Sunday, March 24, 2013

Eulogy for Great-Gramma Dot

Three years ago today, I lost one of the most important and influential people in my life. You probably remember my gramma (or to my son, Great-Gramma Dot) from previous blog posts "Walking in her shoes: Great-Gramma Dot" and "The Gift."
The year she died, my husband and I were sitting in a Bed & Breakfast on our anniversary, with me writing my gramma's eulogy. Three years later, we're at an Inn, watching NCAA basketball, writing, relaxing without kids, and always, always, remembering this time in my life when I lost her.
It's a little hard to share this, but it's important for me to share these memories about my Great-Gramma Dot. So, I'm sharing the eulogy I'd written for her funeral that was on 3/29/10. I'm still not sure how I survived standing up at the podium--in her small, country church--and delivering this love story, eulogy, and thank you message all rolled into one. 
I hope you forgive the sentimentality of my post today. I'm asking everyone who reads this to go listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole. We played this at my grandma's funeral and it always leaves me feeling a little bitter-sweet, but surrounded with her love. Then, go call a grandparent or parent or friend and tell them one thing you love about them. Or pen an old-fashioned letter and remind them how special they are. Do it now, while you have the chance. No regrets, my friends.

Eulogy for Dorothy J. Arden (Grandma)
Written by Colleen M. Albert on 3/28/10 & delivered on 3/29/10
I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve heard people tell my Grandma Dorothy, “I want to be more like you!” Even while she was in the hospital with us these past few weeks, several family members (including myself) told Grandma how they want to be just like her when they “grew up!” While Grandma was in the ICU, and then in her hospice unit, my little sister Meghan came to visit. During these visits, she expressed some inner turmoil about some looming life decisions she has to make – and I encouraged her to use one of my favorite mantra’s and simply ask herself, “What would Grandma do?” Because Grandma always had the biggest heart and believed in second chances.
Grandma was our steady, our inspiration, our light house beacon for living a good and faithful life. And today, when I ask myself, “What would Grandma do?” I answer: share her stories – your stories – with love and laughter. Look upon this tragic and unexpected day through a lens of love. So I want to share with you a few memories of my Grandma, to show just how very much she meant to me and all of our family.
First of all, Grandma was the heart of the family, our family's Ring Leader. She always brought us all together (just like she’s managed to do now!) and took care of each and every one of us in our own unique ways. Without fail, any child, grandchild, or great grandchild could always expect to find a check in our birthday cards – written for the amount of our age. It took me 10 years to convince her she no longer needed to send me money on my birthday, but now I’ll miss the annual birthday check we all made fun of, but really loved getting from Gram. Just this month her great-grandkids got their last birthday checks from Great-Grandma Dot: $5 for Ryan and $6 for Keaton. Thanks Gram!
But even more importantly, she always stepped up when our families needed her most and provided a home away from home for all of us. As a kid, it was always fun riding to Grandma’s house on the Greyhound bus, knowing a home so loving and secure was waiting for me at the end of my long ride. Over the years, many family members have found their way back home to Grandma’s, and she always had an open door. 
Here’s what we could count on while staying at Gram’s: A big smile. A warm hug and a cheerful greeting at her side door – no matter what hour we showed up. And toast with homemade raspberry jam and a cup of strong tea at the breakfast table. Gram always sat on the right side of the table...must be from all her years as a loyal republican!  
We also had long walks in the cemetery; cross country skiing in the wintertime; time spent in the garden picking fresh berries or peas from the pod; and sitting peacefully on her back porch watching the humming birds chase each other and just talking about the pretty flowers in her garden. When I was little, I’ll never forget how she taught us how to make dolls out of a favorite garden flower with a blue petal skirt, the flower bud face and tooth picks to hold them together! 
And no trip to Gram’s was complete without a game or two. To this day she’d still insist I was a great gamer as a child and had beaten her fair and square – but as a parent now myself, I understand the joy in seeing the delight in a child’s eye as they “win” a game. And that was Gram’s way too. She always thought of others first. 
Even on the night before her surgery – while we were waiting in the cold hospital room for her final cat scan – she insisted that the nurse bring me a warm blanket too. Even during her own pain and fear, she had the grace and heart to think of me. That’s what Grandma was all about. 
I know all of us thought Gram would live to be 100. And we’re all left a little sad and bewildered at her sudden passing. I lost not only my grandmother, but a role model and inspiration, a dear friend, my pen pal, and one of my biggest cheer leaders. We’ve all talked this week about the beauty of having someone unconditionally loving and rooting for you in your corner. We all had that in Gram. To Gram, we could do no wrong and that was such a gift.
Yesterday, I was amazed, but not surprised, at all of the lives Gram has touched in so many different ways and across all ages. We not only lose our dear mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, and cousin – but a dear friend to countless others. We want to thank each and every one of you for being a special part of Grandma’s life and giving her so much to be happy about. Because she was happy to the very end, and we should all be so lucky!
These were just a few of my happy memories of Gram. In a few minutes we’ll ask you to stand and share your fun memories and stories of Grandma too. But if publicly sharing your personal memories is too difficult, we encourage you to write them in the journal we have here today so her family can relive the fun memories with you and see Gram through your loving eyes too.
And last, but not least, we all loved how Gram would make us laugh. And in her writing she would emphasize her funny point with an enthusiastic ha – exclamation point! So Gram, I love you and will miss you every day for the rest of my life. But I thank you for all of the beautiful memories you’ve shared with me. And on this day, I look upon you with love and laughter. And this final “ha!” is for you!


  1. My family doesn't believe in Eulogies. It's too 'mushy'. Whenever someone passes, there's a mass and then we go to the burial site. That's pretty much it.

    I applaud you for writing this piece in honor of your Grandma. It's such a brave thing to do when all the world gets to see your vulnerable side. But it's also what makes you special and unique.

    I never really thought about it until my Grandpa died. Like you, I looked up to him. He had such integrity and grace. He was a quiet old man but very loving and everyone always came to see Grandpa. While he didn't say very much, his smiles alone and his warmth made everyone feel right at home wherever he went.

    Grandpa was the ring leader. He was the best in us all. And his legacy remains in those of us he has left behind.

    There wasn't a song that played in my Grandpa's wake. But, when he died, I was in another country. I found out by phone at 4 in the morning and stayed in my room playing the song 'Can't Cry Hard Enough' by The Williams Brothers, in memory of him.

    I love the way you ended the eulogy. It's bittersweet and lasting.


    1. I've never done a eulogy before this. I wanted to say something at my Grandpa's funeral, but I was so young and everything I wanted to say sounded so trivial. Then, when my Dad died, I was just in so much shock. And (it's a long story off-line), but I missed many years with him and was just forging a new relationship that we were robbed of. But when Gramma died...there was no way someone could have stopped me. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but wanted to do it. For her. It's never enough though for what's in your heart. I know you know this. Now I need to go look up that song... =) xx