Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Eulogy



The following is the eulogy I delivered at My Grandma's funeral.

I debated about posting this. It was not written with the intention of publishing. It will lose something by being read rather than heard. In the actual delivery, I extemporized a slight bit. I changed some words, or slightly re-phrased, while I held eye contact with people and didn't want to break the mood by looking down at my "script". When you see something in brackets [like this, for instance] it is a stage direction to myself and I did the physical act described.

Anyway, I decided to publish it for two reasons I consider proper:

1 - I've received so many nice words, from so many of you, that it seems only right that I include you in the "hearing" of this tribute. In addition to comments on the previous piece concerning My Grandma, I received some private correspondence that especially made me think that withholding this would not be an act of humility on my part, but rather a disservice to some.

2 - She was a wonderful woman who deserves to have these words made as public as it is possible for me to do.


[My Grandparents, Fran and Maybelle Drown, with 
(L to R) My Cousin Steven, Me, My Cousin Scott, around 1964]

So, there you have it. What follows is the eulogy as I wrote it out prior to delivery. Thank you for your kind words, prayers, and well-wishes, over the past several days. My family and I appreciate them greatly.

Eulogy For Maybelle Drown, My Grandmother

I’m Maybelle’s grandson, and Connie’s son, Jimmy. I’ve been asked to say a few words about My Grandma.

I don’t mind telling you, I’ve struggled with this. It’s not because of a lack of things to say about Maybelle. It’s because there’s so MUCH to say about her. A life of 105 years is not easily condensed into a five-minute eulogy.

I’ve written about Maybelle before, and I’ve published what I wrote on the internet. That stuff was good. When I was asked to speak, my first thought was that I’d just more-or-less read what I’d written before. That would have been no problem, and I don’t think anyone would have been disappointed with it… except me. I thought about it, and I realized this called for a different voice, a bit more emotion. What I wrote and published before was factual, and it was entertaining (and if you feel like reading it, I’ll be happy to give you a copy – just ask me later on) but it didn’t capture what I now feel is the most important thing to say about My Grandma.

What IS the most important thing to say about her? I think it’s this: Nobody will ever think of My Grandma and say to him or herself, “That Maybelle Drown! I remember the time she did such-and-such…”, and then go on to relate some story about a horrible thing Maybelle did. Not a chance. Not even the slightest chance.

Wherever My Grandma went, she left behind nothing but friends. In 105 years on this planet, she made no enemies. Not one. That’s an absolutely amazing statement, but it’s the stone cold truth. And I can’t think of a single thing beyond that which could possibly be a better last statement concerning her life.

Now, having said that, was she perfect? That depends upon your definition of perfection. Certainly, there were times during her life when dealing with her physical shortcomings became a bit of a trial. For instance, she became profoundly deaf as the years passed, and she also suffered a stroke that left her sometimes unable to completely articulate what she wished to say. So, having a conversation with her became increasingly more difficult. She had a few odd habits develop over the last few years, and she tended to repeat herself a bit. But I think, even in looking back and recalling that sort of thing, there are more laughs in our memories than anything else.

I recall one particular story with great fondness. It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Maybelle had a cat. Well, she always had a cat. And mostly black cats, for that matter, so the next time you hear someone telling you that black cats are bad luck, you might want to straighten that person out concerning their misconceptions, since Maybelle’s black cats were with her for a full 105 year life, which would hardly seem to be bad luck. Anyway, Maybelle told us how sorry she was for this particular cat, because it had no voice. She said, “The poor thing goes around all the time going (make mouthing of cat) and nothing comes out!” Well, we had just seen the cat in the same room with us, and it was a cat who had a lot to say and wasn’t at all reticent about saying it. It was quite a loud cat, as a matter of fact, and it had just been there with us, going (make cat sounds) and the thing was, the cat was just fine, and Maybelle was just so deaf she couldn’t hear the cat meowing it’s fool head off. Even better, she had a clock that struck the hour by giving off a different birdcall each time. That poor cat would hear the clock, every hour, and think a bird was in the room, so it naturally meowed and meowed, and Maybelle didn’t hear the clock OR the cat, so she thought the poor cat had no vocal chords. So, if you were to judge “perfection” by that sort of incident, no, she was hardly perfect. But the laughs we got… Absolutely Perfect!

I said she made no enemies, and that’s true. I think it’s important to stress something, though. You can go through life making no enemies and still not be worth much to humanity in the long run. If you just sit in a cave by yourself, and interact with no other people, you might not make any enemies, but you also won’t make too many friends. Maybelle left behind no enemies, but it’s not because she was a hermit. She went out of her way to interact with people. She volunteered continually, offered her home and heart to many, gave help to those who needed it, sang to brighten their days, and never passed judgment just for the sake of feeding her own ego. Even with the very best of intentions, it would seem near impossible to have interacted with the amount of people that Maybelle did and not come out of the process with at least one person pissed off at you. But she did it. She pulled off the near-impossible feat of living a very long life and leaving behind not a single person, living or dead, who considered her anything less than a nice woman. Whether through her conscious effort, or via unintentionally funny stories like the one about the cat, smiles were left behind where she had been much like waves follow a boat on the ocean. Nobody who came into contact with her was left poorer for the experience, and most of us were left much richer.

