Thank you again to all of you for your words and prayers of support following the passing of Eric's grandmother. We are back in Jacksonville now after another trip down to St. Petersburg for (among other things) Gramz's memorial service.
The service was held Saturday, July 11 at Christ the Cornerstone Church (Kelley's church). Kelley and Cathy set up a lovely memorial table right at the entrance, featuring some great pictures and some of Gramz's favorite things.
Memories of Gramz
The service itself was lovely. Eric's brother Ronnie and cousin Tara did some readings, and the pastor spoke before inviting Eric up to give his second eulogy in under a month. It's so sad that he has had to write so many eulogies in such a short time but he really did a beautiful job with both of them. When he finished, the rest of the congregation was invited to share memories and several people did so. Much of what was shared had us laughing, remembering the more endearing qualities of Gramz.
After the service, all attendees were invited to the fellowship hall for pastries and coffee, and we spent some time visiting and sharing memories while the kids played in the church nursery. It was really nice.
E.J. and Aunt Kelley after the service
And so that was that. Gramz was cremated, and we will hold a private burial for immediate family in the next month or two (when her son is able to be back from Tennessee and we are able to make it down for another visit). She, along with her late husband, will be laid to rest in Toni's plot. I feel that is fitting: Gramz devoted so much of her life, especially in the last six years since Toni's stroke, to caring for her daughter. It is nice that now they can both be at peace together.
Personally, I'm really having a harder time processing Gramz's passing than Toni's so far. Please don't misunderstand; that in no way diminishes the loss we feel for Toni. But I described in my post about Toni that much of our grieving the loss of her was done six years ago after her stroke. She was still with us, but not in the way she always had been. Her day-to-day influence in our lives changed. On the other hand, at least for me, that is when Gramz became a more permanent daily fixture in our lives. She had always been around, of course. In fact, she and Toni were even living together at the time of the stroke. But after the stroke I got to know her more, and spent more time with her. I sent her pictures of the kids regularly, took the kids to her house for visits while Eric was out of town, and talked on the phone with her from time to time (though not as often as I should have). Since she passed, I have often caught myself thinking, "I should make sure Gramz sees these pictures of the kids. She'd love them!" or "I have to remember to try a recipe from those cookbooks Gramz gave me so I can tell her how we liked them." And then I stop, and think that she's gone, and it doesn't seem real. I mean, just last Christmas she cooked lasagna for her family and we all gathered in her little dining room to eat together (Toni included). Gramz was just here Memorial Day weekend, and the last time I saw her was when we took E.J. up to the hospital for a visit (Ellie was at my mom's). E.J. was fussy so I took him outside to play in the grass while Eric and Gramz talked. When Eric finished, I almost didn't go back in to say good-bye because I certainly didn't think that would be the last chance I had. I'm so glad we went back in.
I read a Maya Angelou quote a couple of weeks ago that I really liked:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
As Eric and I prepared for Gramz's service and talked about memories of her, it dawned on me that this quote applies very much to my relationship with Gramz. When I thought of memories of Toni, more specific interactions with her came to mind. With Gramz, however, it was much less of that and more of a feeling. Gramz made me feel special. She made me feel welcome. She made me feel loved. She made me feel appreciated and important. I can't think of anything in particular (with one exception I will share momentarily) that she said or did to make me feel these things; but somehow she conveyed them with her overall demeanor. She acted in such a way that there was no doubt about how she felt about you. I know how much she loved Eric. I know how much she treasured our kids. And I know that she was pretty fond of me, too.
In fact, the one specific memory that does come instantly to mind when I try to conjure one is when we were getting ready to say goodbye to Gramz after a visit. We were standing in her living room and when it was my turn for a hug, she came to me and held my face in her hands and said, "You're a peach, Meg!" That one silly expression carried a tone that told me she loved me and she adored my family, and it brought such a smile to my face.
