Today was gran’s funeral service in Florida. My sister Joy and her husband David flew down from San Francisco earlier this week to be with my mom and dad and uncle. It’s strange to be so far away and not be able to be present with the rest of the family; this is definitely one of the downsides of choosing to live in another country and something that I wrestle with and must slowly accept. However I have been able to email and phone everyone all week long, so I feel like I’ve been present as best as can be.
I’ve come down with a bad cough this week and have sporadic nights’ sleep. Last night I awoke at 3 am in a coughing fit which lasted the good part of an hour. I turned on the lights, made some tea, and sat in bed, trying to calm my breathing. As I lay there I realized that it was 11 am in Florida, just about the time the church service was to occur. I sent out my love to the family and tried to be present.
Joy wrote and delivered a beautiful euology at the service:
I want to thank everyone for being here today. I know that everyone feels a lot of sadness in their hearts as a result of Nettie’s passing. She was a caring, spirited, fun-loving woman who lived her life to the fullest – as a wife, sister, mother, grandmother and friend she brought joy to all our lives. She will be dearly missed.
Nettie’s life was an example that I hope inspires us all. She grew up in the Depression and lived a hard life. Yet, she always had a smile on her face and always knew how to enjoy life and the people around her. Many of you know Nettie from church, from bridge, or from being her neighbor. You know that she loved to keep busy and was sharp as a tack at the card table.
I look at today as a celebration of Nettie’s life and all that she brought to all of our lives. I know I’m very fortunate to have had her in my life for so many healthy, active years. I’d like to share some of my favorite memories which honor her spirit. These are the memories that I will always cherish.
My earliest memories of my grandma and grandpa are from my annual visits to Florida. I’d look forward to these trips for weeks, not only because I might get to go to Disney World, but because I cherished this time with my grandparents. We had so many traditions at their house – we’d go shrimping, spend countless hours in the garden, and stay up late into the night playing pinochle on the porch. Then of course, we’d feast on the wonderful cooking that my grandma was so well known for. I like to think I inherited some of her Italian culinary talent. I know I got my card playing skills and my competitive edge from her!
She’d often share stories with us about her childhood – they were hilarious. She was a spunky, strong-willed tomboy who loved to play sports and had no fear of climbing out the window to see her boyfriend, who she later married. They’d sneak off and go out with their friends, only to get in lots of trouble when her grandparents later found out. I still remember her laughing as she told me the story about her sister Mary getting drunk in the wine cellar because she didn’t know how to siphon the wine. They didn’t have much back then, but they had each other and they had a lot of fun.
My happiest memory is of my grandma being able to attend my wedding last summer. As I planned the wedding, I didn’t know if she’d be able to come, but as the day drew closer and she remained in good health, I gave thanks for her presence at the most special weekend of my life. We had borrowed a wheelchair for her, and after an hour of using it, she promptly claimed that she didn’t need it and could do just fine on her own, thank you very much.
Sometime in the last 10 years, I started to call grandma “sunshine.” I’d call and say “hello sunshine” and she’d immediately laugh and know it was me. Last weekend in San Francisco, we had the most beautiful, sunny, 80-degree day, which if you know SF, you know that is a rare occurrence. I found out later that night that she passed that day. I realized though that my sunshine is always around me and she’ll stay in my heart and in my memories forever.
I love you grandma.