My grandfather died a week ago.
I was asked to give the eulogy, and of course I accepted, knowing that doing so would test the limits of my abilities. I took a deep breath and welcomed the challenge.
It was uncharacteristic of me to be so prepared, to wake up the day of his funeral with the speech finished, practiced, and parsed out on 23 index cards. There was no winging it, there was no risking failure. This is too important.
Here's what I said:
Thank you, everyone, for sharing this day with us. We're celebrating the life of a person who had a talent for bringing joy wherever he went with his sharp wit, his charming smile, and his unforgettable singing voice.
After spending any time with him, you'd know of his capacity to love. He was fortunate to fall in love twice in his lifetime- once with his wife of nearly 50 years, and after she died, with his grilfriend Agnes.
He loved his dog, Comet. And before Comet, Cosette. He loved his Diamond Club Membership at the casinos, his Irish cream (he preferred Carolann's but would drink Bailey's if that's all there was). He had a fondness for a good barbershop quartet, and MSNBC (someone should email Rachael Maddow and tell her that her most loyal fan has passed).
As I prepared for this I heard so many stories, too many to share here. There were common threads to the stories I heard: Something that came up over and over again was his generous heart. He never missed a birthday- his voice started us on every rendition of Happy Birthday we sang as a family. He made every grandchild an angel ornament for his Christmas tree, and every gift he made for our annual Polllyanna was both thoughtful and useful. He made my cousin the dancer a ballet barre one year. The year I moved into my first apartment he made me a sturdy wooden toolbox I still use today.
Another thing that came up was his intelligence: he was always turning his agile mind to one puzzle or another- whether it was figuring out how to fix a broken TV, devising a system for betting on horses, or finding a technique for growing the best, biggest tomatoes. He was always a step ahead of his time, he was one of the first people I knew to have a computer.
And then there was his sense of humor. Always quick, often biting. He had a knack for clever one-liners and nicknames with staying power: Zip, Cookie, Deedle, Whitey, Missy, Brian, and Rich the Itch are just a few.
he had a way for telling a story that gave it meaning and humor. My brother said something that rings true for me and probably for all of his children and grandchildren- all of the best family stories, the ones we tell and retell, we hear them with his voice, with his words. In this way, he'll live on inside of us forever.
Thank you, Bips. Thank you for the twinkle in your eye, the same twinkle I see in my daughters' eyes (usually when they're up to some mischief). Thank you for the example you set of toughness when facing life's adversities. Thank you for your tenderness when those close to you faced their own trials. Thank you for your irrepressible faith that the next jackpot is just around the bend, for your tenacity and hope that lasted into your final days.
Thank you for living your life and for bringing us into it. Thank you, Bips. You've cashed out a winner.