Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tribute to Nana

August 5, 2007, the day my Nana went to heaven.

I'd like to keep this post from being sad because I can guarantee that she would not want us to be sad about her; she'd rather us dance around & drink some wine in celebration of her life.

I would love to post a bunch of pictures of her but all of my pictures were deleted off of my old computer & I don't have my scanner set up just yet. You saw her here though.

A few things about my Nana:

- She moved here from England when she was 20 because she was married to my grandpa.

- She was pregnant on that ship. Can you talk about sickness? Not Her. She was the one taking care of the babies whose mothers were sick.

- She was not prepared for what the U.S. was really like. She once told me that she thought, "you've dug your grave, now lie in it."

- She always wore red glasses & silver jewelry.

- She was very short & cute.

- Her smell was Ralph Lauren Romance

- She was frugal & after she died, we found money all over that house in hidden places.

- She loved to antique & her house was always immaculate.

- She was so brave. Walked home from the grocery store once when her car broke down at night & when I said, " Nana! what would you have done if someone would've tried to get you??" She said, "I would've hit them with my purse & ran." This was a year before she died.

- She was crafty. Made the most beautiful wreaths & on holidays, her house was decorated to a T.

- She had the most unique & beautiful handwriting. I treasure the cards & quotes I have that she wrote down on paper.

- She made me a scarf to match my cheerleading outfit while she was on her death bed. She wanted me to know that she was there even when I couldn't see her. & she wanted me to be warm.

- Also on her death bed, she told my mom to tell Drew that if he wasn't nice to me, she'd come back & haunt him. She also started talking in a Jamaican voice. She was hilarious!

- My nana was nice & strong & beautiful. At the same time though, the woman knew how to party & my first words were, "oh damn" because apparently I had spent too much time with Nana.

And if all of this isn't enough for you to understand just how awesome she was, I have included the Eulogy my cousin Ann read at Nan's Funeral. I am so thankful that I didn't speak at her service because I couldn't have ever put my love into as beautiful words as Ann did.

For Sheila McDonnell Hendricks

10 August 2007

Of course, it’s so difficult to know where to begin with something like this – something that attempts to sum up all that you’ve ever wanted to say, all that you hope you could say, and all those things that there are simply no words to adequately express. But nevertheless, it’s important to try. So, I’ll start with this:

We’ve all been talking a lot of late about how Nana was the matriarch of our family. And it’s so true. So I’ve also been thinking about other great matriarchs in history, and in particular, the first matriarch, Sarah.

What has always struck me about Sarah is what has always struck me about Nana – they were both amazingly brave and courageous women. We first meet Sarah when she is led by Abraham away from her native land, away from her father’s house, on a dangerous and uncertain journey, to a land neither of them had ever seen. Though the times and the circumstances were certainly different, I am certain that it took the same courage and faith and fortitude for Nana to leave her native land to come here for Grandpa.

It strikes me too that Abraham and Sarah were known for their hospitality. Their tent was famously open on all sides to welcome the wayfarer; they fiercely protected all who came under their roof. And as so many of us have been blessed to experience, 2227 Pennsylvania was also always open on all sides to everyone – tea always served. Even in these last weeks and months, the doors were always open, Nana still welcoming guests all day long.

But perhaps what I’ve thought of most is how Nana and Sarah shared an all-consuming devotion to their families – and in particular to their children – a devotion which fostered relationships so intense and deep and connected as to be absolutely impossible to describe by words.

Admittedly, where words fail me most is in attempting to express my gratitude, simply for having known a living example of the kind of role model others may only read about. So, perhaps what’s most important to say today is, “Thank you, Nana.” Though those two little words seem woefully inadequate to convey the depth of my gratitude, we’ll simply have to take them as a start – a shorthand way of getting at a sentiment so overwhelming as to be completely failed by words. Thank you. Thank you for being so brave to come half-way around the world to a place you did not know, leaving everything dear to you behind to start a new chapter in your life, to start our family, rearing three truly extraordinary children. Thank you for teaching them, both by word and example, the ways of the good life. Thank you for your strength and your courage, for your determination and your wisdom, and for your wit and sense of humor, which has charmed and delighted everyone who has ever known you. Thank you for making your home the center of our family – a place that was always warm and joyful, where a poem or song was always at the ready, where the cookie jar was always full, and where the kettle was always on.

G-d’s promise to Abraham and Sarah was that they would be a blessing, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them. I know that we would all agree that for all of the other uncanny likenesses to Sarah, this is perhaps the truest of all: Nana was indeed a blessing, and we have all indeed been blessed for having known her.

With all this thinking about matriarchs, this week, I came across a poem written for another great matriarch, one for whom Nana had a particular fondness: Queen Elizabeth. So, I thought I’d conclude by sharing the poem that was read at the Queen Mum’s funeral. After all, Nana was our Queen Mum. And it’s good advice.

You can shed tears that she is gone,

or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray she’ll come back,

or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,

or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,

or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone,

or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,

or you can do what she’d want:

Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

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