Last year, my grandfather asked me to write a eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral. She had been in the hospital for a couple months with pancreatic cancer and we knew that she wasn’t going to live much longer. He asked me a few weeks before she passed away and I told him that I would be honored to write and share my thoughts. I didn’t actually sit down to write it until after she passed away as it felt inappropriate to do so beforehand.
This month, my grandfather passed away after an unexpected major heart attack one morning. While we knew he was weak, it was a rather unexpected incident. In a day he went from regular daily activities and holding conversations to not being with us anymore. I was deeply connected to my grandfather and he was one of my greatest role models and supporters. I asked for the opportunity to share a eulogy at his funeral. While I was initially concerned about taking up a spot that could have gone to another person, I knew that I would regret not speaking at his funeral.
I had never written a eulogy before my grandmother’s nor had I been to many funerals. I didn’t know what eulogies typically looked like and everyone told me that whatever I wrote would be wonderful. While encouraging, it wasn’t particularly helpful when trying to frame my memories and feelings into a short time span. In the end, I wrote from my heart and created eulogies that communicated messages that I would have wanted each of my late grandparents to hear.
The process is more difficult than can be conveyed in words. I reflected on time I spent with each of my grandparents, lessons they had taught me stories I heard from them or others, and the gifts that they gave to each other, friends, family, and communities. While these were all positive memories, it made my heart ache and miss them even more. In order to truly convey how much they meant to me I had to be open to those vulnerable and raw emotions that come with the loss of a loved one.
When I am stressed and anxious, I typically say inappropriate comments or use humor to deflect how I’m feeling. I didn’t want my eulogies to be marred by my anxiety and so I wrote myself messages on the margins. I reminded myself not to make jokes, to breathe, that it was okay to cry, and that I could make it through the eulogy. Another defense mechanism I use is to block out feelings during difficult and emotional times. While it can be helpful, I did not want to be numb during my eulogies and the funerals. That meant accepting the fact that everything I was feeling would be visible to those in attendance. As someone who prides myself on taking
care of others and putting my needs to the side, this was a challenge.
As difficult as it was to write the eulogies, reading them aloud in front of everyone was even more difficult. I only had one chance and I had to make it count. Additionally, because I wrote from my heart, other memories and emotions came flooding back to me as I was speaking. I was unsure whether I would be able to make it through the eulogies until I actually finished. I felt that my voice and body were shaking the entire time and I had to fight back tears that would have prevented me from continuing. To stand in front of everyone, even though you know they are full of love, respect, and support, is extraordinarily difficult.
Closure looks different for everyone. For me, having the chance to write and reflect on my times with my grandparents and then share those thoughts with everyone was the best form of closure. Below are the eulogies that I composed. I share the eulogies because I believe that it shares a piece of who my grandparents were and, while I may be biased, I believe everyone should know them.
More pictures after the eulogies.
Eulogy for Marie Lantz, my grandmother:
As I stand up here, I am holding on to so much: having Grammy here in MA these past eight months and being able to spend so much time with her was a true blessing. Being so close to the hospital so that I could frequently visit was another blessing. I am holding on to all the stories, new and retold, that she shared with me these past few weeks. We talked about her childhood, family, time at college, and early years with Grampy. I feel so fortunate to have had the time to spend with her and to learn so much about her right up until the end.
I am also holding on to the support and love that my family was able to offer me during these past weeks and the support and love that I was able to offer in return. Being there to share time, love, and memories with each other and Grammy helped turn a difficult time into a positive and healing one. Family was extraordinarily important to Grammy and I know the way that we constantly surrounded her until the end meant the world to her.
I have had the chance to hear and reflect on so many stories and the amazing life that my grandmother was able to lead.
I loved the twinkle in her eye and the light-hearted ribbing in her voice as she talked about her days at Eastern Nazarene, how she wanted to meet and marry a minister, be a minister’s wife, and how that plan was turned completely upside down.
She loved stopping for ice cream at Dairy Freeze and the many times that she was able to run into my mother, be it on accident or purpose, made those ice cream stops even better.
