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.
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.