Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grannie's Eulogy

My grandmother, Anna Leah Agniel, passed away on August 11, 2016. She was three weeks shy of her 94th birthday. I was honored to speak at her funeral.

{walking up to pulpit, adjusting microphone, pulling out lipstick, applying lipstick without a mirror blotting lipstick on back of hand}

...and then she would gesture with it {taking lipstick and pointing out to the crowd} "now, we just need to move that table over here." Or if she was cooking and had a carrot in her hand, she would gesture with that, "please bring that platter into the kitchen." 

I have so, so many great memories of Grannie. And yet when I started to put thoughts together for her eulogy, the memory that kept coming to mind was from down at the cabin in Shadow Valley. Often we would be down swimming in the lake when Pup and Gran would arrive. Their arrival came with great fanfare, honking of the car horn, and their voices, hellos, echoing across the lake. Though we were down in the water and they were up on top of the hill, you could hear their voices distinctly.

Soon after arriving, Grannie and Puppy would come down to the dock, they would grab chairs from the breezeway, and they would come sit - drinks in hand - while we swam. Grannie was the picture of grace and poise: she always wore lipstick and makeup, her hair was beautifully curled, she had on a nice skirt and summer blouse, panty hose, and dress shoes. Though I knew the answer to this question, I asked every single time:

me: Grannie, are you going to come swimming with us?

and she would say,"Well, hunney, I don't think so, but I'm happy to just sit here and watch."

Grannie's words always had layers of meaning. For example, in this response "Well, hunney" carried with it deep love and affection. She loved us deeply and she let us know it. And then the "I don't think so" which meant "not on your life, will I get in that lake water." And finally "I'm happy to just sit here and watch" was her loyal presence with us. Even if she wasn't going to get in that water, she was there, witnessing and being present in our lives.

Grannie was a woman who did not waste time. I remember a weekend when she came to stay at our house because our parents were out of town, and I was so grateful when my parents returned because Grannie had made us work hard all weekend. She had us clean our rooms, the whole house, and we even scrubbed the Tide stains off of the laundry room table, which was unheard of.

She did not waste her resources. She was known for creating beautiful centerpieces and a welcoming environment to any special occasion, but she also frequently rearranged the furniture. She was way ahead of her time: Grannie knew Feng Shui before it was an actual "thing." The night before she died, they say she was in the front room, trying to move a large armchair before the whole family arrived the next day to celebrate her birthday.

She did not waste words. I recall one time Grannie told me, "Oh, Anna Marie, you look so beautiful with that makeup on!"

me: Yeah, thanks! I don't wear it all that often.

Grannie: Oh, well you should, hunney, you should!

She did not waste moments to put herself together. One year for her birthday, my parents and aunt and uncle decided to bring us 7 grandkids down to Grannie's in Jefferson City to surprise her. We thought this was an excellent idea, and we arrived unannounced to find Grannie still in her curlers, no makeup on yet. She enjoyed the surprise thoroughly for 5-10 minutes before excusing herself to finish getting properly ready for the day.

She had no shortage of love for all of us, especially us grandkids. In 2007 I traveled to visit Grannie at her retirement home in San Antonio, Texas. I had no kids, I was single, and I was excited to go meet Grannie's friends, to hear about where she lived, and how she liked being there. When I arrived at her apartment, she told me I had a couple minutes to freshen up, and there wasn't much time to rest. There was a karaoke night going on downstairs in the bar.

Grannie: I've told everyone what a great singing voice you have, hunney, so just freshen yourself up, and let's go!

me: I'm not really sure that I'll sing anything -

Grannie: Of course you will!

After a couple of margaritas, Grannie had me singing songs around the retirement center bar. She was so proud of all of us, and she believed in us.

So back to the story down at the cabin: why didn't she ever get in that lake water? You could argue that she didn't want to get her hair wet or mess up her makeup, but rather, I think she wanted to visit with us and then go up to the cabin to help get dinner ready. I think she wanted to continue visiting with all the people gathered there, to make sure preparations were being made to her liking: she always had fresh linens when we came to stay at her house, always a full candy jar for grandchildren to dip into, always a stunningly beautiful Christmas tree when we came to Jeff City for the holidays. She wanted to make sure people felt welcomed, comfortable, taken care of. She was preparing the way.

Grannie is no longer here with us in physical form, no longer down here swimming around with the rest of us in the lake. But I believe she is still preparing the way for us even now. For example, yesterday when I checked into the hotel after a harried, frazzled week, and 2+ hour car trip with our three young kids, the man at the front desk said to me, "Well, you'll be staying in 408." Which was the address of Grannie and Puppy's house on Woodlawn for 40 years, and those numbers are how some people would refer to that home. 408. That's Grannie, that's her still preparing and taking care of us, even if we can't see her physically.

me: So, Grannie, are you going to come swimming with us?

Grannie: Well, hunney, I don't think so, but I'm happy to just sit here and watch.

I love you, Gran.