I’ll miss her. We all will. There’ll be a few tears today, and that’s all right. That’s the natural selfish human reaction when we realize someone truly special won’t be with us now. But her true gift to me, to all of us, will remain, not lost in any way. The memories I have of her will make me smile for the rest of my life. And I do believe that every person she ever came into contact with will smile when her name is mentioned. If I could leave behind that same gift, I would consider myself profoundly blessed.

She was. And so were we.

Thank you.



28 comments:

The Broad said...

I think this is the most touching and beautiful eulogies I've ever read. I love the words: 'smiles were left behind where she had been much like waves follow a boat on the ocean." Not only were you blessed to have such a woman for your grandmother, she was blessed to have you as her grandson...

lime said...

i really do appreciate that you shared this. what a wonderful testimony to a life lived well. what a blessing of an example she left for those who knew and loved her and for those of us with whom you've shared her.

makes me think of my grandmother's favorite verse....make new friends but keep the old. one is silver, the other gold.

nick said...

Very nice. Nothing can relpace grandmas.

Daryl said...

I am betting there was laughter at the appropriate times but I also bet there wasnt a dry eye in the house when you were done ... may she rest in peace

Michelle H. said...

A lovely eulogy. And to remember a person with laughter and love is the greatest gift you give to them, and the memories they gave to you.

Uncle Skip, said...

You've given us a pretty good image of your Grandma without getting all soppy or dragging it out. It's easy to tell she was loved. Thanks, Jim.

Cricket said...

Well said, my swell pal.

Craig said...

Thanks, Jim; this is wonderful. The cat story had me grinning from ear to ear. . .

I had the honor of eulogizing my dad, just recently, and I basically took one of my blog posts and tried to read it in a casual way, adding homespun comments as necessary (I didn't want to speak off the top of my head, and leave out something that really needed to be said. . .)

But - you done good, Jimmy; you done real good. . .

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

And the beauty of it is, thanks to you and other family members, the trail of smiles will continue on.

Well done, Jim.

Reasons said...

You were so right to publish this. She was a true inspiration (I was captivated and went back to read your last post too), what a heartwarming read. Xx

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jim. It's a beautiful eulogy. RIP Maybelle.

messymimi said...

Thank you. Not only will those who knew and loved her smile at her memory, whenever i hear the name Maybelle, i will smile, too. Through you, she continues to touch people.

Jeni said...

Reading this piece Jim, just makes me appreciate you, as a blogger friend, even more! Yep, definitely you were right in publishing this eulogy and yes indeed, you did very well by your Grandma with the words in this piece. Beautiful words for one who obviously was a beautiful lady. And, just the right touch of humor too as you mentioned the cat and the clock. I laughed out loud reading about the clock going off on the hour and the cat going a bit bonkers looking for a bird in the house. Now that is funny!
God Bless Maybelle -and you too for the honor you bestowed on her memory. Everyone should be so lucky to have expressions of love and adoration given as you have done. Few however will deserve them as Maybelle obviously did.

Buck said...

Most excellent, Jim, and thanks for posting your eulogy. I can't add anything to what's been said above other than "Well done. Very well done."

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

I can imagine you saying it - a beautiful tribute
xx

Hilary said...

Just beautiful, Jim. I'm sure she was smiling down proudly.. and could hear every word.

joan said...

I agree, that would be the greatest gift to leave behind.
Beautiful tribute.

Pearl said...

That was very nice, and you've made me think of my own grandma, a woman not unlike Maybelle.

It's not until the old ones leave that you realize just how precious they are: their patience, their kindness, their worn and loving hands.

You brought tears to my eyes, and in a good way.

Pearl

silly rabbit said...

Everyone has said pretty much everything I thought. I feel blessed for having read it.

Red Hamster said...

...smiles were left behind where she had been much like waves follow a boat on the ocean... What a lovely expression of your Grandma Maybelle's 105 years. We should all be so worthy of such a tribute. Thanks for sharing with us.

Such a precious picture of you with your grandparents.

SueAnn said...

She was such a special gift to you and made such a wonderful mark on your heart!! 105!! Wow! That is an amazing feat in itself!!
Love the cat story...that was and is priceless!
Hugging you
SueAnn

Clare Dunn said...

Really, really nice, Jim...thank you.

Shrinky said...

What a legacy she leaves behind, she's given so much love and joy, it's obvious she will live in your heart forever. what a beautifully written tribute to someone so dear.

Christina LMT said...

Absolutely beautiful, Jim. Thank you.

Thimbelle said...

Thank you so much for sharing this - and all of your memories of her - with us.

(((hugs))) from all of us here.

Thim/TW/Twinks

The Good Cook said...

Thank you for sharing Maybelle Drown with me. I'm sorry for your loss, no matter the age, when someone we loves passes it is a sad period of reflection.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Oh Jim, I'm so very, very sorry to read about the passing of your Grandma. Thank you for sharing such a personal, touching story with all of us. I wish you and your family all the best and applaud you for the ability to keep her memory alive.
Jenn

Ami said...

I haven't been reading here very long. Sort of catching up here and there.

That was truly lovely, and although my grandma wasn't anything like yours, it made me love and miss my own more.
YOUR grandma sounds wonderful.
:)