The Eulogy You Didn't Get, Grandma
Marion's death came as a surprise to no one. She lived a long life and almost finished her 95th lap around the sun. She spent her last days refusing food and taking pain killers. She was foreshadowing her final, symbolic steps towards the doorway that separates this reality with whatever happens in the great beyond—when and where our souls finally untether from our bodies like a balloon being let go to drift off with the whims of the wind to their next destination.
Marion's death was no surprise and yet it felt like I was robbed of just one more day; of one just one more phone call to hear her voice. The moment I had to tell another person of her death, I immediately burst into tears. I was joyous that she was no longer living the existence of purgatory on earth, but I was sad all the same.
Here's my last in-person memory of her that I mapped on my phone:
"Grandma was finishing her lunch as we drove to the nursing home. I don't remember if she remembered that we were actually visiting versus this time versus our typical phone call. When I first saw her, she looked exhausted and timid in her wheelchair backed up against the wall. I walked up and sat down in the chair next to her. At first, she refused to look at me and recoiled, probably thinking I was someone else. She then slowly turned towards me while I look straight into her eyes. Her eyes widened, and then teared up. I then told Evelyn about all of my memories of her great grandmother. How she taught me how to play complicated card games like Canasta when I was only a young child. How we spent hours putting together 1,000 piece puzzles in the living room together. How I used to annoying the hell out of her playing with her off-the-wall placemats that she always put on the kitchen table (a new set every time we visited). Honestly, I don't remember the last time my grandma had been hugged. I reached over and embraced her and kissed her on the forehead. All she could say was 'this is so nice,' and she continued to cry. We didn't stay long because Evelyn wasn't too keen on staying at the nursing home. That said, we had our moment."
For practical reasons, my family decided not to hold a funeral service. She outlived all of her peers, and finances were a big reason that the nursing home was the only affordable place for her. I don't dispute the decision, but it didn't feel like closure was achieved. My uncle texted me as he left. "Sad an entire life in one box." One box. That summary in no way encapsulated the life she lived and how much she meant to me growing up.
Please make no mistake about it, I've heard my grandmother wasn't always the easiest person to get along with, and many people shared many memories to prove their point. However, their stories meant nothing to me. Their negative stories rarely matched my experience. Perhaps I was the grandson that could do no wrong. Perhaps. My experiences were always that of a person that if I gave her love, she reflected it back. And even when I eventually out-sharked her in her favorite card games, I never once drew an ounce of actual anger or resentment from her. The only time I was sad was when she was so disconnected from all of us as a result of sadness or depression.
Maybe I had a special connection with her. It sure felt that way. Over the past 4-5 years, I made it a point to try and call her every few weeks. I wasn't always consistent, and sometimes a month or two would slip on by. Still, while there were many occasions where I couldn't reach her through her bouts of depression, the last few years were full of bright glimmers. My version of her (her spirit) would return to her body, and we would relive memories like they just happened yesterday. Her laugh would warm my heart. I could feel her smile through the phone.
I don't know if she lived a good or bad life. I had but a grandson's lens to observe from at a distance in both time and space. That said, I know she was loved because I loved her. I know she loved me because I felt it whenever the depression wasn't hiding her from me.
I did not get a chance to share this eulogy in front of your ashes, grandma. I know this short series of words cannot possibly encapsulate the importance of the totality of your life. Still, it's the best I got. I couldn't just let your death go unnoticed. Someone had to say something.
But wherever you are (here, there, or nowhere), we love you. I miss you. ❤️
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.