My Grandmother passed away last week. It has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with on a personal level in my entire life. I’m still not really ready to resume my “normal” life, but writing is something that helps me gather myself, and gain perspective. My Gram was everything I wanted to be as a person – She was my hero.
On behalf of her 14 grandchildren (of whom I am the eldest) I wrote a eulogy to celebrate her amazing life. My goal was to focus on the things that we all remembered about her while we grew up in her home. Several members of my family asked for a copy of this, and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to post it here for everyone to see:
There isn’t enough time in the course of a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, or a millennium to give our Grandmother’s life the honor it rightfully deserves. Somehow, it seems that we still should try because Gram always found the time for us. It didn’t matter if one of her grandchildren was being bodyslammed, twirling a baton, singing, playing hockey, winning a beauty pageant, or a cheerleading competition – Gram was there.
When raising 6 children, 14 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren wasn’t enough of a challenge for her, she began adopting more and more people into the family. We picked up many more honorary brothers, sisters, and cousins as a result of Gram always having an open heart, and an open home. It seems silly to complain about cooking for a family of four after witnessing Gram cook a Sunday dinner for upwards of 40 people in her little kitchen on Burton Drive.
That house became a second home for us and sometimes, even a first. We spent our summers swimming in Gram’s pool and chasing the “Goody-Bar Man” down her street. We all grew up terrified to travel down her steps into the haunted basement, and felt like we were a little bit more of a grown up the first time we made the journey. Not quite old enough to play “Groups and Runs” – But we were getting there. There was always a pot of wedding soup, some sauce that had been on just a bit too long, and she had a sausage sandwich on standby just in case you were hungry. If you wanted to microwave anything, you just passed it through the window into the “new room.” Yes, we still called it the “new room”, even though it had been there for 30 years. On Christmas morning there were so many presents in there that you literally could not walk across the floor. Of course part of the joy came from a dozen children tearing into new toys – But a lot of it came from Gram, because she loved to watch how happy it made us all. Just make sure to stay out of the blinds.
There was perhaps nowhere that her happiness was more evident than at the Cottage. Geneva on the Lake holds some of the fondest memories for our entire family, and was without a doubt one of Gram’s most favorite places to be. If we were with Gram and Aunt Gen anywhere else besides the Swiss Chalet people might have thought it was weird that a bunch of kids were hanging with two old ladies who were drinking fuzzy navels and white Russians. We probably blew through our nightly $5 Geneva allowance already and knew that Gram would be good for another buck if we found her. After all, we needed to gang up on some unsuspecting kid who wasn’t related to us on the bumper cars a few more times.
Of course it’s not like we didn’t know where to find Gram when we went “Up Street”. She loved to people watch from her favorite bench right outside of Times Square. We thought it was weird that Gram always slept on the couch at the Cottage until we remembered that none of us had ever actually witnessed her sleeping in a bed.
The older grandkids remember piling into the back of Gram’s truck and heading down to the “old beach” before it washed away. There we followed in the footsteps of our mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles and carved our names into the clay and fished off the old pier. At the “new beach”, Gram would spend a solid 70 percent of the entire day with her arm raised in the air, waving wildly towards the water at all of us playing in the lake. “You’re too far!” she’d always yell – worried that we were too deep in the lake, and too far from the shore.
Looking back we understand what Grandma was really saying: We WERE too far – from HER. It wouldn’t matter if we were only in water up to our knees, because she wanted her loved ones by her side more than anything else in the world. It was the one and only thing that she could ever be called selfish about. It is her family that gave her purpose and defined her existence. We were all convinced that we were her favorite, because she made everyone feel like they were. Grandma will never be too far from us ever again. She will remain a part of each of us, living in our hearts, until the day we get to see her again in Heaven.
– Sean Kemmerer