Eric had many more nice things to say about Gramz in his eulogy, and I'd like to share that here for any who may be interested:
I want to begin by thanking you all very much for coming. I think my grandmother would have loved seeing all of you in the same place. Under normal circumstances, it would be an honor to have the opportunity to speak about the full life of someone I looked up to and loved so much. But these are not normal circumstances. As many of you know, my grandmother's sudden and rapid decline over the last month coincided almost exactly with the loss of her only daughter, my mother.
It has been a lot for our family to mourn the loss of these two wonderful women, and I don't know that we have fully processed the loss of the first one. But I do know that my grandmother deserves to be fully remembered and celebrated in her own right. And I owe it to her to do my best.
In working through my thoughts, I realized there are a couple of other things that make it difficult for me to sum up her life. The first is that she lived so much of it: 85 years to the fullest, up until the last day. The second is the way she lived the part that I knew.
I am in my early 30s and feel like I have seen and done a lot already, especially since having two children, which has really sped up the aging process. But in reflecting on the richness of my experiences so far, I realized that she lived out this same quantity of years almost two full times before I was even born. She not only married young and then re-married the love of her life while raising two children of her own, but was blessed to love eight grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren and even a great-great-grandchild. And love them all, she did.
As for the fullness of the life she lived before I knew her, the truth is I don't know a whole lot about those days, what they were like for her or what she was like. I understand that she was born about a month after the stock market crashed in 1929 and that she lived during a lot of events that get their names capitalized in the history books: The Great Depression, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the Atomic Bomb, the Civil Rights Era, and 9/11. She sent a son to fight in the Vietnam War. She saw 14 different men inaugurated President of the United States, one of who was assassinated and another resigned. She witnessed the rise of multiple genres of popular entertainment, including TV and movies and the paradigm-shifting music we now refer to simply as "oldies." She even saw Elvis perform live. Technologically, her generation welcomed TV, color TV, space travel, computers, cell phones and the Internet, among many other things.
But for as much time as posterity will spend talking about the world she lived in, she never really talked about herself or shared stories of her past. Which is funny because she had so many chances. Growing up, my grandmother was always around. My two biggest memories of her from childhood are: one, being chased around to give her a kiss hello and good-bye; and two, just how many times I made her do it. You see, my grandmother was always there to support her family. She was at every performance, party, game, meet and holiday and visited us many other days in between, often with a camera in hand and at least two hugs and kisses.
Anyway, when I tried to think through the gaps in my knowledge and justify the many missed opportunities, I realized that perhaps in addition to being so present in our lives, my grandmother was unusually content to live her life in the present. Let me explain.
I think it is very easy for us to be distracted by past regrets or future noise from being permanently busy, or by doing too many unpleasant things because we feel like we have no choice. However, I don't get the feeling my grandmother let any of these worries interrupt much of her daily life. As busy as she was for her age, I always go the sense that wherever she was, was the only place that mattered. That wherever she was, she was all there. I believe she lived her life on purpose and knew what she wanted. I like to think this is one of the things that made her so much fun to be around. For example, she didn't work at Publix for something to do and obviously not to get rich, but because she generally liked being there and loved the people she got to interact with on a daily basis and especially the people she worked with and for. She definitely loved to shuffle and the people she shuffled with. And I have absolutely no question whatsoever about how much she loved being around her family, as loud and crazy as we can be when too many of us are in the same place.
I mentioned the technological advances she witnessed in her lifetime and believe her novel use of one of them provides a nice illustration to close with. All I want you to do now is think about the times you spent with her and then tell me if you need more than one hand to count the number of instances you saw her check her phone while she was interacting with you. Compare that to some of the younger people you know and tell me she wasn't onto something powerful.
To use her own expression, my grandmother was quite simply a peach, and I will forever be grateful for the enormously positive influence she had on my life, the unconditional love she gave to her family and every single Christmas lasagna she made for us. She will be dearly missed.
Dolores C.ervero, our Gramz