My father officiated my Nanny's (his Mother) funeral last week with such elegance and beauty., extemporaneously from his heart. Many others also spoke lovingly. I wrote my words down, of course ('cause I can't think otherwise) so here they are:
Well, this has been
a wild week, couple of months in a way, something we all theoretically knew
would happen but never quite imagined that it actually would. We used to joke that Poppop was like
Lazarus, breathing life over and over into moments we thought would be his
last. But, really it was Nanny we
secretly knew would live forever.
So I must admit, I
am sort of bewildered to be here.
Yet comforted, too, knowing she passed from this life exactly as she
wanted. Peacefully, quickly, after
95 lovely years, without much drama or fuss. And leaving us blissfully with a mountain of memories.
For me it’s 50
years full of random moments.
Walking through their huge garden and apple orchards at the farm. Swimming at the gorge. The first time she played baseball
with us and didn’t know to drop the bat so she’s gripping that bat with all her
might as she runs the bases, all us grandkids screeching with laughter.
Nanny loved to laugh, a push-over
really, even laughing at my ridiculous stories that weren’t intentionally
funny. I’d tell her about life’s
absurdities mostly, work woes or travel mishaps, and more than once we swapped
foibles about men since my divorce and her widowed-years overlapped. Nanny loved attention, just any of us
sitting with her and sharing stories or gossip or funny little things. And while I know I didn’t shower her
with enough or as much as many of you in this chapel, I cherish each moment.
Oh, she could be
inflexible, too. Stubborn about
things that drove us nuts. It’s
true, she used to flat-out lock us kids out of her farmhouse when we got too rambunctious. And I swear I shucked more peas than I
thought humanely possible. Every
single time I sneezed – from infancy right on up through age 49 -- I got her
evil eye warning me with swift retribution if I dared get her sick. And every one of us often wished she
would occasionally – maybe on Thanksgiving or Christmas perhaps? -- eat her
main meal at a more convenient time than exact noon.
But I realize now
that her stubborn insistence about certain things was also her greatest
strength. For she built this
family, almost from scratch. We
are a small bunch, strewn all over the country these days. But we are exceptionally close, full of
love, every one of us delightful, interesting and good. And that was Nanny’s doing.
She came from a different family, close
but also fraught with dysfunction and alcoholism. Her parents divorced early and abandoned their only child to
be raised by her grandmother and collection of childless aunts and uncles in a
large Brooklyn brownstone. She was
loved, to be sure, but there was also Stuff she had to endure.
We have heard these
stories, of course. And, frankly,
we witnessed a handful of strong neuroses she carried as a result. But we, her progeny, never lived these
stories or these neuroses ourselves, precisely because of her. Many families just repeat the same
mess, generation after generation.
But not ours. At age 15 my
grandmother said enough. She left home, married a good, loving
man and they stayed happily together nearly 70 years. She raised her two children with the stability and
consistency she never got. She
flat out stopped the heredity of alcoholism, absolutely determined that none of
us ever endure that craziness.
When us grandkids were born, she and Poppop bought that big rambling
farm and we spent 15 years playing in their fields. She attended almost every single baptism, graduation, wedding, and family holiday.
And she loved us fiercely – all of us - her two children, her five
grandchildren, and her passel of great grandchildren -- always,
unconditionally, without a moment’s waiver.
We are her legacy
and looking around this room I’m guessing she’s very very proud. We are all – every one of us – kind,
loving, interesting, and creative, and we each offer lovely contributions to
But I will hold her
legacy most dear. She created this, she created us, a
family who gathers together for all reasons, good and bad. Who cries together or yells at each
other sometimes, but mostly a family that laughs together, plays together, and champions
each other. And loves each other
without fail and with unlimited grace.
I am so grateful for her gift. And in her honor I will do my best to carry her legacy forward.