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EULOGY FOR GRANDMA
For the second night of shiva
My grandma passed away this week. This is a eulogy I read for her on the second night of shiva.
I thought I’d give a grandchild’s perspective of grandma. So I’ll start with the important stuff. As kids grandma would always have the best biscuits. Breakaways, Club biscuits, Orange flavour Club biscuits, Trios, Malted Milk, Rich Tea biscuits, Viscount biscuits. She’d have a lot of biscuits. She also had a Soda Stream to make fizzy drinks, which would be kept in the top right cupboard of the kitchen with cherry cordial and cola syrup.
Occasionally I’d sleep over at grandma’s with my brother in the front room. Grandma would bring us these shiny blue sleeping bags with orange fabric on the inside. It was brilliant. They were warm, they were comfortable, and in the morning she’d make us breakfast at the kitchen table. Bowls of cereal. Rice Crispies with sugar spooned on. Sugar that you’d scrape up from the bottom of the bowl with milk when it was nearly all gone.
I remember she would send off coupons from the back of cereal packets to get gifts for us. Some Snap, Crackle & Pop toy cars. I remember the excitement of the toys Kelloggs used to put in cereal packets that she’d let us open. She made that happen. She made that memory. She’d have ice cream in the freezer and they’d have cornets and wafers in the cupboard. And the cupboard under the stairs would have fizzy drinks. Coke, Tango and Lilt. “Grandma can I get a drink from under the stairs?” “Grandma can I take a biscuit?” were never, ever answered with no.
As an adult I would spend a lot of time round grandma and grandpas - mainly cos I don’t have much of a social life. But I’d sit with them round the kitchen table on Saturdays. I’d often film them. These mundane moments were the best time I spent with them. They weren’t parties. They weren’t celebrations. They were nothing moments. But in such moments you can find a secret magic. And there was something sacred in the light that chose to come to their home and pass through the net curtains onto the kitchen table. The light shone on something so close to hand for all of us but which few manage to find: grandma and grandpa’s utter peace and harmony with the simplicity of simple things. Sitting eating breakfast. Toast for grandma and a cup of tea. Grandpa - coffee and a warmed up bowl of All-Bran with six prunes. Grandma would flick through some magazine. Muttering headlines. Grandpa would read the paper. They were so comfortable in each others company. They were so comfortable being old. Just the sound of pages turning. Grandpa’s lips smacking with bits of Ready Brek somehow stuck to his cheek and the occasional comment about something in the news. Or if they had a lunch, deciding what they wanted for dessert, and grandma giving grandpa a bowl of peaches with cream or some ice cream. These are the moments that matter more than any that can be written in an obituary. The unrecorded moments where real life is lived. People like grandma and grandpa aren’t going to be in the history books. But the people in history books have got it wrong. Because being able to enjoy a bowl of peaches is closer to something far more elemental to why we’re on earth.
One thing I’d like to do was start off inane conversations round the table. I’d randomly make up pointless things. “Grandpa have you ever seen a mouse?” “Grandma do you like sausages?” “Grandpa, have you ever seen a dragon?” “Grandma, do you think monkeys would look smart in trousers?” And they’d happily answer. This was always the warm up. Because there was another kind of question I’d ask. “Grandma, what sort of shoes did you have as a kid?” “Did they have chip shops where you lived?” “What was the name of your brother again?” “Who was it who lived at G—— Road?” I didn’t need to ask any of these questions. I knew all the answers. What I was really doing was trying to give them the gift of reminiscing. It would allow them to relive their glory years. And I don’t think anyone could be depressed at their mental or physical decline when you saw just how many glory years they had to relive and how happy they were to recall them. Grandma would talk about her family with so many Olav haShaloms - meaning peace be upon them - she couldn’t talk about them without invoking those words of holiness. And that’s how she felt about them. Her brothers H——-, F——-, I——-, B——and her mother T——-. Olav haShalom.
I remember when grandma’s sister B—— was on her death bed. There was so much noise with all the family there. And there was a moment where B——- was alone so I went over to her and she whispered: “Don’t be scared”. And she wasn’t putting it on - she meant it. She wasn’t scared. And a hidden blessing you should take comfort in of grandmas illness is she didn’t even have the option to be scared or contemplate her own mortality. But what was interesting that day at B——-’s house was when grandma spoke to her there was the real love and warmth of sisters. Grandma’s smile was the truest, warmest smile - even though she probably didn’t know who she was talking to. And what it shows is, even if the origins of love are forgotten, the love remains and it runs deeper than the human mind. And so with regards to her dementia, if grandma didn’t understand your words, she would have felt your love.
Often I’d take grandma and grandpa to the old peoples club at the synagogue. I’d drop them off and wheel grandma in where they’d be greeted by amazing volunteers who were always pleased to see her. Then I’d leave and head off. They’d have tea and biscuits and chat with the other pensioners. Then they might play kalooki. They’d have lunch at the club. And after there’d be some kind of entertainment. Maybe a talk, but more often than not, a karaoke singer who’d sing all the hits to them. Sweet Caroline, Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You and Quando, Quando, Quando. And as I’d go up the stairs to pick them up I’d hear the music playing and I’d see the same thing every time. Grandma, with more life in her than anyone else in the room, singing along and dancing with her hands. She’d come alive with her eyes sparkling like a little girl. And if any of you feel melancholy about grandma’s alzheimers - I’m telling you - if that was dementia it looked like bloody good fun to me. And I tell you who it was most infectious for - it was grandpa. As she was singing I would look at grandpa, looking at her, and he loved her…
And now they can see each other again. And I’ve got this thought of them in heaven which will make you laugh. Because if my grandpa was to meet the Heavenly Father, the Lord of Hosts, King of the Universe, God, Hashem - and I was to ask, “Grandpa what was He like?” He’d go: “Yeah, he was a nice man. No trouble. Very polite.” And if I was to ask grandma she’d also go: “Oh, he was very nice. Very nice man”. And then they’d probably just go back to their bowl of ice cream. And God would be like: “Ok, well, I’ll just let myself out” and God Himself would leave their house. Because for grandma and grandpa heaven wouldn’t be fancy clouds or trumpets playing. It would be a simple kitchen table quietly eating breakfast together, or surrounded by their family. And thank God they were able to experience so many moments of heaven on earth. Because the real story of our lives is the love that’s created around kitchen tables. And grandma and grandpa always made sure their kitchen table was full in every sense of the word. Full of life, full of people, full of food, full of laughter. And as God turned the corner to get the bus, he would have learned something from grandma and grandpa, which is that you don’t need to shape mountains or create oceans, you don’t have to create the heavens and the earth in order to do something special.
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