[Author’s Note: Following are the remarks I made at my grandmother’s funeral.]
When I think of my grandmother, “B,” I think of many things:
- Her home’s green shag carpet that’s been around so long it’s actually back in style,
- Family dinners that always came with sides of deviled eggs and rolled bananas, and
- Christmas ornaments that may or may not have been around at the founding of our country.
Over the last few days, though, my mind keeps pulling back to a random day in high school when I wandered into Lic’s Ice Cream. B worked there for a few years. That day, when I walked in, she saw me, gave me a great big smile, and, without asking, went about getting me a bowl of chili and a pimento cheese sandwich. She got me seated at the counter, made sure my lunch was just right, kept checking on me while she worked, and paid for my meal. Now, if you knew my grandmother, you know she did not spend money at restaurants easily, so it was no small thing for her to buy my meal. I’m sure I got a big hug and kiss before I left.
A grandmother showing love, caring, and kindness to a grandson is not big news. Maybe it’s even pretty ordinary. But I keep coming back to the simplicity of that moment, and its lessons, and I wonder if something essential about B is locked inside.
Fifty years ago, my grandmother lost the love of her life much too soon. The loss was profound and obviously permanent; an event that even those that would come along years later, like myself, would understand echoed through the decades.
Life carried on, though. Her three children grew and thrived, four grandchildren followed, and now five great-grandchildren. She worked outside of the home, was active in church and social groups, and had wonderful friends, many of whom are here today. Still, I always knew that the script my grandmother had written for her life had been changed, and dealing with that loss was the great test of my grandmother’s life.
In our society, we talk a lot about love: great romances, dream weddings, the love of a child, but we don’t spend much time acknowledging that, to love someone, to truly love someone, you open yourself up to great loss and hurt. For the lucky, those great losses and hurts are few and far between and come after many decades of happiness. My grandmother’s life stands as evidence that those great losses and hurts can come much sooner than expected. More importantly, though, her life stands for carrying on, in the best way that we can, finding and sharing happiness when and where we can.
In her own way, to the best of her ability, my grandmother did that. And that is what I will remember about her life. The love she planned on did not last as many days as she wanted, but she still found ways to touch the lives of so many people, in so many different ways. Even in the simple act of making sure her grandson had a good meal.
The last time I shared a meal with my grandmother was this past summer. I left our breakfast together that June morning to attend a wedding. It was not lost on me as I drove away that I was going to celebrate a love that B didn’t get to enjoy for as many years as she surely wanted. I’m not sure if my grandfather is waiting for her on some ethereal plane, but, for her strength to carry on as she did, for the small but wonderful acts of love she shared, I certainly hope he is.