Recently, I sadly lost my grandmother. Of course losing someone you love is difficult and tragic but the strongest emotions I felt were not of sadness and loss but rather of appreciation and gratitude. In fact, it was rather a time to to celebrate her life and the family she created with my grandfather. She was an amazing woman and, well, her story is a modern-day love story to be shouted from the rooftops near and far as we all could learn a thing or two.
I was asked to write and share a eulogy at her funeral. The priest later asked for a copy so that he could share it with newly engaged couples as to him, it represented the epitome of how to love and the importance of being a ‘family.’
So for what it’s worth, I wanted to share it with you as well and hope that it reminds you, in some tangible way, to always remember that family is everything – including that crazy aunt of yours.
Whenever we lose someone who has had such a significant impact on our lives, we of course, grieve and mourn that irreplaceable loss. But when I think of Nana, I can’t help but realize just how amazing this story is – the story of her life.
She was born in Nova Scotia but grew up in Everett. Eventually she settled here in Melrose where she has lived since 1951. She met my grandfather shortly after high school and they have been together ever since – for more than 71 years.
I don’t know what it takes to make a relationship like that work so incredibly well and for so many years, but I do know that the love they shared was real, it was tangible, it was infectious, and it was the epitome of the modern day love story.
Nana loved to swim at the Y, bowl, and spend time with her two best friends – her sisters Clara and Anita. I never had the chance to bowl with her but I heard she was a force with which to be reckoned. In particular, she loved to go on long walks exploring the nooks and crannies of Boston with her sister Clara.
She loved her friends and her family but most of all, she cherished her one true love, my grandfather.
They raised 11 amazing children: Pam, Paul, Charlie, Peter, Tommy, Pat, Chris, Maryellen, Peggy, Jimmy, and Johnny. Some of them left us far too soon, boldly reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of living for today.
I often think about what that must have been like growing up with that many siblings and who got the shower first, or who shared a room with whom. I myself have 3 young children at home and can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have lived in a house with 11 of the short people. But somehow, I’ve been told, Nana was able to keep the peace – relatively speaking I’m sure.
I have vivid memories of the house up on the hill with the 862 steps from the street. At least, as a kid, it seemed like that many. And I always seemed to be the one that had to run down to the car to get something! But I didn’t care. It was in that house on the hill on East Wyoming where all the holidays took place and where many of our precious collective memories were born.
All the kids were there. All the cousins were there. Beevo was there. Grampa was there. And Nana was there concocting those delectable aromas from the kitchen – the gravy, the meatballs, the desserts. I can almost smell them now.
When the kids were older and moved out on their own, Nana & Grampa moved to a smaller house on Orris Street. And then some of the kids moved back in but that’s a story for another time. They made it their new home, their new castle, and again, the de-facto meeting place for all holidays and family events.
Nana and Grampa would often sit together, always together, perched up on the back porch, a king with his queen, and proudly watch the relentless stream of kids below running through the yard, rolling in the grass, splashing in the pool, and occasionally stepping on a flower much to the chagrin of my grandfather. But Nana always just smiled and basked in the joy of what she held so close to her heart: her family.
She would greet us with that smile and wrap her arm around our chests with that quiet but assertive demeanor that made you feel safe and always feel welcome.
And she offered us food because that’s what grandmothers do.
Nana dedicated her life to her family. All of us. Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, anniversary, and Thanksgiving we gathered because family was everything to her. She understood that, and taught us the same. It’s now up to us to keep that spirit alive.
This is her love story and she has shown us how to live exceptionally:
To have fallen in love with the love of your life and have lived that dream together for over 71 years.
To have 11 amazing children who stood by your side and never forgot the importance of being a family.
To have been blessed with 21 grandchildren and to have loved them the exceptional way you did.
To leave behind a legacy of 17 great-grandchildren who will no doubt treasure the stories and lessons of your life as they begin their own.
And most importantly, to amass the most impressive collection of those short Hilltop martini glasses this side of Melrose.
We are the lucky ones; the ones with which you shared your friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love. And we are forever grateful for having you in our lives.
Of course, we will miss you.
But today, we celebrate all that is you.
Well done, Nana.