I spoke at the funeral for Virginia Tennant – my grandmother – today. This is what I said. Thank you to Betina, Jen, Anton, Cynthia, Tracy, and Donna for helping me write it.
I don’t know who Virginia was.
I knew her. Yes. That’s true.
But I didn’t know Virginia. Not like some – or even many – of you here did.
I have been told stories, yes. In over a hundred years, through the Depression, World War, and so much more, yes, there are stories. Stories that the rest of you also know. Stories that you lived with her.
But for me, she was never Virginia.
She was Grandma.
It is not my place to tell stories of her life, of her hopes, her fears, her dreams.
Because for me, she was a gentle force of nature.
She was not the great wind, nor was she the earthquake or the fire.
To me, she was the hopeful, ever present sound of a quiet whispering breeze. The sound of a loved one’s breathing. The light rustle of a beautiful summer evening. The soft silence of snow falling on the ground, making everything wonderful.
She is the woman who cared for others more than herself. Who, in my every memory of her, worked to take care of others. To ease their pain. To take away their suffering. To make their lives a little better.
She was a constant. Her voice, when I last spoke to her, sounded nearly identical to my first memory of it. Pictures I have of her from throughout my life are remarkably similar. As my life was upended again and again, as change and disruption twisted through every aspect of what I knew, she was there, with words of hope and faith.
Like the wind. Like a soothing breeze.
That is the Grandma I knew.
And that is who she would want each and every one of us to be.
When my uncle called me, he said “Well, try to have a Merry Christmas. That’s what she would have wanted us to do.”
And he is right.
She passed away on the solstice; the darkest night of the year.
But she would remind us that it is also the day that the light begins to come back into the world.
After these few hours, we will leave here and go back to our far-flung lives.
And I can think of no better memorial to this woman, to my Grandma, than for us to take that quiet light of hers home.
That as we remember her, as we tell our stories of her, as we share our grief, that we are those still voices of comfort and love in the world.
That our memories of her serve to help us be better in our lives.
Just as she would.
I love you, Grandma.