Today was a tough one, but even in the darkness there was a little light.
We said goodbye to a wonderful lady — Nanny Mary.
It was also a chance to reconnect with family that I don’t see very often. Lately, it seems the only time we ever see each other is at a funeral.
Life seems to always get in the way, but I’ve vowed to make more of an effort.
With my grandmother no longer with us to bind the family together, they could easily slip through my fingers and become strangers.
That in itself would be another death.
I had the honour of reading Nanny’s eulogy with the help of my cousin, Michelle, who stood at my side, encouraging me to continue each time I broke down.
If you’ve ever been in my shoes and have read a eulogy at a funeral, I’m sure you’re well aware it’s not exactly easy. However, I promise it can also be very cathartic and calming afterwards.
Writing has always been a vehicle to process my emotions — to be able to share them with a room filled with people who loved and admired her has helped me to feel at peace about her passing.
I only hope she was listening somewhere up there and that I made her proud.
Below is Nanny’s eulogy.
I am truly honoured to get to say a few words about my grandmother… or as my brother and I have always called her Nanny Mary.
To be able to sum up my relationship with her or capture the very essence of who she was in this eulogy is going to be tough, but I’ll do my very best — I owe her that and all of you here today who have come to honour this incredible woman who has touched so many lives over the years.
I think I’m still in shock that she’s gone, as I’m sure many of you here are.
The last time I stood at this podium was to read my father’s eulogy — that was around four years ago. At this very moment, it really just seems like yesterday.
Having to bury her husband and subsequently, her son, was devastating for Nanny — no parent should ever have to go through it… but she handled it with grace — it wouldn’t break her spirit or her strong Catholic faith.
As I paid tribute to my dad that day, I took great comfort in knowing she was below in the pews to listen and that I could give her a big hug afterwards and, together, share humorous stories about dad.
Both she and him had an offbeat sense of humour — so there always lots of laughter, even during her darkest of days.
While she may not be here in body today, I’m certain she’s here in spirit.
And she’s smiling as she squeezes my dad’s hand — mother and son are reunited once again.
She’s also with the love of her life, Desmond, our beloved grandfather.
Desmond was a man she could never replace, nor did she ever try.
Despite the fact he had been gone for over a decade she continued to wear his ring and his photos were displayed prominently around her home– death would not part them.
While their relationship may not have been a what fairy tales are made of — and really, what relationship doesn’t have its ups and downs? — especially when you throw six strong-willed kids into the mix, I believe with all my heart that Mary and Dez are one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Even as a young kid I could see the love they had for each other — I remember thinking, I want that some day.
I truly believe that it’s because of the strong example they set for marriage that I do have that now with my own husband, Jason.
I know the two of them are so proud of their 6 children (each one of you are so unique in your own way, but all so similar) — when I look at every single one of you I see both Nanny and Grandpa.
There’s also the 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren — all of whom are the result of two very special people who fell in love so long ago.
And it’s because of every single one of you here today in body, mind and spirit that they’ll both live on forever.
I know I’ll never forget her laugh or the mischievous look that would spread across her face as she was about to recall some funny story from the past.
Nor will I forget his quiet strength and how the two took such great care of each other and everyone else around them.
A dedicated mother of six, devoted wife, friend, grandmother, sister and aunt, Nanny Mary was always happiest when surrounded by those who meant so much to her.
She would always tell me her biggest accomplishment was her family and that once she started having children she just couldn’t stop, much to the dismay of her mother, who worried she was in over her head.
I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to raise six children.
“How did you do it without losing your mind,” I’d often ask after a rough day with just two of my own.
She told me it was chaotic at times, that they could easily go through a couple loaves of bread a day and that it was tough to stay on top of the mess.
It would get even more difficult when her children became teenagers with all of the parties, fights and outbursts, but should wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
She wore motherhood like a badge of honour, but that was only part of who she was.
Nanny also knew how to live and loved to dance, do crafts and spend weekends with her family at their Birch Baby trailer –that trailer held so many great memories for many of us.
Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine I’m still there.
For a few seconds, I can almost smell the crackling bacon on the stove, hear the chirp of crickets outside and feel the presence of Nanny and grandpa patiently waiting for me to finally get out of bed so we could go down to the beach.
They would take my brother and I for a weekend at Birch Bay every year — it was always the highlight of our summer.
When I reflect on the woman she was, the following words spring to mind: family, church, friends, a good game of cards, laughter– she was also a bit of a spitfire and could be too stubborn for her own good at times, but all these qualities were what made her so unique and memorable to many.
She was like unlike anyone I’d ever met before –I was so proud to call her my nanny and always will be.
The past couple of weeks since she passed, I’ve seen her smiling face and have heard her laughter at the oddest of times.
For example, I was frying mushrooms and they started to stick to the pan because I hadn’t used enough butter. When Nanny and I would cook together, I’d give her grief for using what I thought was way too much.
While I was consumed with thoughts of watching my figure, Nanny didn’t worry about that kind of stuff. She loved good food in moderation — especially sweets.
She was also known to offer a glass of wine at an 10 a.m. visit without giving it a second thought. It’s not that she even indulged all that much, she just wanted people in her presence to be comfortable and at home.
For her, any visit was an occasion worth celebrating.
Looking back, I wish I had seen in that way… that I didn’t take her for granted like I did.
At 86, Nanny Mary wasn’t exactly the poster child of good health, but I didn’t think in a million years she was going to pass away anytime soon.
I had just spoken to her a few days prior — my two daughters, Molly and Zoe, along with my mom, our family friend Debbie and aunt Tricia were to meet up at her place for a visit.
We were supposed to see her the week prior, except we all ended up with the flu.
I’m ashamed to admit it had been months since our last visit — life just seemed to always get in the way –it was all-too-easy to put it off to another day.
“I have to tell you about a love connection I may have helped make,” said Nanny over the telephone during what would be our final conversation.
She was so excited to tell me the story. From what I can recall, Nanny was going to the hospital via ambulance and the ambulance attendee seemed to fancy the care attendant taking care of nanny. He asked Nanny if she could get the lady’s phone number for him.
” I just knew he liked her by the way he kept looking at her,” she laughed.
She also confided she was worried she’d have to move from her new retirement residence to a full-care facility soon because she had been falling lately…
Right before I hung up, I told her that I loved her.
It’s not something I did often, but at that moment in time it just felt right. Even though those three little words felt awkward and somewhat out place of as they rolled off the tip my tongue, I’m so glad I embraced that moment.
The day we arrived at her condo for a visit was the day they found her at peace.
While the news shook me to my very core, a wise friend told me not to weep, for Nanny Mary is one of the lucky ones.
Nanny shut her eyes that evening knowing that an old family friend and three generations of family members were coming to see here. She wasn’t alone — she was loved by so many and she left this world knowing that.
She passed away in the comfort of her home — a place where she gained a second lease on life.
It took years of convincing her to move (as we all know, she had that Irish stubborn streak), but she learned to have fun again and made plenty of new friends… kindred spirits who loved to laugh, play bingo and a good game of cards.
Nanny Mary would never have to endure the devastation of Alzheimers like her mother had, nor a debilitating illness that would confine her to a bed or wheelchair. If only we could all be so lucky.
Of course it doesn’t make the grieving process any easier — when someone like Mary comes into your life and leaves a mark on your heart and soul, they’re always with you. Even in death.
The pipes, the pipes were calling and she is now with her Dani Boy once again.