of the joys to be had in giving to others and embracing the quieter fulfillment of domesticity, a balance of spirit that increasingly influences my own choices as the years pass by. She left a legacy of love to all of us that we share with one another each time we play a game she taught us, use a phrase that was hers or make a recipe she passed on. I feel so fortunate to have been the recipient of so much affection and in awe that for as large as our family is, that love was ever expansive, swelling to include each new member with the same enthusiasm. Though her body became frail and her memories weak, her love truly broke the bonds of physical flesh and I still feel it now. It was Christ-like in generosity and I know we all will carry a piece of it until we see her again. We all will miss her, but I am sure she has simply discarded the aged body that contained her and is lavishing that love still upon us in a new, more ethereal way. She and Grandpa started this family and they are together now, without age, pain or fear. It is true that Heaven becomes a more tangible place as it becomes populated with those we love.

Grandma, thank you for the gifts of each other and the memories we carry with us. We love you, we will miss you and we look forward to the day we all are together again.

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