Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Grandma Died

My Grandma died.  We all knew it was coming.  But it's still tough.  She's battled thyroid cancer, had a major risky back surgery which the prep work for revealed that she had a heart attack at some point, an extremely dangerous post-op infection, and then found out her thyroid cancer spread to her lungs and bones.  All of this was in the last 3 years or so, with a major decline in her health happening over this summer.  We all, including Grandma, knew it was just a matter of time.

After she died on Tuesday, I told my mom that if she needed any help with writing the obituary I could help or if that I could do a reading at the funeral, whatever they wanted.  I checked my phone mid-morning at work the next day and I had a text asking: "Would you be willing to give a eulogy?"  At this point, I wouldn't have been able to say no to anything my mom asked me.  So I said yes and immediately text Mitch, "Oh shit. I have to do Grandma's eulogy."

The rest of the day, my mind is reeling.  What can I say about my Grandma...she baked...she played cards...she baked some more...she had complete disregard for expiration dates on food and drink...she liked to give toddlers grasshoppers (the dessert with alcohol.) This was going to be tough.  You see my grandma wasn't the typical definition of grandma.  She wasn't all warm, cozy, spoil the grandchildren with cookies and cuddles.

I did have a chance to get to know her a bit more than other grandchildren.  I am the oldest of the granddaughters and in a family that had clear roles about what boys should play and girls should play, I was often relegated to playing inside or off to the side.  This meant with Grandma and Grandpa.  But often she was busy in the kitchen while Grandpa did all the playing, cookies, and cuddles.  I have some memories of playing cards with them, coloring at the kitchen table with her, or even playing connect four with her (I wonder if that game is still in the bottom of the card drawer.)  My mom did my grandma's hair, so whenever she would come on a Tuesday for a perm or set, I would be around.  When I was in college, they'd go out to lunch afterward at a little restaurant close to campus that I could meet them at.  After having kids, I made sure to stop there during the summer with them whenever she was getting a perm so that the girls could get to know her a bit.

She was just not the type of you'd go to for comfort, to get lots of hugs and I love yous from.  I remember talking to her about family names during both of my pregnancies.  She was adamant that I not name a child, even a middle name, after her: Viola.  We went with Violet instead.  Her mom's name was Lottie, but I also wasn't allowed to name a child that "because they'll just get made fun of" according to her.  So what do I say in her eulogy?

Mom and her siblings came up with a page full of notes and things that they wanted me to include.  It was similar to my thoughts...she baked, she prayed, card club, etc.  But it also included gems such as "She had a way of pulling your earlobes when you were in trouble" and "We'd butcher a chicken every Sunday for dinner and she knew how to slice it in 9 pieces so every member of the family got a piece."  Well, after 2 1/2 hours of writing and a small amount of googling for ideas (with very little success), I had a draft.  I emailed it to Mom and my aunt and they both said it was perfect.

So now there was just the little issue of being able to read this in front of everyone at the funeral.  I was nervous.  I've done readings in church before, most recently at my uncle Dave's funeral at which I read way too fast.  So I practiced and practiced.  Providing I stayed un-emotional, I'd be fine.  Only the last two paragraphs got me choked up during practice.  My strategy for the day of the funeral: avoid my mother (when I see her crying, I instantly cry) and be an emotional robot.

At the funeral, I was emotional at first. It helped though that the funeral people did a good job with her and she looked very good.  During the last few visits, she really didn't.  She looked so thin, just hugging her I was afraid to break her (in fact, I had a dream last week that I reached out to grab her when she was falling and squeezed too tight and broke her.) She had an overall grey look to her at the end.  The photos below are much better to remember her by.  As the afternoon went by, we had a good amount of time to just sit back and talk with my cousins.  There was an interesting bit of time mid-afternoon when a bat started swooping around church, then eventually in the vestibule area where the viewing was taking place.  The male cousins were up for the challenge, caught the bat, and saved the day.  We joked about how that would move up someone for sure on the Grandma's favorite grandchild rating system that we always joked that she had.  I relaxed quite a bit.  I did not go and say another final good bye before closing the casket because I knew that it would be too much for me and wouldn't be able to get through the eulogy strong.  Everything went well, it was well received, and later the priest said something that I think really summed the whole funeral day up.  He was surprised by how at peace with everything Grandma was when he met with her.  That's kind of how I felt about it.  She's good now and I didn't need to be sad about it.

But now today, I am so super emotional.  I think that I held it all in way too much yesterday in my attempt to be an emotional robot.  Writing this today helped.  Thanks.  

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