“Would you like to say a few words about Grandma?” The request came in an email from my uncle. I’ve attended dozens of funerals in my life but this was the first time I was asked to eulogize the deceased. What would I say? My daughter said all I had to do was read my recent blog posts about Grandma.
I wrote back asking my uncle if the invitation was to speak at the wake, the funeral or the reception. He responded that I should be prepared to speak at both the funeral home on Wednesday night and at the church on Thursday afternoon. I wrote up some talking points but didn’t have time to print them before leaving Knoxville. When we got to our hotel on Wednesday afternoon, I pasted the notes into a web page on one of my domains. I typed the URL into my Amazon Kindle and viola! I had notes to bring to the funeral home. However, I chose to memorize the main bullet points so I could speak without looking at the Kindle unless I drew a blank.
I started by saying that Grandma was a gamer. She loved playing “tiles,” doing word search puzzles and playing Bingo. When we said goodbye to her for the last time, she was just about to start a Bingo game. I told all the other ladies that they were about to lose to my grandma. Grandma also loved to scratch lottery tickets. At this point, I pulled five scratchers from my pocket and handed them to various people in the room. I talked about a time my family visited Grandma in Florida. We bought a lottery ticket in each state along the way: Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
With the winnings, and for Grandma there were always winnings, we would be sent to the convenience store to buy more scratchers. I told the crowd about the time Grandma had me buy a Lotto ticket with the numbers from “Lost” and how she would give me a quarter to put in a slot machine before I went to Las Vegas on business. I won $1.25 for her.
Grandma would submit her grandchildren’s names to various contests. My cousin Terry Hatton won the most memorable of the raffles Grandma entered. He got a miniature car that looked like a Model T with a lawn mower engine in the back. Two kids could fit in the seat. We all got to drive it around Noyac. I closed my remarks by saying that Grandma had now won the greatest sweepstakes prize of them all: eternal life in heaven with our Lord.
For the funeral Mass on Thursday, I was also responsible for one of the readings. I chose the New Testament passage, which was the same reading I did at Terry Hatton’s funeral in 2001. My wife served as cantor, beautifully singing all the parts of the Mass. She did “Ave Maria” as a prologue, which always gives me chills. Fortunately, I did all my choking up when I heard her rehearsing an hour before Mass. Our daughter read the Prayers of the Faithful, which was emotional because it mentioned people in the room and deceased members of the family.
For my remarks at the end of Mass, I talked about how Grandma had 25 grandchildren if you count her sixteen grandchildren and the spouses of the nine who got married. Grandma treated our spouses as if they were her own grandchildren. She knew all our birthdays and sent us all cards with birthday checks enclosed. We celebrated Grandma’s birthday too, with big parties on her 75th and 95th birthdays.
Grandma visited my family in Burbank on her 80th birthday. She enjoyed traveling, which let me transition easily into the story about her wanting to see St. Damien’s hand while we were in Hawaii. When we found the hand, it was mission accomplished. During Grandma’s life, she set a great example for us to live life to the fullest and now her mission is accomplished. God bless you Grandma! We love you!