My Grammy Flanders passed away last week. Her funeral was today. I made a video slideshow and I spoke at the funeral. My speech is below. She meant a lot to me. If you would like to leave condolences, you may visit her page on the Riposta Funeral Home website.
I want to thank you all for coming today. I’m sure Grammy Flanders would be happy to know she is loved, though I suspect she might say everyone’s making too much of a fuss about everything. I can’t imagine what she would say about all these flowers and how dolled up she looks right now. Those who knew her knew she always told it like it is. Along with her stubbornness, I think it rubbed some people the wrong way, but for many of us it was refreshing to be in the company of someone so genuine.
Grammy Flanders’ humility was one of her strongest virtues. I think it’s fair to say she even took pride in going without and having less than the average person. I have never known someone to be so comfortable with themselves and so content with the simple things in life. I always felt that she never wanted anyone to trouble themselves over her, almost as if she imagined she was invisible. Yet so many of us know just the opposite was true. Wherever she was, it seemed people were drawn to her, often because of her warmth and selflessness, or perhaps out of curiosity. She was a unique individual. She worked very hard her whole life and asked for little or nothing in return. I think people admire that, though I doubt Grammy Flanders would care one way or another if people admired her or not. She was like that. She didn’t care what other people thought about her. I know some thought she was a bit odd, and that’s probably one of the few compliments she would accept.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about my grandmother without telling you about another side of her. You see, Grammy Flanders was also a bit of a trickster. She liked games and she liked thinking she knew a little more than most people. Someone so content and simple in such a malcontent and complex world – perhaps she did know something more than most of us. Growing up, I always knew that if either of my parents said “no,” I could call Grammy Flanders and she’d be there in a flash and most of the time she’d say “yes.” My parents say she spoiled me, but I think we had a special friendship and an understanding that was more than just a grandson and grandmother. We baked together, she taught me how to sew and brought me to craft fairs – I always felt like we were two mischief makers and could find an adventure anywhere. I know she felt the same way. She’d say, “Adam, we’re not like those old fuddy duddies. We have fun, don’t we?”
Grammy Flanders was an expert at finding joy in little things and even things others would consider an inconvenience or discouragement. She never took life too seriously. She had a genuine sense of humor and had no problem laughing at herself. When I was younger we got a pair of chickens and one day she was holding both of them in her arms. The chickens did not want to be held and they made their displeasure known by leaving some gifts on Grammy Flanders’ shoes. But she didn’t get upset, she just laughed like it was all a big joke. I don’t recall anything ever keeping her down for long. I think that’s what made her so strong – she knew how to see the world, as if every day were her first or her last.
Although she would have been 86 next month, I think she has always been a child at heart. She looked at the world with curiosity. She was stubborn like a child, too. Once she was set in her ways about something, nobody could change her mind. She would insist on wearing out clothing, especially shoes, until they were practically ripping at the seams. She wouldn’t let us get her anything new and she insisted on living a life that most of us was call old-fashioned. Again, she was a very simple and humble person in that respect. It seems a paradox that someone who got through each day trying to leave the smallest footprint behind, would leave such a huge memory in our hearts.
My grandmother has been ill for some years now. At some point it became difficult for her to remember who we were or what our relationship with her was. It was disturbing to feel like I was losing her before I had actually lost her. My family and I saw recognition light up in her face when we visited her, even if she couldn’t express her feelings in words. Grammy Flanders and I had spent so many years doing things with little or no words – sewing, kite flying, snowmobiling, crafts, cooking, sledding, gardening – that we didn’t need words to just be there for one another. When she was no longer able to do those things, it was apparent that just my presence had to be enough.
I was fortunate to see her Wednesday when she was still awake, still able to open her eyes. I debated talking about this, but I wanted all of you to know that in her last days she was happy and content as always. I laid down next to her and just held her hand. She would respond by gripping my hand and watching me. Until that night I had never realized her eyes were blue, like mine. I told her stories about when we were both younger, our adventures together, the spiteful chickens. I fell asleep next to her, stroking her hair, and when I awoke she was still watching me. Although she could barely move, she still managed to smile and keep her eyes wide open. Her expression seemed to ask what the next adventure would be, or to tell me everything would be OK, and as the hours passed by I began to wonder who was comforting whom. I just wanted her to know I was there with her. She seemed so small, like a little child.
From Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and one of them asks, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
“Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Grammy Flanders had a big heart, so big that even though she’s gone in body, I still feel like she’s here. I don’t know how God managed to place such a tremendous personality and a tremendous heart in such a little person. But there she is, like a small, sleeping child. I think I can see a smile on her face and somewhere she is laughing – laughing at how silly we all are.
I love you Grammy Flanders.