Easter was the first holiday without my Nan who passed away March 1st. It's pretty obvious when a person is missing and it makes the space feel empty. Especially, when you're in that person's house trying to pretend like everything is the same. It doesn't mean that Easter wasn't special. It was. But it was different.
When my Nan died, I couldn't stand the thought of a eulogy not being said in her honor at her funeral. So, I did it. Because this is a place for my thoughts and memories, I want to share the words I wrote and spoke that day:
March 6, 2015
Thank you for coming. I’m Jasmine and I’m one of the lucky 12 who called the woman whose life we’re here to celebrate, grandmother. And although, I called her Nanny and later Nan – she continued to sign everything she ever gave to me – “love, Mrs. Helen R. Hines”.
And we were no strangers! I nearly lived with her my entire life until I got married. She took me on trips – across the country and around New England. She took me on her errands – we went to Star Market and Belmont Savings Bank daily. She took me out for treats with her friends to Dunkin Donuts to sit in the window and gossip and to Brighams ice cream to order the good ice cream inside those fancy glass dishes. She got me off the bus in elementary school, and she stayed home with me when I was sick. We’d watch soap operas together and she’d tell me to shut my eyes during the “not so appropriate scenes”. She was famous for saying “don’t tell your mother about this” – when she’d let me sit in the front seat of her car, or send me into the hardware store alone with a few quarters to get us both peppermint patties when she couldn’t find a parking spot. When I had career aspirations at age 7, to become a hairdresser, it was her hair I practiced on and later when I wanted to be a cook she ate the food I’d make. She took me to church and taught me my prayers and let me sleep in her bed when I was scared.
When I was older, I’d walk in from school and she’d ask from wherever she was in the house “did you get hundreds today?” and I’d answered one way or another and if I said no because there was nothing to get hundreds on that day she’d say “what will I tell my friends?”. And while she did all of this for me, she also did these things and others for her other grandchildren like attend morning breakfasts at school, and special friends day and volunteer in our libraries. For her grandchildren who lived further away or who grew up and moved further away she’d send letters back and forth telling stories about her life, and asking them about theirs. How she had the time or energy, I don’t know. She was amazing.
When I got married, my husband and I started attending weekly Sunday night dinners at Nan’s. With a family so large and so close there always seemed to be something to celebrate each week. So much in fact, one Sunday my husband Sean asked me on the drive over “what are we celebrating tonight?” and he was right! Between her children, and their 12 children and birthdays and holidays and life events and small milestones there was always a celebration going on and Nan was there every step of the way (though, sometimes reluctantly as partaking in the celebrating did take her away from Majong or solitaire or who wants to be a millionaire or some other trivia or word game that she was the best at.)
So, as I look into this new chapter of life, without Nan, it’s hard to think about celebrating much of anything since she won’t be a part of the selfies or the staged pictures or the meals or sitting around the table talking and hysterically laughing.
But, this is what I hold close to my heart. Towards the end – she wasn’t concerned about how we’d all get by without her. I guess when you raise 7 kids with compassion and humor and intelligence – and then turn around and do the same for their children – you don’t have to worry about how they’ll make it through without you. However, she was worried about one thing... my parents two dachshunds, Millie and Frank – who she really did love to spend time with them despite what she’d tell all of you during her phone conversations.
Last week, she asked “Who will feed the dogs twice a day?” So, my parents assured her that the dogs would be fine (though would miss her terribly) and with just as much confidence I can say, I’m positive with every celebration -- holiday, birthday, life event or small milestone, near and far away, Mrs. Helen R. Hines will be in every one of our hearts forever.