October 4, 2019 by Erin
Last Wednesday, I lost my dear Grandma. Many of you know she lived with my parents from very early on in their marriage, so I grew up in a multi-generational home. What a sweet gift to have my Grandma’s life so impressed on mine. With her passing and with the birth of my son (whom I will write more about later), I’ve been thinking a lot about family–how none of us exist independently, but we’re born into a network and a history so much bigger than one person. I’m so grateful for my family and the story we’re telling. Grandma certainly had a large role and a loud voice in that story.
This is the eulogy my brother delivered at her funeral–the collective thoughts of my parents, siblings, and me about the woman who helped make us who we are and the family she built. The words don’t do her justice.
No matter the reason, no matter how long the life, death never feels right. It’s true we have much to celebrate today–Grandma lived fully in every sense, and now her joy is complete as she sees our Savior face-to-face. In that same Savior, we have comfort and peace in the face of loss. But still, it just doesn’t feel right.
We all thought Grandma would live forever. She seemed to have unlimited reserves of health, energy, and spunk, even into very old age. She stayed fiercely independent nearly until the end. Seeing pictures of her even a few months ago, it’s hard to imagine that person dying. It could’ve been a lifelong diet of garlic and olive oil that kept her looking twenty years younger than she was. It could’ve been thousands of crossword puzzles that kept her mind sharp. Maybe she just won the genetic lottery, and by chance she made living nearly a century look easy. Maybe.
It’s more likely, though, the secret of her long and full life lies in her love for the people around her. Grandma spoke often of how lucky she was to have our family–a large, loud group of several generations and personalities. It’s that same network of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and uncles, second-cousins, and so forth that we’ve all been so grateful for these last few days. It’s a rare and beautiful community, and what Grandma would never quite acknowledge was she was responsible for it. She felt lucky to have us, but it was her patient work over years of simply being present that set the tone and built the legacy we’re so proud of.
Her love for Jesus, and her assurance of his love for her, poured itself out in love for the people around her. No matter who she was with, she listened intently, making you feel you were the most important person in the world. She told us all we were her favorite, and we all believed her. In the last few days, we’ve all told stories of her over-the-top encouragement–she would say things like, “You work harder than any man in the world,” or “you always do what’s right.” Of course, these things weren’t quite true. But it didn’t matter. She saw and spoke to the Image of God in you. She believed the best things were the most true, even in the midst of pain or failure.
Grandma was quick to smile and laugh–that’s one of the things we’ll miss most. We all get our dry wit, and our committment to dumb jokes, at least in part from her. My sister went through a phase when she loved to sneak around corners and scare Grandma. But Jeanette could always dish it as well as she could take it–ask Bekah how high she jumped when Grandma waited behind a door to scare her. She extracted joy from life, and her smile made that joy seem more real and important than whatever may be troubling you.
Whatever space she was in felt more peaceful. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to find one of us in Grandma’s room, sitting on her bed, not even talking. With her, there was no pressure and no pretense; you could simply be. She was humble and kind, but at the same time passionate and sometimes feisty. We’ll miss hearing her yell at the TV when the Reds wouldn’t hit the damn ball. We’ll miss having her so fiercely in our corner.
It’s striking that what we’ll remember most about Grandma are the very fruits Scripture tells us come from a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What’s even more striking is we all know she didn’t always exhibit these qualities. She definitely had rough edges, but these became less apparent over time. The older she got, the sweeter she got, and this wasn’t by accident. She continually made a choice to give God access to every part of her life and allow him to transform her. He took that surrender and made something so beautiful. She knew first hand what the Psalmist said: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” God’s goodness was a gift not only for her, but for everyone around her. He was faithful to Grandma, and he’s been faithful to all of us through her.
Her absence is real, and it’s hard. It will continue to be real. It will continue to be hard. The truth is her presence and influence can’t be replaced. She set a standard for a life well-lived we all aspire to, and we are so thankful. This example will continue to challenge and guide us for the rest of our lives. Thank you, Grandma, for making us better and making us whole. Be at peace with Christ. Be joyfully reunited with the love of your life who you have missed these last 50 years. Save a place for us who are following you. We will share a full table again in eternity.
Kendra - October 4, 2019 @ 3:20 pm
Thinking about you and your family a lot these days. Love you!
Christy - October 4, 2019 @ 8:38 pm
These words were beautifully written and spoken at her memorial service but to read them, even now, is so inspiring and gives gives voice to the ache as well as
the joy in my heart for my mom. Thank you, Erin.
Elisabeth Lind - October 4, 2019 @ 8:47 pm
This is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life! Carrying you all on my heart. Even just the tiny bit I knew of her, this captures her so perfectly and profoundly. Love you all!!
Nancy Hill - October 5, 2019 @ 1:49 pm
Beautifully written Erin! I always liked your grandma (Toni). She made me feel welcome when I was around her. Praying for you and your family. Love, Nancy
Marilyn Childress - October 6, 2019 @ 5:38 pm
Such a fitting tribute to your Grandma! I’m grateful to be able to read this having had to miss the service. It’s true – whenever I talked to her she was so encouraging and always made me feel like there was no where she’d rather be than talking to me. What a kind and classy lady! Our family loved her dearly….
Cheryl Gray - October 10, 2019 @ 5:43 pm
Praying for you and your family. This was a beautiful tribute!