(My grandma Eck died last week. 94 years old. She and I had a good many things in common, some of which I loved, others not so much. Here’s my little eulogy for her!)
One of the things I most enjoy having in common with Grandma is where I grew up. A beautiful place in the Southernmost Southern hemisphere.
A place of interminable winters of rain, rain, rain. Did I say rain?
And right alongside winter, the smell of burning wood and parafina space heaters. And wet wool that never dried.
A place of amazing summers, all the more special for their shortness.
The heady scent of fruit in orchards.
Land of poets and writers in a language spoken in an accent that flows off the tongue like a brook.
Land of some of the kindest most openhearted people I know.
I wouldn’t change where I grew up for all the money in the world. And, um, these days that’s saying a lot.
I share something else with Grandma. I think about things. A lot.
Like Grandma, and many in this room, I was born into a family of missionaries.
I learned the word eternity right alongside the days of the week, and believe me: I have given the whole eternity thing a lot of thought.
I was about 4 the first time I remember pondering it with my nose pressed to the window on one of those interminable winter days, raindrops trickling down down down, and beyond the fogged up window, a world of mud and puddles and clouds.
What I was doing, along with wishing the rain would stop for a bit so we could go play in the puddles, was trying to wrap my head around “forever.” (Which I don’t recommend trying to do at 4). I was considering my options:
On the one hand there was heaven with Jesus and the angels and the mansions and the streets of gold.
On the other hand there was hell, with the devil and darkness and the demons and the lake of fire.
I was a bright girl—you know, the good genes and all—and with only those two options, it was pretty much a no-brainer.
Except it wasn’t. I kept thinking about it. Truth was, I really loved Jesus, but the mansions and streets of gold? I really could have cared less about those. Honestly. I meant no disrespect then. And neither do I now.
I notice that we dear human beings define heaven as pretty much the opposite of what most scares us right now. Or what we most long for and think we don’t or can’t have now.
If we’re poor now, then we will be rich in heaven.
If we’re afraid of the dark, then heaven will be eternal light.
There is something else that I share with Grandma. I can tend to worry. OK, I’ll be honest: I’m really quite good at it.
I can inject a shot of worry into the most amazing and calm of days. And a night of good sleep? Forget about it! If a worry is wanting my attention, I can wake myself right up out of a dead sleep with it.
Dear Grandma. I understand that in you. (And yes, I sometimes worry about that, too!)
When I think of the kind of heaven I want for you, in addition of course to being surrounded by all the love in the world, and your dear Everett, and my dad too (have you said hello?) the kind of heaven I picture you in is not a place with no darkness, but a place where you aren’t afraid of the dark.
It’s not a place where everyone agrees, but where everyone has a seat at the table.
It’s not a place where we try to get rid of whatever we don’t like or are afraid of, but where we welcome it all with open arms.
I love you, Grandma. I picture you surrounded by all you ever dreamed of and more. And I’m happy not to have to wait till I die to meet you there.