Monday, June 29, 2009

My Eulogy for My Grandmother

When I agreed to say a few words today, I promised my father I’d only say nice things. But really, is there any other choice when the subject is the force of nature that was my grandmother? We are all here not only because we loved her, but because she loved all of us; unconditionally and generously. From her students to her family and friends, her gift was her ability to bring warmth, love, joy and wit to everyone she met.

All of us have a story (or a hundred) that we could share to illustrate her compassion, her humor and her intelligence. Today, I’d like to share a few moments in time that are special to me.

One of my earliest and most treasured memories of my grandmother comes from a sleepover I had at her house. My grandparents - Maw Maw and Paw Paw as I called them, are, and always have been, simply “the best”. Sneaking down to the kitchen at night, I found my grandmother up and doing the crossword puzzle at the kitchen table. While that was certainly not unusual, I also found her eating hot chocolate powder out of the packet with a spoon. I asked her why she didn’t mix it with milk or hot water, and in her inimitable way she said “why bother, you get more chocolate flavor this way”. To this day, I prefer my hot chocolate straight out of the package on a spoon.

Heaven forbid the words “no”, “I can’t” or worst of all “you can’t” be uttered in her presence. There was nothing that could ever stand in her way. While touring the world with Aunt Anise, my grandmother fell in a foreign country and broke her arm (and scuffed her precious camera). At this point, most people would have been on a plane back home, but no, a cast and a Tylenol later, she was back on the tour bus, complaining more about the camera than her arm.

From her husband to her children and grandchildren, she was always there for you. Selflessly and without hesitation. A mother, a friend, a mother-in-law, a grandmother, a wife without compare.

How can you mind fixing your grandmother’s computer when it’s always as easy as “well, next time just make sure it’s plugged in” and your reward is corned beef and tongue on rye? She didn’t just feed our bellies, or even just our hearts, but our minds too.

I’ll never forget the Mostly Mozart concerts and other performances she brought me to. In the case of ballet, there was certainly some kicking and screaming on my part, but now as an adult I see how important it really was for me to experience these things and get some culture that wasn’t centered around Ghost Busters video games. One night, after a New York Ballet Company performance that I didn’t exactly enjoy she turned to me and said “no, I’ll admit it, that one was terrible, I fell asleep”. Her blunt honesty and sense of humor were a perfect match.

Unconventional, hysterical, loving and proud. More than just a friend, relative, wife, parent or grandparent, she was a role model. So much of who all of us are today is because of the dynamo that she was. Her husband, her children, her family and her friends were always her priority. She enjoyed watching Dana eat the icing flowers off her cake more than she would have enjoyed eating them herself. Besides, as she’d say “I shouldn’t really be eating that much sugar anyway… but I like it”.

I was fortunate enough to see her on Friday. She was sleeping, but she opened her eyes long enough to recognize that I was there with my father. As we left and said our goodbyes; in testament to her unending love and devotion to us all, not matter what her condition was, she managed to speak her last words: “I love you”.

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