Happy 4th of July!
I wanted to share a quick post tonight about my paternal grandmother, Dorothy. Her life was a story, but tonight I want to share something I learned about her in her death.
When “Gram” died a couple of years ago at the age of 88, she had planned her entire funeral down to the smallest detail. She’d picked a casket, a dress, planned the wake and the funeral mass. She’d done it all– except name someone to do her eulogy.
My brother and cousins were either too distraught or too intimidated to do the eulogy so they recruited me to do it, the eldest grandchild. I drafted a five minute speech summarizing my forty years of memories of my grandmother. When I was finished drafting it, I gave it to my dad to review for dates, names, and other information I wasn’t sure of.
Dad came back with comments like, “well, why didn’t you say [fill in the blank]” and “why didn’t you mention [fill in the blank].” Of course, his memories and knowledge of his mother were different than mine of my grandmother, but it was my eulogy, not his, so I pretty much stuck to my guns. Except for one thing.
He asked why I didn’t mention that she was patriotic.
“Huh?” I said. I’d never really thought of Gram as patriotic. Sure, she bought poppies from the vets on Memorial Day and hung them on her car’s rearview mirror. And yeah, I guess I’d seen flags around. I probably could connect her obsessive interest in news and the justice system to patriotism (she watched every minute of the O.J. Simpson trial and often had Court TV or CNN on the television). I didn’t really get it though.
Then my dad pointed out what I already knew. My Grandfather was in World War II during the early years of their marriage. Twenty years or so later, my grandmother’s only two children went into the armed forced during the Vietnam War– one enlisted and one drafted. I can’t imagine what she went through during these periods: first, as a young bride and mother praying for her husband’s safe return; and then, a mere couple of decades later, watching both of her sons go to war. Having a husband at war must have been horribly difficult, but to have to do it over with your children just seemed cruel. All those years were spent hoping and praying for the three men in her life, not knowing how they fared and not having any control over the outcome.
When I thought about this, I wondered how she didn’t go crazy. Why she wasn’t angry. I’d never once heard her complain about the war years and she never talked about the worry or stress she felt over the safety of her husband or sons. How did she get through?
The only answer I could come up with was faith. Faith in God, but also faith in her country– trusting that those in charge would make the right decisions and keep her family safe. Patriotism is not only loving your country, but believing in it and trusting it to take care of us.
After I delivered the eulogy and the service ended we all started to leave the church. As she had chosen all of the music for her funeral mass, Gram had chosen the exit song, too. She’d picked “God Bless America.” A few days earlier I would have been surprised by her choice but that day as I walked out of the church with my family, I understood and I felt proud.
Have a nice night and thanks for reading.