Saturday, December 17, 2016

A "Little Talk," For My Grandmother

Earlier today my family held my Grandmother's funeral service.  Afterwards we buried her at Franklin Cemetery in Branchland, W.V.  There is a lot going through my head, but I want to preserve what happened for those who weren't able to make the service.

A lot of friends and family weren't able to make the service due to health reasons.  Many of them are older, and have serious medical conditions.  They aren't able to drive very far, and the trip to West Virginia is pretty far for a lot of them.  For Dad and myself, the trip is 900 miles up and 900 miles back. 

Not to mention the temperatures have been dropping to below freezing, and not everyone can handle such extreme temperature drops.  Due to the weather West Virginia is experiencing this time of year, the roads can have rain, sleet, snow, and ice on them.  The roads are better than they used to be years ago, but the twists and turns around the mountains can be very tricky to maneuver.   

Even the people who couldn't or wouldn't drive can't book a flight this time of year.  Think about it.  It's the holiday season, and flights are booked solid until after the new year.  So let's be honest, there is never a good time to pass away, but there were so many factors that made it very difficult to attend my Grandmother's funeral service during this time of year. 

I know many friends and relatives wanted to attend, and couldn't.  Believe me, no one is upset that they couldn't attend due to so many conditions.  When I think of the people I would expect to be there, I have to remember that so many have passed away.  It is a blessing and a curse.  My Grandmother lived to 87 years of age, but she outlived so many of her friends and family.

The service was begun with an opening prayer by Pastor Lenny Romans.  My Grandmother's obituary was then read.  I was then asked to give my little talk.  My cousin Crystal followed with a speech of her own.  My cousin Melody then sang the full rendition of "Amazing Grace."  Then Lonnie "Tommy to his friends" Scraggs gave a speech.  Melody sang another song.  To close out the service, Pastor Lenny Romans gave his speech.  Overall, the service lasted about an hour and a half.

At Franklin Cemetery we gathered around where my Grandmother's casket would be buried.  Pastor Lenny Romans gave a small speech.  Afterwards, we were each able to take a rose from the arrangement that was placed on her coffin.

I wanted to have my speech/ eulogy/ little talk posted for those who weren't able to attend.  That way, they can know what was said, and how I feel about my Grandmother.  The following is what I spoke.

Hello.  My name is Adrian Ray Long.  Grandma Betty was simply, "Maw-maw" to me. 

Back in 2011 my gall bladder tried to kill me.  I had to have major surgery that left a hole in my stomach.  As a result I ended up being off of work for four months.  Once I had recovered enough that my stomach was healed, my Sister Melanie and I headed up to spend some vacation time in West Virginia with my Grandmother.


We had lots of fun.  Grandma, Melanie, and myself drove around took care of a lot of little things, visited a few people, and ate at Grandma’s second favorite restaurant, Bob Evans.  It was there that my Grandmother took on a real serious tone and told me, “When the time comes, I want you to speak.”  I have to admit, I was taken aback a little.  My Grandmother had never said something so serious and heavy to me before. 


I thought about that for a few days.  It was then a few days later that again, the three of us were eating in a restaurant like Bob Evans, that I had the courage to ask her.  I said, “Grandma, this is pretty heavy.  Speaking at your funeral?  What I am supposed to say?”  She told me that I could talk about anything I wanted.  I could speak about eating at the restaurant.  It didn’t matter as long as I spoke. 


And while I have spoken about the restaurant, I do want to say something that would be worthy of the woman that she was.  What I want to speak about today is defining moments.  There are many here that can speak of their memories of my Grandmother from the nineteen thirties to the present day.  I want to speak about the Grandmother I knew.  And I can’t speak about my Grandmother without speaking of my wonderful Grandfather Ray. 


I have many memories of my Grandfather.  But there is one memory of him that defines him to me.  He was holding a two week old kitten in the palm of his hand.  The kitten was very small.  If you’ve ever had to deal with the semi-feral cats in West Virginia, you know they aren’t that trusting of people.  Yet, this little kitten was on it back, in my Grandfather’s palm, letting my Grandfather pet its belly while it meowed happily.  That sums up the kind of man my Grandfather was.  Even the smallest and feeblest of creatures trusted and loved him.


The defining memory of my Grandmother is from when I was six.  It was my first time in the hospital, and I was getting my tonsils removed, adenoids taken out, and tubes put in my ears all at the same time.  It was rough.  But my Grandmother came down to Florida to help my Father out.  He told her, “I need help,” and she was there that day. 


When I woke up from surgery I couldn’t so much as talk, it was more like making a croaking sound.  I would try to talk to my Grandmother, and I couldn’t even understand myself.  You all know that she was deaf in one ear, but she still managed to understand me, even when I couldn’t understand myself.  In the toughest moment of my life up to that point, she was there beside me.  That was the best gift that a scared six year old could get.  


