Saturday, August 9, 2014


My grandmother's funeral is today. Or memorial service. However you want to say it. She died back in April but was cremated, and we are putting her ashes to rest about 15 hours from now in the grave plot right next to my grandfather. I'm typing this from a hotel room in King of Prussia, PA. I've spent the last hour or so trying to write a eulogy.

Now, I haven't been asked to write a eulogy exactly. More to say a few words about my grandmother. (We called her "Oma.") But for the last several years I haven't seen Oma much, and even when I did see her she didn't seem like herself. Pain and fatigue were wearing constantly away at her edges. Plus, I was (am, really) an egocentric young person, too caught up in the immediate concerns of my own life to put much of an effort into trying to connect with her.

So I've written this eulogy, which I will type up for you below. But I don't like it. It's supposed to be about a person, and I spend most of my time talking about a sketchbook. (Which sounds weird, but I hope it will all make sense...)

So here it is, what I may (or may not) end up saying at the service later today:

I have many memories of days spent with Oma - the time Laura and I went with her to visit Old Sturbridge Village, fun trips to Deep Creek or Cape Cod, Florida or Sedona, and even that time she tried to drive me to a place in uptown Charlotte and we ended up getting lost, on the road for hours taking turn after wrong turn and getting trapped in the crazy mess of rush hour traffic. To me as a little kid it all seemed like a grand adventure, but I'm sure it was really stressful for her. So many memories of doing things, going places, all this exciting stuff happening.

But so much of life is in the still moments. Which is why when I remember spending time with Oma, one of the things I recall with the most fondness is this sketchbook.

I don't know if many of you have looked through this or really know what it is. I mean, basically it's what it looks like: a little sketch journal. Early on it's filled with her pencil drawings - a basket of flowers, a place setting at a table, a vague outline of a chair. She tried things, using watercolor pencils and investigating the different effects she could make. And at a certain point other artists' work start to take up pages as she began to invite us grandchildren to draw in it too.

I won't flip through the whole thing here, but there's a hodgepodge of sketches after this - Zach's depiction of grandfather clock, various attempts by me to try to capture those small toys she would keep on the ledge next to those stairs that led down to the basement, and of course many more drawings of her own.

I know I'm going on and on about this book, when I should be talking about her, but I kind of am talking about her. You've got to understand something about me. I've always been so caught up in my own distractions. I was the girl so busy reading that I'd be in the stands at the baseball game and not even know the score. But Oma wasn't like that. What's amazing about this sketchbook, and even more amazing about the lady who started it, who sketched out that place setting at the table, or the view of the street in Belmont, New Hampshire (even down to that stop sign there in the corner) - well, it's this: To make art like this, you have to be willing to stop and take the time to look at the things and the people around you, to really see them, and not only that but to appreciate that there is something of significance and beauty in them, something worth recording, worth remembering. And that was Oma. I mean, you all remember her stories, don't you? She had so many things in her house that she had collected over the course of her life, but these things, while some of them may have been quite valuable, weren't really important in and of themselves. There was always a story, a history behind an object or photograph, and if she'd catch you looking at something she might even share it with you. That's why they were important, at least to me. Because she said they were. She observed and she noticed things and she cared enough to remember.

I saw her sketches in this book, and I wanted to follow her example. I wanted to try too. Over time it came to be an inevitable part of any visit with her. Whenever we spent time with Oma, several more pages of this book were sure to be filled in. Sketches of beloved pets like Tilly and Bobby and Buffy, of Wes playing Game Boy, of the red glasses and Santa napkin rings on the table at Christmas eleven years ago...

I'm grateful for a lifetime of details like this, not just the big flashy photo-album-worthy times with her, but these little quiet memories that I know will continue to creep in at unexpected moments in the years to come, reminding me of her.

I miss Oma. We all miss her - Oma, Nana, Mother, Adelaide. But I'm glad she's no longer in pain, and I rejoice to think of the fullness of life she now knows in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

It was He who commanded us to "love one another as I have loved you." And what kind of love is this? One that sees beauty and worth even in the unlikeliest of places. A love that does not falter or forget. A sketchbook kind of love.


Yeah. That was really preachy and stupid. I didn't say any of that. Instead, I told a brief story about the time Oma was visiting us when it happened to be a blue moon. Mom, Oma, and I got in the car and drove up to the top of the drive way. It was almost like a little theater: the trees on either side were the parted curtains, and above us was this spectacular star-strewn sky and a huge, bright moon. "God was putting on a show for us that night," I said as I burst into tears. I didn't say a lot of things because I was too busy crying. I guess that's okay.

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