My grandmother's funeral was today. I chose to look upon this day as a celebration of her life. I have had many days of tears as well as happy and fond memories. Part of this process, that helped the most, was writing a eulogy for my grandmother. I wrote 4 before I settled on this one that I delivered today. I decided to keep it simple. For some reason I was determined to find a good quote to start with and sure enough when I had stopped looking I fell upon one from Pema Chodron that I was able to base my eulogy on. Enjoy...
When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Pema Chodron
To me my grandmother’s heart was huge, vast and limitless. I am the first born grandchild. The next to come would be almost 6 years later. I was born to a young mother who was so lucky to have her family help take care of and love me. My mother described me as “a change of life baby” born to a whole family. How lucky was I to spend my first couple of years of life with two mothers, until my mom met my Dad. Even then my Nan was always there for me. I had one mom who did the hard work of “mommy, especially when I was a teen”. The other to always have fun with, laugh with and joke with, one who never had to discipline, and that was my Nan. I believe that I touched my Nan’s heart as much as she touched mine. Without this wonderful example of warmth and gentleness from the time I was born I might have been a much different person.
A few things about my Nan that I will never forget and will always hold dear.
Her hug; anyone who hugged her knew that even towards the end, for such a small woman, she had a hug that felt like it would break you in half. It was so strong and so secure, it made you know exactly how she felt about you and took your breath away at the same time.
Her smile and laugh; She always loved a good joke and would joke and tease anyone she could, you always saw the twinkle in her eyes when she thought something was funny. Her laugh was infectious, and I am glad that I have her snort, although embarrassing sometimes – the two of us always found it funny.
Her blue eyes; every time I look in the mirror I see them, this is another family trait that is strong, me and my children have those same eyes.
Her voice; I used to think it was from years of smoking (even when she said she quit she snuck them) but my son Reilly has the same rasp in his voice. It is very distinct and endearing.
Some things that my Nan taught me that I still value today. She taught me to admire and never touch other peoples things. I apparently broke a flowered ornament as a child and she never let me forget it, Holly almost broke the match the other day. She taught me to always keep a freezer full of baked goods, you never know when someone might come to call. I still do this and use many of her recipes. Speaking of recipes, she taught me the value of a good family recipe. Never share it and if you do, don’t give it all up. The secret family recipes were so secret that even I had to find the missing ingredient on more than one occasion. Many a phone call to her and she would say “that’s not my recipe dear, or you must have done something wrong dear.” She taught me to keep things, random things around, just in case you might need it one day, a ball of yarn, random bits of fabric, buttons, you name it. I am getting more selective with this one, but it is not always easy – you just never know. Nan and my grandfather used to always tell me the most important thing to have in a relationship was trust and friendship. I always kept that in mind and looked for that in a partner. When Nan met my now husband Bill, they immediately started joking and she adored him from the get go. He made fun of her brownies, insisting they were store bought – anyone else would have taken it as an insult but it became an inside joke between the two of them. She made fun of him being a Newfie, but we both knew that she loved that! She always accepted me for who I was, no matter if she agreed or not. Don’t get me wrong she would give me a look or make a comment but she still always loved me no matter what choices I made – I only hope I can be as accepting with my own children and even grand children as she was with me.
Nan thank you for having a bottomless heart when it came to me, my husband and my children. It has truly been an honour and a pleasure to be your grand-daughter. I am so happy that I was able to be with you and help you when you needed it these last couple of years. I am so blessed that you were able to be a part of all of my big moments, university graduation, my marriage and to see me as a mother to Liam, Reilly and Holly. When my children are older and when they ask, I look forward to telling them so many wonderful and funny stories about their grand-nan and how much you loved me.
I am now in the aftermath of my grandmothers passing and am still wondering what to do with myself. I feel so lucky to have so many children around me all the time. So full of energy, so full of life. Even still I find myself in fits of tears, in the middle of a meal or watching a show. I try to fall asleep but am unable because my mind starts to race and I start to cry. So instead I get up and do things to keep my mind off of why I am so sad. Eventually I do find sleep, it is deep and fast but not necessarily restful. When I wake up my mind turns on again and my tears start to flow.
The next week will bring many tasks that will both keep my mind off and set my mind to it. We will visit a friend of mine who is a florist . She will add a personal touch to flowers from my mother and from my children. I think I will chose blue as it was my Nan's favorite colour. This task I am sure will elicit more tears because we've known our friend the florist most of our life.
My mom has asked me to put together some music selections for a service that will happen next Saturday. I have over 2000 songs on my Ipod and music is my thing. I even contemplated playing guitar at the service but I don't think I am up for it. My grandmother loved Amazing Grace so I must have listened to about 10 versions yesterday just to find the perfect one and I think I did. The woman singing has the softest, most gentle voice. I know Nan would have thought it was pretty.
Writing a eulogy has got to be the most difficult. How do you sum up how important a person was to you in a 5 to 10 minute reading. I think I have tried to write it a few times but the words just don't seem perfect enough. My grandmother was my mother and my friend and I loved her. Even that short sentence sounds perfect but it some how seems inadequate for the amazing person that she was to me.
