My son Benjamin Gluck wrote and read this beautiful eulogy at his Grandma Harriet’s funeral, who passed away this week.
Always love, Allison
Eulogy for Grandma Harriet
As the cliche goes, you never know what you have until its gone. But what if you do in fact know that you have something important, and when it appears to go, or change profoundly, the true nature of what you have is revealed, and serves to lift you up rather than take away. This is a short story and lessons I learned from my grandmothers and grandfathers love, life, and death.
Imagine you have a gift in your living room, its rather large and it is wrapped in a box with bright, shiny gift paper. Now imagine that this gift has been in your living room, in the same place since you were born. In fact, when you were born, this box was much tinier, perhaps the size of a shoe box, wrapped in shiny bright paper.
You barely remember how it was then and in fact, its not always recognized apart from its surroundings because its always been right there since the second you were born.
This gift that I’m describing to you is really just a metaphor to help describe the way I feel about my grandparents love, and in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 2013, after almost 26 years of this gift growing inside the home of my being, it finally changed in a drastic and pivotal way. The true nature of the gift was finally revealed to me.
I practically grew up in the clutches of my grandparents arms, but to me, this was normal. I would see them every sunday morning. My grandfather Hank or my Grandmother Harriet always always had the door held open for my sister and I as we arrived in our parents car. “Hope you’re hungry!” They would always shout. These mornings were essentially ritualistic.
If my grandfather hadn’t yet gone to pick up the lox, bagels and cream cheese, then we’d go with him to the deli where he was warmly greeted by the familiar faces behind the counter who did not hesitate to express to my sister and I what a kind and decent man our grandfather was.
When we returned home, grandma harriet was ready in the kitchen, dawning her housecoat of course, and we would all prepare brunch together. I always got the first taste of tuna fish, and my sister always had the first pick of bagels. I still envy you for that, sammi.
Our grandparents house was also the place for family dinners and highly anticipated hanukkah parties with my aunt Ellen, Uncle Giggy, and cousins Sarah and David. These wonderful memories are re-livable in my mind today.
As we all grew older our relationships with each other changed and grew stronger. My grandparents were a constant source of strength, stability and unconditional love for all of us. They were there for me during the tumultuous passing of my other grandfather, Hershel, and were critically important sources of stability and love for my sister and I during my parents divorce. Without their dedicated love, affection and support, I’m not sure how I would have coped with these changes as well as I did.
Throughout my young adult years my grandparents stayed close by, not missing a detail of my life but yet never once expressing ill will or dissatisfaction. In fact there was nothing but love between us. In their eyes, I could do no wrong.
Our connection remained strong as I moved onto college and later into graduate school where I found less time to be near them. Still, we talked weekly, and each time I returned home they eagerly awaited my visit, where we would eat either our traditional brunch or one of several of their home cooked specialties, the taste and satisfaction from which I can still savor in my mind today.
My grandfather hank passed away peacefully on a warm spring day in 2011. The last words he uttered to me will never be forgotten “I’m nuts about you”. Although we were sad and grieving, we still had our angelic little grandmother who picked up the torch and kept on showering us with love.
Though she struggled greatly after Hanks death, her affectionate, dedicated love for us didn’t even flicker. In fact it continued to grow. Despite losing the love of her life after 63 years of marriage and having but a weak aching body, I never once heard her utter a complaint. It was as if myself and my family were all that mattered to her. In fact, I very well suspect this to be the truth.
We cared for our grandmother as she grew frailer and weaker, but she continued to care for us dearly and the love flowed stronger than ever. Now, before I go any further to conclude this narrative and share its ultimate meaning, I must express my gratitude to the kind and compassionate human beings who nursed my grandmother during her final years. A profound thank you to Dede, Marla, Brenda, Cher and Stefanie. Because of these warm souls we were able to keep our grandmother comfortable and dignified to enjoy our final years together. This brought me great comfort knowing that she was cared for so well when I wasn’t there to do it myself. And unlike me, they saw the sharper sides of harriets personality, but loved her none the less.
I received the news that my grandmothers passing was imminent on monday morning, when my sister called me to tell me it was soon, and that my grandmother had been uttering my name, asking where I was. I booked the next flight home from Oregon, and later that afternoon found myself alone, driving in my grandparents old car, on my way to hopefully being at her side as she passed.
As the sun set over a cloudless sky in the willamette valley, I began to reflect on the moment and the gravity of what I was in fact doing. Despite the seemingly bereaved circumstances, I instead found myself filled with a warm, palpable sense of peace, gratitude and joy. It was becoming clearer to me what was inside of that metaphorical gift residing inside of my heart.
What an honor and gift, I realized, to be wanted and needed at someones side during their passing. Of all of the things I’d done in my life it became clear that this was by far the most important. It had substance and meaning beyond anything else; I was so important to her that I was needed at her side so that she could have a peaceful death. I felt love in a whole a new way, and my purpose transcended any that could be invented by the material world.
The gift that my grandparents began to give from the moment I was born, which was growing with me for the past 26 years but was not yet entirely known was revealing itself to me, the true nature of unconditional, devoted love, the single most important and only real thing we have to hold on to, love, true and unconditional, the only thing that brings peace at the time of death and frankly, the only thing that truly matters. But the most incredible lesson I have now learned is that love doesn’t die when someone you love does. In fact, we cultivate love in each other because it gives back, because it spontaneously grows and spreads and lifts us up and give our lives true, palpable meaning. And this is why my grandparents loved us so dearly and unrelenting, because whether they were consciously aware of it or not, they were growing love inside of us, love that would radiate upon them, love that would radiate upon family, friends, complete strangers, and in its highest form, even unto perceived enemies.
Most importantly, this love is what keeps us connected in life and in death, it is the universal truth that we all seek. I know this not from reading a text or listening to a profit, but because my grandmother and grandfather gave it to me, they taught it to me; although, it appears I had to wait until their passing to know and to feel its deepest and truest nature.
So for me, I’d like to modify the old saying “you don’t know what you have until its gone”. The way I see it now is that you might not know the true nature of what you have until it changes, but what it becomes may be more profound and powerful that you could have ever imagined. And with those words I’d like to say thank you to my grandmother Harriet and grandfather Hank for leaving me with the greatest gift I’ve ever opened. You may rest in peace.