Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Loving Memory of Evelyn O'Brien

My grandmother died earlier this week from a brief but awful struggle with breast cancer. She saw a doctor for the first time in 56 years last Thursday and deteriorated quickly. She was comforted in her final days by all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as well as by the amazing staff at Grace Hospice.

My mother and I were with her when she passed. It was peaceful. It was quick. And it was a relief to us to not have to watch her suffer anymore. But it still hurts like hell.

I've decided to speak at her funeral, and below is the eulogy I plan on sharing. I did my best to capture the spirit of my grandma. There's so much more to share, but I think this is a great summary of the amazing woman she was.


My grandma was such a special person, and describing her nature and her spirit is going to be difficult. I thought the best way to memorialize my grandmother would be by describing a visit to her house.

Upon arriving at grandma’s house, probably around noontime, you’d need to knock loudly on her side door to get her attention. Not because she couldn’t hear you – but because she couldn’t really see anyone pull in the driveway because of her beloved pine trees. She always loved Christmas trees and had planted a few in her yard at some point. Her tiny little trees grew into a pine forest over the years.

After grandma peered at you through her kitchen window, unlocked a series of doors, and decided to let you in, you were immediately offered a glass of 7 Up or a piece of ham. And grandma didn’t discriminate – I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, but every time I was at her house she’d offer me a piece of ham. Despite the fact that I groaned each and every time and told her that I didn’t eat meat.

Once grandma had successfully convinced you to have something to eat or drink, you’d join her in the living room. You’d be seated on her gold Davenport – another word for a couch – and she’d be sitting in her gold chair closest to the window. Most likely, she’d be in the middle of a grueling game of solitaire or halfway through one of her beloved Pink Lady gin drinks. She’d be bundled up in one of her snowy white sweaters and wearing her favorite velour pants, and probably a pair of nice flats without socks. Nearby would be a big orange tabby cat named Happiness. Every cat grandma ever owned was named Happiness. And all but one of them was orange.

Of course, the tv would be on, and if you were lucky, you’d get to watch one of her favorite shows with her – like Oprah, Wheel of Fortune, or the news. Grandma never liked hearing or talking about bad things, so if anything remotely scandalous came on the tv, she could change the channel or turn the tv off in lightning speed. Even when Grandpa protested.

Once the tv got turned off, you’d probably head outside to check out the garden. Grandma loved her garden and especially loved making cucumber salads with the tomatoes and cucumbers she grew. After looking at the garden, she might offer you a seat in the backyard under more of her beloved pine trees. But first, you’d have to go into the garage and pull out a white chair near her white car. Grandma loved her white cars – especially if they had a gold interior. She liked the color white so much she even bought a couple non-white cars and had them painted.

After enjoying some sunshine with grandma, and maybe a little bit of the Indians game on a very old radio Grandpa kept in the garage, you’d head back inside for some dessert. There was no saying “no” to dessert. Grandma always had sugary treats sitting on her kitchen counter. Normally you’d find a white cake with white icing that she’d baked, but sometimes there would be cupcakes from Giant Eagle with mounds of frosting.  Grandma sure loved sugar. She’d sneak a pinch of sugar from her sugar bowl nearly every time she made a trip into the kitchen.

After you finished up your dessert, if it was on or anywhere near a holiday, grandma would have a present for you, or at the very least a card. As one of the girls in the family, grandma loved buying me the pinkest presents she could find. I’m not even quite sure where she found all of the pink sweaters and sweat suits that she gave me over the years, but she probably got them at her favorite store – JC Penny.  If grandma didn’t have some new duds to give you, she might give you an envelope with a card. In that card, you’d find a fresh, crisp $100 bill. When I was little, I was honestly convinced that grandma grew these hundred dollar bills in her front closet or had a printing press stashed away somewhere, because she never seemed to run out of them.

After thanking grandma for her presents and and saying goodbye, she’d always give you a big hug and send you on your way. After you left, she’d get back to playing solitaire or her other favorite hobby – cleaning windows.

I hope this little depiction gives you an idea of my grandmother’s generosity, giving nature, and giant heart. She was a very special woman who touched so many lives throughout her lifetime. She’s only been gone a few days, but I can speak for the entire family when I say how much we love and miss her and know our lives just won’t be the same without her.

Love you, grandma. 

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