So for now I talk with my mom, we cry and we distract. I talk to some of my friends and the same thing happens. I appreciate that I am surrounded by my children. Who my Nan also loved and who loved her too.
Last night I had a fitful sleep. I was dreaming of my grandmother all night. When I woke up I knew something was not right. My mother phoned and confirmed that my grandmother was not doing well. My husband came home to care for our three children and I went to be with my mother. Not knowing how she or my grandmother would be when I got there.
When I arrived my mom was in tears and my Nan was lying in her bed with an oxygen mask on and her hands were shaking. I hugged my mom and told her that I loved her and that I was so sorry. My attention then quickly went to my grandmother. I pulled up an extra chair and held her hand in mine. The shaking seemed to lessen. I told her how much I loved her and that I was here for her. I told her that she was not alone and that we were here to help her as she had helped us so many times before.
My aunt came in shortly and had a cry with my mom and then sat next to me. She then spoke to my grandmother telling her that she was here and that she was not alone. My aunt is my dad's sister and was a tremendous support for us, and always is. She and I sat next to each other and held my grandmother's hands and helped her through. She never once was left un-touched. As I gave her water by mouth with a syringe my aunt stepped in and held her hand until I was able to resume my post. My aunt was with my mother, when my mother was too overwhelmed to be with hers. An amazing support system we all make for each other when we need too.
At one point it seemed as if my grandmother was starting to cry so I called my mom and my aunt over. My mom told her how much she loved her and thanked her for always being there for her. She told her that she could let go and that she didn't need to hold on anymore. Then she stepped away and cried with my aunt supporting her. I stayed steadfast and held my grandmothers hand, and wiped her tears. I told her how much I loved her. I thanked her for being such a wonderful example of a mother to me, I told her how lucky I was in my life to have two mothers as she always was a mother to me. I told her how happy I was that she was able to see me as a mother and that my three children were able to love her too. I told her not to worry about my mom, that I would take care of her and make sure she would be OK. I told her that she was not alone and that she didn't need to be afraid, we were with her.
My mother and aunt stepped away and my mother cried. I continued to hold my grandmothers hand and stroked her hair. As her breathing slowed and I thought it had stopped I called my mother back. "I think she's gone..." We called in the nurse to confirm what we already knew. I stayed by her side still holding her hand. I think I was afraid to let go, afraid that she would be alone, even though she was already gone.
I am grateful that I was able to be with my grandmother in her final hours. Helping to keep her comfortable, holding her hand as I did her husbands when she passed. How lucky am I to have had two grandparents that I loved so much and who loved me so much and that I could return that love and be there with them for the end. It is truly my wish to have someone who loves me, next to me when it is my turn
I don't know what the next few days hold for me and my family. I am sure that there will be lots of tears and even some laughter. I do know that as we were there for my grandmother in life and in death, we will continue to be there for each other. Maybe even holding hands.
I love you Nan, wherever you are...
I have a favorite mug as I know a lot of people do. It is handmade pottery. Blue on the top, darker blue on the bottom and a brown swish through the middle. It has a petite handle and a thumb rest at the top. I bought it in Prince Edward Island on our last vacation. The design reminds me of the beach and that's why I bought it.
Recently I noticed that my mug has a crack in it. Nothing that will cause it to shatter or break or even leak my precious tea. It is just a small hairline crack that starts at the top and trickles slightly down almost to the middle. Some people would notice this imperfection and get rid of it. I like to look at this imperfection and analyze it.
I could use this vessel as an example of the vacation we had or of my practice or my life. Anything really. Our vacation was amazing and I loved it. Was it totally perfect, no. Was I content with the place we stayed, the things we did, the food we ate and my yoga practice while we were there, yes. I would have liked the vacation to be a bit longer and to have spent more time at the beach. It was a great vacation and almost perfect!
My life is not perfect either, there are cracks in that too. I find that there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish what I want. I doddle sometimes, spend too much time wasting time with TV or computer. My house always feels cluttered but I know it's because I have three children, run a day care and we are trying to enjoy life. My home is a work in progress, I am happy with it but there are things I am trying to improve or change. My relationship with my husband is not always perfect but that always gives us stuff to work on together. We have a happy life, wonderful children and are best friends, but even best friends can have their "cracks".
Is my yoga practice perfect, no. I don't think one can ever achieve the perfect practice. I come off the mat many days thinking I felt too tired, too distracted, too tight or too sore. Often my practice feels too long or not long enough. I try not to let my ego get in the way of postures, my ego feels sometimes like a crack. I know where my body used to be and where it can be again, but my mind wants it there now. However, I still try to leave my practice with a sense of contentedness, did I practice postures to my ability today? It's OK if it was not the perfect practice. It's enjoying and looking at those moments as a reflection without judgment and asking why or what?
The things we do in life, the things that make us who we are sometimes have cracks. That's OK, sometimes allowing the crack to be there lets us work on stuff or look at things in a different way. It can even be OK if the crack opens wide and allows us to see what's on the other side. Perhaps the crack is a tiny peep hole to something else?
My mug has a crack in it, but I love it and am content with it and that's what makes it even more perfect.
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.