Pain and a Pen, Part 5: the wake

16 Oct

This is the fifth and final part in a series of writings from my Grandmother’s recent death. Today I share portions of the talk I gave at her Wake service. I felt very prepared, and emotionally out of gas, going into the service. I was expecting to have no trouble whatever reading what I had prepared–I had shed all the tears that where in me. Following a great eulogy given by my uncle Dan, I headed to the podium. And then, as my cousin Carey says, I got “leaky.” I couldn’t even get out the first word. This totally surprised me, and I ended up reading it in between lip biting and tears, and ad libbing much of it. Here are some of the things I had written down:


My aunts and uncles asked me to share some memories of Grandma from all of my cousins tonight. So, much like Grandma usually hung around in the background, I’ve been sitting with a notebook, jotting down little stories here and there as cousins and aunts and uncles and everyone shared them, planning to assemble all those memories and share them with you here tonight.

But I’m not going to.

Those memories and stories we’ve all been sharing with each other over the past week, while surrounding her in love and sending her off, or over tears and laughs since she finally went home, couldn’t possibly be as meaningful to the rest of you.

So, instead, I want talk to you about love tonight. As I was observing the past week as it unfolded, one thing became very clear: love was everywhere I looked and listened. It was the one thing that shone through everything—all the moments, all the emotions, all the memories.

The last few days of her life, Grandma could hardly speak. But she did often gaze deep into the eyes of whomever was holding her hand at the time. And later, when her eyes just wouldn’t open any longer, she would still squeeze that hand so tight. The kind of love I felt each time I saw it was unique and powerful. It was an embrace of love and gratitude for the whole family, no matter who was there to be the instrument in that moment.

Love is why, those who could be there, spent so many hours surrounding Grandma’s bed in her last days and hours. Love is why, those who couldn’t be there with her, spent so many hours thinking of her and worrying about her. Love is why we’re all here tonight. We’ve gathered to celebrate our love for her, and to remember and honor her love for us, for God, and for this church and faith.

St. Paul once wrote to the people of Corinth that love is patient, and kind, and holds all things and endures all things. I think we’ve seen that he was right.

Love is

And I think we’ve also seen a love that changes, and adapts, a love that is  joyful and also full of sadness. We’ve seen that love is rugged and resilient. We saw that she can sometimes be surprising, and even anxious. We’ve seen love being selfless, and love focusing every last drop of her energy within. We’ve seen love’s appreciation, and sometimes, love’s stern glare. We certainly know that love is Irish. We’ve seen love being busy, and love being still— OK, we hardly ever saw her being still…

But we did see that love is protecting, and love is nourishing. That love can heal, and love can let go. That love can forgive, and love can wait as long as it takes. We saw love strong as an ox, and love frail and tender. We’ve seen love hiding and bashful, and love overflowing in the open. We saw love give life, and we saw love in death. We’ve seen that love can be separated, and love can be, finally, reunited…

We’ve even seen love in swishy pants.

So, love can be so much. Love is her, and love is in each one of us. St. Paul also said something else about love: Love never ends. I’m pretty sure he’s right about that one too.

Since a few people have asked for it, I’ve also put together this series, minus the contextual paragraphs, into one downloadable pdf. You can get it here: Pain and a Pen collection PDF.

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Posted by on October 16, 2009 in Family, writing


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