The wonderful thing about defining memories is that each of us has a different defining moment of another person.  Your defining moments of my Grandparents may have taken place before I was born.  I want you to share those memories.  Because they are gifts to be treasured, but also shared. 


My Grandparents had a lot of the same interests, but they were also very different.  However, I think their relationship could be described by the Ancient Chinese Philosophy of the Yin and the Yang.  It means that forces that are opposite or contrary can actually be complimentary to each other. 


Let me explain.  My Grandfather was a man of few words, but that’s okay because my Grandmother talked enough for both of them.  My Grandfather liked working in the garden, and my Grandmother liked telling him what to do in the garden.  Anything my Grandfather brought in from the garden, my Grandmother would cook and spice up.  As long as that spice was either salt, pepper, or sugar.  Sometimes vinegar.   My Grandfather very calm, cool, and collected.  He’s the one who had to keep my Grandmother from knocking someone’s head in during their younger days. 


It’s no secret that after the war my Grandfather had what they called a “lost weekend.”  That “lost weekend,” ended up lasting three years.  However, my Grandmother had a strength within her that helped my Grandfather get his life on track.  And as such, together, they were able to get their lives moving forward. 


My Grandmother tended to speak in absolutes.  As in, “This was the best sandwich, or that was the worst pain that’s ever been.”  So I know she won’t mind when I say she was the best Grandma that ever was.  And how could I disagree? 


I was able to have pie.  Lots of pie.  As a child she would listen to me when a lot of other adults would brush off a child.  She never forgot to send a birthday card.  She always told me, “Maw-maw loves you.”  She also let me win at playing cards when I was kid.  I know Dad is thinking, “She never did that for me.”


One absolute I can say is that, she never said a mean thing to me.  Never.  Not once.  That’s not to say we didn’t disagree about some things, but she was never mean, rude, or insulting.


Looking back at that day in Bob Evans, my Grandmother knew I was going to be giving this speech one day.  While I am sad, I am not angry.  My Grandmother had a heart attack about a year before I was born, and she lived.  She had another one, and she lived.  She’s had I think, 15 stints in her arteries as well as an oblation, and she lived.  She had cancer in her kidney.  They took her kidney out, and she lived.


She had a heart blockage on Thanksgiving a few years ago.  Dad held her in the back seat of my Ford Focus as I drove to the emergency room.  I have to admit, I was scared and ran a red light to turn into the ER when no one was coming.  I talked to her the whole way as my Boy Scout First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, and Lifesaving training had taught me so long ago.  Later on she told me she could hear every word I said, even if she couldn’t respond.  And I want you to think about that.  She could hear every word I said. 


I think back to that time I spent in the hospital as a kid, and how she was there for me.  In the toughest of times, I was glad I could be there to help her out just like she did for me.


I am not angry.  I am sad, but I am not angry.  There was a chance that I was never going to be able to have her in my life.  I feel fortunate that she has been in my life as long as she has. 


When my Grandfather passed away my Grandmother was at the edge of his coffin and said, “We were married over 50 years, but it just wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t enough time.”  I am reminded of John Mellencamp’s Grandmother who told him, “I have lived to 100 years old, but life is short, even in its longest days.” 


As I close out I ask you to talk to each other.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Do away with old grievances.  Tell each other you love one another.  And please, share your defining moment of my Grandmother with one another.  Share it with me.  Even if that defining moment is something as simple as eating lunch at a Bob Evans restaurant.  Thank you everyone.
I have to say, my speech was well received.  I had about forty people compliment me on my speech.  Someone very close to me said, "It was powerful."  I know my Grandmother would want me to "knock it out of the park."  She would want me to succeed.  And knowing the way my dear Grandmother spoke she would want me to, "Give the greatest speech that was ever told." 

The truth is I wanted to give her the best.  I wanted to do right by her.  After all that she and my Grandfather have done for me, it was the least I could do.  As I said in my speech, my Grandmother told me she wanted me to speak at her funeral back in 2011.  I'll admit, I have thought many times about what I would say, and how I could get it right.  My speech clocked in around ten minutes.  Believe it or not, I actually, "cut the fat."  I trimmed it down to best parts of what I had written.  I honestly could have spoken for half an hour. 

As I finish up this blog I will repeat what I said in my speech.  I am sad, but I am not angry.  I feel lucky to have had my Grandmother in my life as long as I had.  In contrast, I am reminded about what my Grandmother said about being married to my Grandfather.  It just wasn't enough time.  When I digest this all through my head I can only think, "I am sad, and there just wasn't enough time to spend with my Grandmother."


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