Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sarah Jane's funeral

I didn’t get to go home for my grandma’s funeral, but on all accounts I felt like I was there. I wanted to know every detail that I could before it took place so I could try to visualize it as it was happening. I was luckily able to keep in touch with my cousin Ellery through text messages the day of the funeral home visitation and the funeral itself. I bogged her with questions like “where are you all going now” or “what is grandma dressed in.” She painstakingly answered all my questions with pleasure and she kept me in the loop all day long. I didn’t like the thought of all this going on without me so I tried to be a part of it the only way I could.

I was the closest person to her that was not able to be there so I knew right away I had to do something to make somewhat of a presence there. The day after she passed I wrote something to be read on my behalf so people would how just how much I loved her and how wanted to be there. Again my cousin Ellery was there to be my voice in my absence. This is what she read for me:

Part of the reason I can’t be with you all today is because of Sarah Jane Lefere. I am currently working as a member of the United State Peace Corps in Morocco, North Africa. And part of the reason I was able to make it here is because of my grandma.

She was one of the biggest supporters of my dreams. She had a belief in me that was rock solid. And she was always willing to listen, support, and understand.

I was born in a large gap in time between my other cousins. The one just above me is 10 years older and the one just below me is seven years younger. So for a while I was kinda alone with grandma. I went to day care from when I was born to 6th grade. But after that I started to go to grandmas everyday after school for the next few years. She knew how much I loved chicken strips. Every time she would take me to Applebees I would order the same thing without fail. She aided in my delight when she bought a Fry Daddy Deep Fryer and bags of frozen chicken strips from Sam’s. Then I could eat them any day of the week.

We also loved to take trips to Sam’s where we would by candy in bulk for my own little “general store” that she let me run out of her apartment. She of course buying the candy and me, making the profits.

She taught me the value of saving money. I took a class trip to Chicago when I was in the 4th grade and for several weeks before that she gave me 10 dollars weekly to add to my own personal savings account. With her generous contribution I had a field day in FAO Schwartz toy store.

Grandma taught me how to knit. Many times to be exact. In my younger years I didn’t much have the patience for it. I would usually knit one row then give the work to her to pearl the next row. Pearling was something that frustrated me so I made her do it. I always made her start and end the piece for me and just five months ago I finally learned how to do it myself.

When I heard about grandma’s condition taking a turn for the worst one of my first thoughts was how lucky she is. Lucky to have led such a full life with so much laughter, love, and strength. We used to sit around for hours telling the same stories over and over. Ones that never got old to me and never will. I loved hearing the stories of her raising four boys and hearing the mischief they got into. Stories of her youth and her family. I’m proud to say the two of us share the same alma mater of good old Jackson High School.

She’s so lucky to have such a big loving family. And of course we are all more than lucky to have her. She touched countless lives. I went to school for journalism and there I was taught to select my words carefully to make sure their meaning is used properly. The word countless implies something you can’t count. So that is exactly why I selected that word. It is impossible to know how many store clerks, cashiers, gas pump guys, teachers, strangers, friends, or family members Sarah has touched. I’ve watched on several occasions how she could make someone she didn’t even know laugh. Make them feel like she knew them forever. She had something about her that let everyone know she could be your friend. I know so many people that loved her including each and every one of you in this room.

One of the things I loved about her the most is that she refused to put up with anyone’s bull shit. Including my own. We often had a playful banter going on and for the past 15 years or so her nickname for me was Spoiled Brat or SB for short. Oddly enough she aided in that spoiling. Oh the irony. I also refused to treat her at all like a child in her old age. Even when she began to start moving slower I still let her take care of me whenever I was at her apartment. She always did her grandmotherly duty of covering me up with a blanket when I wanted to take a nap on her couch. Naps were always peaceful at her house, except when the police scanner was turned up too loud. Every time you would turn it down, she would go ahead and turn it right back up. Boy I hated that thing.

There was always food cooking at grandmas. Among my favorites would be her red potato soup, au gratin potatoes, goulash, chocolate fudge, and her self invented big noodle soup. However, I just couldn’t get used to some of her foods. Any time she chose to cook cabbage or galumpkis I stayed as far away from that apartment as possible.

I hate that I can’t be there with you all today not to morn the passing of Sarah but rather to celebrate her life. Now that she is watching over me I think I can feel her presence even more. I’m happy to know that she is now in a place of comfort and reunited with the ones she lost many years ago. I know she’s going to be there helping to drive me and push me to see this experience though to the end.

She was the strongest woman I knew. One that helped make me who I am today. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know her longer. When I was young it was hard for me to believe that my grandma was ever a little girl. Guess I though she was always a little grandma. But I know that if we would have known each other in her younger years we would have for sure been friends. She had a sassy and fiery spirit that would have gone perfect with mine. We would have raise hell together.

I want to thank her for her unconditional love she gave me and her undying guidance, understanding, and support. I feel blessed to have been a part of her life and am truly honored that a woman like her will always be a part of me.