Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Eulogy...

Holy moly. I haven't written anything in this space in nearly two years. That's a bit sad. The reason I am writing however, while a bit sad, is mostly joyful. You may or may not remember me posting occasionally about my grandmother...

Megan Ellis Probert began life on March 16, 1921 as Mary Margaret Ellis, Megan for short. She died Thursday, February 11, 2016 at the very impressive age of 94.
She fell and broke her hip, followed by more falls, hospitals stays and a downward spiral that ended in a nursing home. At some point during all of this, she fell and tapped her head hard enough to create a hematoma, resulting in gradual memory loss. For the last several years, at least 3 or more, she barely remembered any of us. Some of the time she would know my mom, Some days she would recognize me, but think I was her mother. She would often ask after her boys. Sometimes she meant her brothers, other times she meant her sons.

I think we all fell a bit more in love with her during this time. It's easy to love the vulnerable. It's easy to know how she feels about you when she no longer filters her words - and sometimes that was hard and other times it was wonderful.

I think we can all agree that Nain wasn't always easy to love. I'm not sure why that was - she was a little bit tough and a little bit hard. When we look back over the life she's lead, it is not hard to find the reasons she may have guarded her heart a bit. She was born to Welsh immigrants and her early years were during the Great Depression. While that time in her life was hard, she was the youngest of five children, the only girl and the youngest. Her older brothers doted on her. I can remember her bragging about how her brothers worked very hard but always made sure she was dressed to the nines.

Nain met PopPop and  they were married in a quick ceremony right before PopPop left for Europe to fight in World War II. He never even saw my mother until she was a year old. She loved to tell the story of  Megan's birth. The nurse carried her around the hospital so everyone could see how beautiful she was with her bright red curls. When PopPop returned they went on to have Donny, and later Jeff. Nain loved to tell stories about how troublesome they were, and they loved to tell stories about how she locked them out of the house on Wednesdays so she could scrub the kitchen floor.

Nain loved shopping, and college football  - especially Penn State, and had a penchant for a good hotdog. Nain was a fantastic teacher. She taught us all our first dirty joke, how to tell real wood from the fake wood everything is made out of nowadays, how to tell a good grain of leather and the importance of learning how to iron a man's shirt properly. She passed on her good manners, ability to charm and be the belle of the ball. She knew how to sit like a lady,  walk in heels and wear clothes beautifully. She had a wardrobe even her granddaughters loved. She was a true lady, with the killer gams to prove it. She used to tell us all the time that she wore heels because PopPop loved how her legs looked in them.

Nain was generous. She was quick to purchase Girl Scout cookies, fund major purchases and offer any help we ever needed. She shared clothes, books, purses, shoes. Even if you brought her a treat when she was in the nursing home, she couldn't enjoy it if you didn't share it with her.

All the kids have a lot of funny stories about Nain, and I am sure we will be hearing them over the next few days as we prepare to say goodbye to her, but I have a few favorite memories I'd like to share:

~Nain and my mom polishing off the last of the wine every holiday and giggling while they did the dishes.
~Nain reading "Green Eggs and Ham" to Megan #4 a thousand times one Christmas while she was visiting.
~ Mom and Nain making "Sees Candy runs" when we lived in Phoenix. They would go, buy a couple pounds and give each of us one and stash the rest.
~Nain chasing us around with a dustcloth and a bottle of Pledge when we were little, while PopPop encouraged us to touch every surface and press our noses against all the windows - just to get her goat.
~Nain telling stories about her parents, especially her mother.
~Nain promising me she would be down on her knees praying for me whenever I asked her for prayers.
~Nain loved the movies and she and I used to love to go get lunch and see a movie whenever we got the chance. I think those times were the first times I ever really got to know her. One time we went to see a group of Welsh singers at Walsh. She loved that concert and I was so glad I got to experience it with her.
~Nain's constant delight in the fact that there were three, and then four Megans. She loved any time someone would point out all the Megans and would even sign her cards to me: "To Megan #3, Love Megan #1". I loved it as much as she did.

Nain faced a lot of hardship, She lost her son, her husband, her brothers and their wives. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Her husband served in the military and reserves for over 20 years, both sons served during Vietnam. But she had three beautiful children, She has seven grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren.

While Nain may not have been overly affectionate, I think she had something even more important. She was steadfast and true. You never had to wonder where you stood with her, because she left you know up front. Uncommon integrity - you don't find a lot of that. She loved deeply, though I think it was hard for her to say, I know it was true.

One night, right after she had fallen in the hospital, I was there very late at night. She was babbling. Some of what she said made sense and some didn't, but she talked about her three kids, and how she had to make the world a really good place for them. She was concerned that they have enough vitamins and nutrients to grow up strong and healthy. Megan and Donny were big enough for chewing gum, she said. So she was going to invent a chewing gum for them and then market it so other children could also grow up strong and healthy. I tried to assure her that they had indeed grown strong and healthy. She talked about being a good mother and raising healthy children. I think she did a pretty good job.

At the end of her life, I hope she knows we loved her. I hope she saw my mother at her bedside. I hope she felt our prayers for her and our tears over her suffering. Today, we rejoice, because she has earned her heaven, at last. She is at the feet of her Savior. She has been reunited with her son who was taken far too soon, and with her husband. We are grateful to know she is at peace and her mind is whole again.