And, most recently, there were the nights that I slept with her at the hospital. I smile every time when I think of how she rapped the edge of the bed at ungodly hours and asked me to sing with her. And we sat together in the dark and she taught me some of her favorite songs.
What’s embedded in these memories and stories that we each hold are the many lessons that Grammy was able to teach us. And it’s these lessons that I plan to take forward with me so that I can live a life that Grammy would be proud of and that she has inspired me to do.
Life can be hard and we will, without doubt, face hardships. Grammy taught me that there is always something to appreciate and learn during these times and that there is always someone who can lend support. And that as often as I can, I should be that support to others.
Never be too serious. Grammy’s ability to be light-hearted and witty was such a joy to experience and sometimes just what you needed.
Live life to the fullest. Grammy took adventures and encouraged others to do the same. There is so much to experience in life. Her eyes lit up every time I told her of new travel adventures or plans that I was making. She may have rolled her eyes when I told her about jumping off a building or learning to skateboard but she encouraged me to seek out adventures and to embrace everything that life had to offer.
Create family wherever you go. I have heard so many people recount stories and reflect on how Grammy was so much of a mother, sister, or aunt to them. This was because Grammy created such deep bonds with people and welcomed them into her life, her heart, and her home.
We all have our memories and we’ve learned so much from this woman. We are all lucky to have known her and to have been loved by her. I encourage us all to feel the feelings that may come, embrace each other, and hold on to those positive moments.
Eulogy for Donald Lantz, my grandfather
I admire so many things about Grampy. I could probably stand here for hours and still not have enough time to cover them all. He has been the most influential, compassionate, and loving man in my life and I know that I owe so much of who I am to him. He believed in me whole-heartedly and provided the strength, understanding, and encouragement in order for me to discover those things about myself. I am eternally grateful for everything he gave and did for me.
Since I can’t recount everything, I am going to focus on just one: books.
Every Christmas, he gave each of us a book. But it wasn’t just a book. He took the time to read each and every single one to make sure it was something we would be interested in and that he wanted to give. He spent the year reading and preparing to give these gifts. Grampy inspired us to question, engage, and explore the world around us. He wasn’t concerned that we follow the same roads as he did but rather that we went somewhere and developed ourselves, interests, and knowledge.
Every year I knew to expect books about women. Short stories about women in history, folklore about women heroes. Books about women in politics, as his dream was for me to be the first woman president. Depending on how this upcoming election goes, I may still have a chance. It’s really no wonder that I grew into the opinionated woman I am today when these were the models he gave me and then how he nurtured and encouraged the paths I decided to take. I know he saw me and what I was capable of before I did. Once I got there, I knew I could always count on him for debates and deep conversations about the books he gave me and what I learned on my own.
The year that my college went co-ed, he gave me this book ‘Happier’ which was based on a Harvard course about positive thought and shifting internal frameworks and perspectives. He told me that he was worried about my attitude. To this day, I’m not sure if he was actually expressing concern or being sarcastic. I do know that book is still on my shelf and that I still read it. It is yet another example of how he looked at my life, just as he looked at all of our lives, and thought about what would be the most appropriate book and lesson to pass along.
Grampy didn’t want to be on the sidelines of our lives. Therefore, as we grew and changed so did he. He asked questions, researched, and read books and articles so that he could converse, and debate, about things that were important to us. He could never grow tired of getting to know us, of pushing us to go even further, and encouraging us to set high expectations and goals.
I don’t know how to come to terms that Grampy is no longer with us. I don’t know how to make sense of the fact that this man who inspired love, challenge, and growth isn’t a phone call or a bike ride away. When the reality of it hits me, my heart literally hurts and I need to stop and catch my breath. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon and I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who can provide needed love and support as we move through this time of healing and positive reflection.
To close, I have a few final thank yous to Grampy.
Thank you for your passion for life, learning, and exploration.
Thank you for showing us how to approach each day with enthusiasm and optimism.
Thank you for your love, strength, understanding, and commitment.
Finally, thank you for believing in me, and in all of us .
We’re all better because you were in our lives.
I love you now and forever.