My grandma was a faithful reader of this blog. I’m going to miss her comments moving forward.
This is the eulogy I shared at her funeral services this weekend:
I was born two months before my grandma, Juanita Alloway, turned 50.
She died 45 years later, just three months after our final conversation – an interview for NPR’s Storycorps which is now archived in the Library of Congress.
Those many years in between were marked by numerous conversations, trips, hugs, walks and meals. It was quality time I know I’m blessed to have, resulting in a relationship that transcended grandmother and granddaughter into a deep, trusted adult friendship.
In fact, my husband Kelly and I spent part of a vacation with my grandparents nearly 10 years ago and we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Listening to my grandparents talk and laugh – enjoying each other’s company – gave us a beautiful model for our own marriage.
That was just one of many lessons Grandma taught me over the last 45 years. I’d like to share a few with you today.
1) Always be honest. My grandma reminded me of this once again during our Storycorps interview this September. When Grandma was referred to secretarial job right after graduating from high school, one of the first things she told “the boss” was that she didn’t have any experience “at all” because she didn’t want him to think otherwise. This trait (plus the opportunity it gave the boss to train his own person) got her the job, no small feat during the Great Depression.
2) Family is important and defines who we are. Everyone in our family can share of stories of Grandma’s love for genealogy. We all have copies of our pedigree, know our ancestral lore and rarely had a letter sent our way without some nugget of new family history tucked in, linked in some way to current day events and activities. A good example of this is when I wrote to tell Grandma and Grandpa that I’d accidentally driven into the back wall of our new home’s garage. Grandma wrote to tell me how Grandpa made sure she didn’t do the same thing (and if you’re wondering – just hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling so it hits your windshield when you should stop), but she also shared how my great-uncle Roy once drove through the back of the garage, taking out the washer and dryer, along with the wall.
3) Keep your mind active. Grandpa and Grandma gave me books as gifts. She also kept books for me in a special cabinet at their home. And these weren’t easy kiddie stories – I read my way through the encyclopedia, Greek mythology and the Ingalls family adventures, along with many others. I also watched her work the daily crossword and learned the importance of challenging yourself to think.
4) Dream of big things and be willing to take risks. One of the books I was given was “I Married Adventure” – the author, Osa Johnson, was a noted turn-of-the-century world explorer and filmmaker from Grandma’s hometown. The travels of Osa and her husband Martin captured my imagination, helped me not fear risk and as a result fueled my own adventurous approach to life. On the sidelines encouraging us on – while worrying aloud at the same time – was Grandma. When Kelly and I were preparing for a stressful trip to Kyrgystan, she wrote to tell me: Be glad you’re busy – remember how boring it can be with idle time!
But to be honest, no stories of world adventurers could match Grandma’s stories of adventures with Grandpa. For all we know, the giant United States map which they used to track their travels is still hanging on the garage wall in their former home in Derby, Kansas.
At the end of our Storycorps interview, she told she had no regrets from her life. I imagine if she was 100% truthful, she’d have to admit that she regretted having to spend the last 5 years without her beloved husband. So despite our sadness now, I’m glad her loneliness is over.
I’d like to close with a final word for my family from Grandma.
After 9/11, I wrote Grandma and Grandpa to ask them what things were like at the bombing of Pearl Harbor and what we should know for this life-changing time for us.
Grandma closed her response with this blessing for us, which seems especially appropriate to share today:
My prayer for all our grandchildren is that God will hold you in His arms, and protect you. How thankful we are for your dedication to Him – would that all could say the same. All our love, always.
PS – you’ll find our hour-long Storycorps interview here.