Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Grandma Megs

On Saturday, I spoke at my grandma's funeral. It was hard, very, very hard, to stand up at the front of the beautiful, tiny church, and try to say something that made sense and meant something other than being sad. There is a somewhat irrational fear of not doing justice to someone loved, though there's no justice to be done when you're speaking to a crowd of people who knew, intimately, the person you are trying so hard to talk about. There is nothing I can say to either burnish or blot an entire lifetime of generosity and mischief and goodness.

I've always disliked eulogies whose skeletons are a bare recitation of facts. I do not love someone, mourn them, miss them because they were born on such and such day, worked at such and such job, lived in such and such place from such and such date to such and such date. I love them because of the innumerable moments in their company that are now over and impossible to retrieve.

This is what I said:

Grandma Megs
Helen Hamamura is Tiny. She is Mom. She is Grandma Megs. She is so vivid in so many moments and days and years of my life that I can almost fool myself into believing that if we turned our heads fast enough, we would see her walking towards us, steadily and sturdily, her head bent over, just a little, and on her face, a small, persistent smile.

She would sit down, cross her hands in her lap, lean back in her chair… and she would know every single one of us. She would remember everyone's name. She would know, precisely, how everyone is related to everyone else. She could tell us a thousand stories, most of which we have probably forgotten. Saying "do you remember?" to Grandma Megs was like lighting the fuse on a memory and watching it bloom out, as fresh and pungent and colorful as if she could grab your hand and take you both traveling through time.

These are some of Grandma Megs's stories:

There was the time the telephone girls sent the firetruck out and the one fireman, the chubby one who was taking a break, came running past and she shouted the address as he went by. There were the times when the neighbor brought home sea turtles and she rode the empty shells around the yard. There was the time when Uncle Glen--just a waru bozu boy then--ran up a mountain, waved a flag for her, and ran back down again. There was the time when her mother was a little girl and she slept in a horse trough, waiting for her father to come home. "I love you so much," he said, "that if I put you in my eye, no tears would come out."


Grandma Megs loved hard and often and stubbornly. Her love was magnificently ordinary, offered up in meals cooked, cakes baked, pineapples stripped of their armored skins and turned into yellow cubes for breakfast. She made slippers and blankets. She cut out recipes from newspapers and mailed them across oceans. She did not care for the radio. She collected odd remedies for cramps of the legs. A bar of soap under the covers. A piece of string tied around a toe. An onion on the table. She taught her grandchildren to catch lizards with their hands, but she was the only one fast enough to catch a fly. She smuggled scraps of interesting plants in her pockets and stuck them in pots and somehow made single wilted leaves turn into wild things worthy of a jungle.

Grandma Megs made breakfast for Grandpa Megs every morning. Eggs, rice, and tea. I can't quite describe how enormous a portion of my understanding of how love should be has been defined by the act of eggs, rice, and tea every morning. 


The more we love, the tenderer and more vulnerable we become. So, I suppose, in the end, one of the goals of our allotment of days, one of the targets at which we must aim the arrows of our lives, is to have inside ourselves a bottomless lake of potential tears.

The lake inside Grandma Megs must have been so wide and so deep that you could throw an entire world in and it would fall forever. Her lake would be pleasant, but not flashy. It would be bright, all the way down to the bottom, and filled with stories in which everyone remembers everyone else's name, in which nobody is ever forgotten, in which things remain sharp and unfaded and well-loved forever.

These are the things, or at least the two most important things, that I learned from Grandma Megs: 

Love is an ordinary thing that is worth everything in the world.

And, if you remember the stories that make up your life, they exist for your own reckoning of forever and you never really have to say goodbye.


Ali Trotta said...

This was beautiful, Megan. Thank you for sharing -- for giving us all a glimpse into a beautiful woman. I'm honored to know a bit about who she was. <3

Kat Howard said...

She sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing her with us here. It is inadequate to say so, but I am so sorry for your loss.