Everybody who knows me knows that I hate October… it’s when the Universe tends to steal people from me. It’s a month of loss. It’s the month where I lost my grandmother, my grandfather, a teacher and a friend. This is especially troubling because I’ve always loved October. I like fall. I like fall weather and fall colors and fall fashion and the romance that comes with a world dying to make space for something new.
It’s hard to reconcile so much grief with so much beauty. It’s a blessing and a curse.
It was actually November when I lose my paternal grandmother–but I said goodbye to her in October–flew back to New York with full awareness that it was only a matter of waiting. Waiting for death. And, as anyone who has been there knows, waiting for death feels very strange and very peaceful. There is something that settles when you accept the inevitable.
My grandmother was not afraid of death–she did not tiptoe around it quietly. She embraced her own mortality boldly and unapologetically.
We went to dinner shortly after she was given a bad prognosis. The first couple minutes of the evening were shaky but she soon addressed the elephant in the room. “I’m dying,” she said plainly. “It’s not a surprise. I’ve had a beautiful and a long life. And soon it will be time to die and I’m ready for it. But I’m not dead tonight so let’s enjoy dinner.”
And we did. And it was filled with joy.
So now it’s October, sneaking up on 3 years since I said a last goodbye.
And I’m looking through old pictures of my grandmother and thinking about muses. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that I am my grandmother’s granddaughter and she is largely the reason I became a wanderer. She sowed it into my DNA, it’s in my blood, my wanderlust is inescapable and unquenchable… and would I have it any other way?
Below is the eulogy I gave at her funeral… I like re-reading it… It reminds me to honor the many muses in my life… that there’s no reason to wait until their graveside to tell them they’ve inspired you.
Two weeks ago I was in a strange position. I had to get on a plane and go back to New York with full awareness that I would never see my grandmother again.
While driving towards her home, to say my last goodbye, I came up with all sorts of great things to say. After all, I am a writer. A New York Time bestseller six times over in the eyes of my grandmother. So I had the perfect speech, the most well selected words. But somewhere between when I parked my car and approached her room, I came to a gut wrenching realization.
I was not just losing a grandmother. I was losing my number one fan. I was losing the one person who truly believed that I could accomplish absolutely anything. The only person that saw me only for my strengths and was seemingly oblivious to any of my faults.
I sat at her bedside and I didn’t know what to say. And this was a very terrifying position to be in because I pride myself on always having the words.
I was sad. Sad that she wouldn’t be at my wedding. Wouldn’t be there at my first book signing. Wouldn’t be there when I made babies. Wouldn’t be there to see the type of mother and wife and writer and woman and PERSON I would become. I wanted my children to know her… to understand the type of woman they came from.
But they will know her… because one of the many magical things about my grandmother was her ability to give away little pieces of herself without being any less whole. I, like so many people here, was blessed to get a piece of her. Many might say I got more than my fair share.
So grandma, I tell you today, like I said at your death bed. My children will know you because they know me. My husband will know you because he knows me. My family will love you because they love me.
And I promise you that, I will always honor that piece of you inside of me. You will be proud that you gave me so much of yourself. You will be proud of the wife and mother I become. And when my Dad holds my babies, it will be like you holding them. Because he too has gotten such a large piece of you.
I promise that I will always be crazy, that I will always be loving and compassionate, that I will always push limits and challenge bigotry. That I will be good to the people around me. Open to new things. I will honor that piece of you and you will live on through me and everybody else lucky enough to be changed by you.
But above all grandma, I promise one thing: I will never, never, never be boring.