Last week, my 97 year old grandmother died peacefully at home. I wanted to share this eulogy with you who may not have known her.
“97” I said, answering again her famous question of “How old am I?” “Well, I guess that's why my back hurts.” She replied.
“97” I repeated. “Well, that's pretty old, I guess.” she chuckled.
“97” I told her. “Well, I guess I'm lucky to have lived this long. You know, I've had a good life.”
As Grandmoms youngest (of 10) grandchild, I worry I am unqualified to say anything. It's odd to think that I only knew Grandmom for about a third of her life, but I was lucky to feel that in that time, I really knew her. Though obviously, she was a different person than that one whom scrimped to buy a balloon at the fair, different than the young woman who picked up discarded coal to keep her family warm, different than the woman whom started a successful business with the man she loved.
I knew the Grandmom who would shoot a ground hog from her porch, who, on a hot summer evening, would rather have a beer than anything else, who went whitewater rafting for the first time in her 60's. I knew a Grandmom who would get untold pleasure from a drive through Mountaindale and an ice cream, who wouldn't let me leave the house without a fistful of M and M's and a cold coke.
When I tell my friends about Grandmom, there are always three things that they find unbelievable. That is, if you don't count her valid drivers license.
Firstly was that she lived at home. This only happened because of her family. Meals and medications. Outings and dinners. Trips and holiday evenings. “I would have dried up on the vine long ago if it weren't for you.” She'd say. Ask me later what everyone did for her, because I surely can't tell you now. I could never have answered '97' if she hadn't been taken care of, and she knew it.
The second thing that people find unbelievable about her is that 'it's real'. For those who don't know, I mean her obscenely large diamond ring, that she proudly wore with- well, certainly not her fanciest of clothes. The ring that we often caught her admiring when the light hit it. The ring, that way back in 1994 I got to witness her purchase. Through an 9-year-olds ears, I remember the phone call between Grandmom and Granddaddy to basically 'run it by him.' It was very short- as he would have given her the world.
I loved to watch people see the bauble, see her battered sweatshirt and consider them carefully. I often wanted to run back and whisper “It's real.”
That trip also marked the first and only time I saw Grandmom buy something truly for herself. Her generosity to others shone most brightly at Christmastime. I had the privilege of getting an inside look at Christmas at G & Gs. The days leading up to Christmas, Mom, Grandmom, and I would hit the stores pretty hard. Strolling up the aisles- toiletries especially- armed with a pile of wish lists. I'd grab, Grandmom would inspect, and Mom would label. We had so much, it would have been easier to just drag our arms along the shelves and push everything into the cart. Then the endless sorting, wrapping, and checking. Everything had to be fair. The pile of gifts that obscured a 6 foot Christmas tree, the train of bags going through the upstairs. Right up to when she'd sneak back up and emerge with what I called the 'auction items'. Who needs blank VHS tapes? Socks? Shampoo? As she gleefully threw them at their new owners.
Lastly, what many find hard to believe is that her family gathers at least once a year to share their lives with her and each other. And when they do there isn't any fighting. This was a fact that she herself wondered at after witnessing other past Murphy family events. I know this was a point of pride for her and for granddaddy. And although she felt it hard to keep track in the later years, I know she loved every grandchild and great grandchild as individuals.
I told my friend yesterday that she was the glue and that her loss scared me for the future of the family. He said to me; you can be the glue. So, family and friends I set to you this challenge: Be what Grandmom was. She was willing to try anything, knew how to share, even when she had nothing, and she was one of the most loving people I knew. Be the glue for all of us, and especially for her.