12.16.2009

I suppose this is a sort of Gonzo-journalism, a mixture of the real and the should-have-been. There are only a few moments in my life so far when I've wanted so badly to create something of personal significance and been unable to realize my desire. My grandmother's wake was the most recent example. I'm sure there will be more. Unexpectedly, though the argument could be made that my surprise was more a matter of evasion, my mother asked me to say a few words at the Father's request. It was spur of the moment yet more thought out than something unexpected should be. I rose from my seat, one among a room of crying mourners, and said the first few words that came to mind. Here is both what I said and what I wanted to say . . .

Eulogy for Diana

I'm grateful that you came today--from down the road or across the state. And I know my grandfather is grateful as well.

We’re a family familiar with reasons to celebrate, be they birthdays, graduations, or Christmas Eves. But we’re also a family far too accustomed to more somber gatherings. My grandmother was sick for a long time and suffered more than anyone should--more than any of us could stand to witness.

But for everything that she endured, in the recognition that pain should not be the standard for life, I refuse to remember her as she was last week over the phone, last year at Thanksgiving, or any time during her illness. I will remember her as a woman of strength and endless joy, as a woman whose very presence made me feel comforted and at peace.

You should do the same. For those who had the privilege, you should remember her as that 18-year-old supermodel in the picture on her casket--full of potential and beauty and moxie--or as a lively but steadfastly loving mother or as a spirited and committed wife or as a caring friend and neighbor.

I will remember the woman who when I broke my arm told me not to worry about it because it would be gone by the time I was married; the woman who made the most ridiculously sinful cookie bars (if there was any batter left to bake); the woman who took her dogs through the drive-thru at McDonald's (where she used to work) and gave the Happy Meal toys to local kids; the woman who could make me laugh until I cried and who would sit with me at the kitchen table and do so for hours and hours; the woman who teased me relentlessly for everything; the woman who used to wear pantyhose on her head and shoes on her knees.

I know most of you have similar memories or have heard similar stories. And that’s what I urge you to recall--a moment that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Whether you knew her as Diane, mom, grandma, grandma Thawville, aunt Diane, Deetsie, Diana, or “that crazy lady who’s always in Harbor House,” I’m certain she made a positive impact on your life and on one or more occasions brightened an otherwise mediocre day. She had that knack, a gift for reminding people that smiling and laughter and happiness should be your pursuit in life and that pain and sadness, no matter how deep, are cured over time with humor and love.

I want to leave you today with some of Diane's words of wisdom. My grandmother gave me a lot of advice. But the best advice she ever gave, both for its literal and metaphorical implications, she gave to me when I was too young to understand it. I recall vividly that whenever she said it, her whole demeanor changed and you could read the intense joy on her face--a look I will always associate with her and, by proxy, my childhood. It may have been a superficial advertising platitude to the rest of the humanity, but in Diana’s world, it was a philosophy of life and happiness:

“It takes a whole . . . roll . . . of paper towels to do the work of one Handi Wipe!”

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