One of the most difficult writing assignments I’ve ever had ultimately became the most difficult speaking commitment I’ve ever made when I had to deliver my grandmother’s eulogy Tuesday.
I’m the first grandchild of Edna Marie Gilmore, my maternal grandmother, who lived to be 97 and my last remaining grandparent. I think it was summer 2005 when Grandma asked me to give her eulogy. I told her I would if she’d give me plenty of time to work on it! It took more than two years to figure out what I wanted to say, so I’m glad I had a heads-up.
As a journalism student, an early in-class writing project was composing my own obituary ... that was a breeze compared to eulogizing the family matriarch. Because she was more than a grandma, mom, wife, neighbor or friend ... and we all loved her and will miss her, and we all have memories of her that we’ll cherish.
I didn’t want to regurgitate facts and dates or talk just about memories, although I mentioned Easter egg hunts in Grandma and Grandpa’s yard, where they had great hiding places; Christmas there with all the aunts and uncles and cousins; going to Tresslar’s Five and Dime when Grandma worked in the toy department, where the fish tanks were; and never smelling White Linen perfume or Dove soap without thinking of Grandma. For a diminutive woman, she left a big impact, and one of the biggest she probably had on me was the focus of my eulogy.
The song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” written by Pete Seeger and recorded by The Byrds, puts to music several chapters from Ecclesiastes. I spared everyone my singing and quoted Chapter 3, verses 1 & 2, which say: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born and a time to die.
I believe — and I think Grandma believed — how we spend that time between birth and death is important. Grandma was a Christian woman who probably didn’t have a mean or vindictive bone in her body. She hated hurting anyone’s feelings, was generous and caring and enjoyed going to church. She loved her family — and spending time with us — more than anything. She always had a smile and a word for acquaintances when she ran into them, and I doubt she ever met a stranger. She enjoyed traveling and, among other places, she and Grandpa went to both the Holy Land and Paradise — also known as Hawaii! Even into her 90s she visited with people, tried new restaurants, went to craft shows and the race track ... the woman tailgated more in her 90s than I ever have at half that age!
I doubt if Grandma was familiar with Aerosmith, but I believe a line in their song “Amazing” would sum up her philosophy of life. It says: “Life’s a journey, not a destination, and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow will bring.” In other words, it’s impossible to know what will happen tomorrow, so it’s important to live today to the fullest and be the best we can be.
You have to admire her determination to stay busy, soak up as much life as she could, and not let age slow her down any more than she had to. Not too long ago, a friend said to me: “You’ve always had a wanderlust.” I do love to travel, but “wanderlust?” Thinking about it, I got tickled because my Dad always joked that whenever anyone said the word “go,” Grandma was the first in the car. I realized I must’ve come by my so-called wanderlust honestly. I hope, like Grandma, I’m making life a journey figuratively as well as literally.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verse 4 says: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. We’ll weep over losing the woman I know as Grandma, and we’ll mourn her. But it was her time, and her journey has left us with many wonderful memories I hope will allow us to laugh. I’m confident her journey has taken her to a final destination where she can dance while she watches over us in our journeys.
In closing, I read this verse by British poet David Harkins:
“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
Andrea feels blessed to have had a grandparent in her life for 52 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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