A Eulogy

I’ve been wanting to write this here for a while.  But it’s long and it never seemed the right time, until now.

My mother and I went to Church together this past Mother’s Day weekend, which is a rare treat because we hardly ever make the same Mass.  She sat beside me during the homily and I barely restrained my giggles as the priest seem to speak directly to something she had been talking about right before church.  She kicked me a little under the pew.

And then we stood together during the reading of the intercessions (aka, the people you pray for, for those of you who don’t speak Catholic).  It being Mother’s Day weekend and all, I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear “and for the mothers who have gone before us…”  My gaze instantly shifted to my mom, who had her eyes closed and I knew she was thinking about her own mother, my Nana.

And I decided it was time to put this up here.

I delivered this Eulogy at my Nana’s funeral about six years ago.  There was no family, as my Nana had moved to Florida several years earlier and only my mother and I could make it down.  And really, besides my brothers, we were the only ones left anyway.

But the pews were filled – with friends and neighbors and club members, people who meant everything to my Nana and were complete strangers to my mother and I.

Anyway, this is what I chose to say to a room full of strangers, who I felt needed to know my Nana like I did, and who I knew would never be able to do the same for me…

“As we remember Nana today, each of us has our own memories of who she was and how she touched our lives.  Some of you will remember Nana as Kris, kicking up her heels at a dinner and dance. Some of you remember enjoying her favorite restaurants with her, or traveling down to Tarpon Springs to get a little “culture”.  And many of you will remember her telling you “not to interrupt!” and how important it was to her that SHE picked up the tab!  She was many different things to many different people, and I think that’s part of what made her so amazing.

To me, she was Nana – a name she gave herself when she became a grandma for the first time.  I remember my Nana as the matriarch of our family whose greatest responsibility was to civilize us, give us culture, and instill in us the security an confidence that comes from knowing you are special.  It was a job she loved and one more thing she excelled at.

When we were little Nana took us to every restaurant in Chicago I believe.  She told us it was because that’s how one learns to behave in such places, but now I suspect it had a lot to do with the fact that Nana LOVED good food almost as much as us.  It’s not surprising many of my memories of her involve foo.

I remember Kaufield’s – a little restaurant around the corner from our house in Chicago – where she would take us for breakfast and lunch before whisking us all off to the day’s “cultural experience”.

I remember the Walnut room in Marshall Field’s where she took us every year for Christmas.  There was a huge Christmas tree – 2 stories high I think – in the middle.  and Nana ALWAYS made sure we got a good table where we could enjoy it.

I remember the 50′s diner that was hard to find where she took me for lunch, just me and Nana, and she proudly pointed out to everyone there how much I resembled the picture of Marilyn Monroe that hung on the wall.  IN typical grandmother fashion she saw me like no one else ever could.

I remember the one time I saw my Nana in a McDonald’s.  We were running to catch a train and it was the closest thing we could find to good food.  My mom and I had to do some coaxing but she went in finally.  And ever the lady she made the most of the experience – we did NOT take our food “to go” and if I remember correctly, she did NOT order from the “value meal menu”.

Honestly, we weren’t always eating.  In the summers she took us swimming on Lake Michigan.  I remember to get to the beach we had to drive through a very nice neighborhood and I still remember all the beautiful estates & luxurious houses.  I don’t know if that was the only way to get to the beach, but I half suspected she took us that route so we could see with our own eyes what was possible, what she believed we were made for.

She took us to the jazz festival and the outdoor symphonies, where we had picnics in the grass.

One summer when I was 16, she took me to Italy because she thought it was high time I was exposed to European culture.  I remember sitting in an outdoor cafe in one of the piazzas listening to her explain to waiter “my name is CHIP-riani”.  No matter where we were, she was proud of who she was and where she came from.

And that is exactly what she expected from each of us.  I think if my Nana were here she would expect someone to talk about her class and style and her good breeding.  But she would also want you to remember her wit and charm, her sense of humor and independence.  And she would be tickled to death to have you know what a rebel she always was.  “You know,” she would tell us, “I joined the British Royal Air Force on my 18th birthday and caused quite a commotion.”  If she were here, she would tell you stories about her travels, her friends, and her family.

Instead, I would lie to tell her, and you, how much she gave to me.  She taught me that grace and class cannot be bought, but are priceless.  She taught me how to shop and where to eat.    but most of all she taught me to be proud of who I was and where I came from.  “Britannia,” she would say, “you, are a Derbyshire.”

And what that meant was that I had a part of her in me.  Her strength, her independence, her determination and perseverance.  And you know what?  So do each of you.  I think it is impossible to have met Nana and not be affected by that.

My hope is that each of you here will remember Nana as YOU saw her.  I hope that you will tuck that memory in your heart and let it touch you a little bit each day.  If you saw her wit, I pray that she continues to make you laugh.  I hope that her independence will encourage you to live each moment of your life to the fullest.  I hope her determination encourages you to go forward and keep trying – always.

If you have to cry today, please do – Nana would appreciate that.  But when this is over, go on with your lives.  Live them to the fullest and take chances.  And let her memory inspire and not sadden you.  She would be honored.”

Holy crap, some of you read all that?  Wow.  I had forgotten how long it was.

Thank you for indulging me in my memories.

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