Hi my Nan,
How are you today? I couldn't let the day go by without a big hello and hug from me. And with today being your birthday, well, it has to be an extra big hug and hello. All of your family and friends are here with me and we're all celebrating you today and remembering how special you are. And because you are so special to me, I wanted to write you this letter to let you and everyone know how wonderful our story is, and how thankful I am for you.
Think of this letter as one of a string of the emails we would exchange throughout our day. This one might be a little longer than the one you wrote to me on September 15, 2008 at 10:16 pm that simply said, "thinking of you... hoping all is well... love you always, Nan"
And the subject matter of this letter might be a little more serious than when you emailed, "just bought 7 items in Filenes Basement for $127... not bad eh? xoxoxo" on July 27, 2007 at 11:55 am.
I also hope that as you hear this letter it will cause far less confusion on your end than on mine when on April 27, 2006 at 9:29 am you wrote, "Hi my hon... just heard the most interesting news... a cat in China just gave birth to a puppy. The rest of the litter were kittens. Now how funny is that. xoxoxo"
But just like all of those emails, this letter helps me say hello to you and let you know in this free minute of my day that I'm thinking of you and wanting to connect with you even though we may be in different places. The beautiful thing about correspondence like this letter or our emails is that the feelings written within them never fade and that each time stamp has the ability to record a moment in our story so well. So whenever either one of us is missing the other, we can reread them and be reminded of all the xoxoxo's exchanged throughout the years.
This is how Juliet began her eulogy for Marlene on July 1, 2009 in front of family and friends.
This letter is not meant to grieve your passing or to dwell on the awful sickness that took you from us. While those are all important emotions that I and everyone here have no doubt felt, this is my love letter to you, one in which I get the chance to reflect back to you all the love you've given me over the last 29 years, and express my gratitude for having had you in my life. I know that with all the love and gratitude I am shining on you – that we are all shining on you today – you will be the brightest and most radiant Nan out there, visible to everyone in this chapel and beyond, and will continue to shine as long as we remember.
If I were to explain the story of you and me to someone else, I would have to divide it into 3 chapters. The first chapter would be about the first way that I knew you: as my grandmother. You made everything special. You let me have Fruit Roll-ups when my parents would not. You brought me to Canobie Lake Park and Water Country in the summertime. And when we played miniature golf you stood with your feet positioned so that my ball would always land in the hole no matter how bad my aim. You spoiled me on holidays and at birthdays. You loved whatever gift I presented to you at Christmas and always said, "Well this will have to go in a very special place in my house." And it always did. You took me bathing suit shopping every spring. I can't get rid of any of them, so seriously, I have a drawer full of like 15 or so. You always sent me a valentine. For my 25th birthday you gave up your engagement ring and allowed my mom to use the stone for the necklace I'm wearing today. And together with my parents, you were my biggest fan, and supported me when I decided to change careers.
As our story continued and I grew older, I got to know you in a different way. You were still always my grandmother, and became my friend. However unconventional it was for a grandmother and granddaughter to become real friends, we didn't care. We enjoyed each other's company. We could talk about anything and keep each other's secrets. We would have one of our little chats, as you named them, over lunch or on our way to the movies. You accepted me for who I was, and it was a rare day that we didn't talk on the phone or email. We gossiped, traded tips on which store had the best jeans or which actress had the best haircut. We danced together at family parties, toasted over glasses of wine, had spa day, and when we quarreled, which was rare, you would wait until I was done with my rant, look at me, pause for a second, smile and say, "You know, I really just love the way you did your eye makeup today my hon. You must show me how you did that." And at that moment all I could do was smile back, forgetting whatever I had been mad about, and tell you that I used brown pencil instead of just powder.
The latest chapter in our story started not long before you got sick and is the role that I know will continue to live on. Nursing school was especially stressful for me and I was living alone in New York for the majority of it. Whenever I had an exam or assignment that would stress me out I would tell you and you would say, "Well don't worry. I'm your guardian angel and will send lots of good vibes from Massachusetts while you're taking your test, so it will surely go well." It sounds crazy, but it always worked. If I was stuck on a particular question all I had to do was stop, take a deep breath and know you were thinking of me. You once wrote, "Hi my hon, tonight is the big exam. I got up especially early this morning to start sending you good vibes, so you will have nothing to worry about." I surely would never have made it through school without you. If it's okay, I'll still think of you as my guardian angel, only now you aren't so far from me.
And so my Nan, though my heart is broken knowing that our little chats over lunch and birthday celebrations will now exist only in my memory, I feel better thinking of you in a brighter place; that you are relaxed, comfortable, and free from pain and nausea. I know where ever you are, you have a big glass of white wine with ice cubes and are listening to Willie Nelson or Whitney Houston. Maybe you have just completed a long walk by the water and have noticed all the birds and fish along the way, or perhaps have just finished up 30 minutes on your rowing machine and are energized to start your day. Maybe you are seated at a table on the porch with Fafa at sunset and are catching up with your parents and brother on all the events they've missed since you last saw them. Or maybe you are even trading stories with Farrah Fawcett, someone you've felt connected to, who shares your beauty and your strength. Where ever you are, please know this. I think of you every day and keep you with me always. You are my grandmother, my friend, and my heart. I only hope that one day, I am fortunate enough to share with my granddaughter a love as special and true as ours.
My daughter takes my breath away. So does Marlene.