All it takes is one: My eulogy for Grandma

I’m convinced that all it takes is one person.

One person to see your true potential… One person to believe in you… One person to pick you up, brush you off and tell you it’s going to be ok when it feels like the rest of the world is trying to knock you down… One person to think that you could do no wrong… One person to love you unconditionally…

That person for me – and for many of us in this room – was my grandma, Nancy Cason Goth.

Grandma – I invite you to call her that, as well – and I had a special relationship. Grandma and I were bonded by so many things: our favorite color … our first name … our perfectionist tendencies and desire for perfect order …

But when she peacefully entered eternal rest on Monday, we were bonded by something even greater:

She chose to take her final breath in the same hospital where I took my first exactly 30 years prior.

April 3 will forever be our special day. While it felt sick and ironic at first to lose the most important person in my life on my birthday, it suddenly dawned on me that she knew exactly what she was doing.

I’d like everyone to take a moment and think about a time when Grandma made a difference in your life – or was the difference … when she came through for you or made you feel special.

For me, it was all of the weekends I spent with her as a young child when my family was living in Mt. Lebanon. I’d hop out of bed at around 6 a.m., awoken by the scent of burnt Eggo Waffles, which I ate by the box across from her at her two-person kitchen table. When I finished my plate, she offered me more, and I always nodded “yes.”

We’d start our day with a 7 a.m. trip to Foodland (do those even exist anymore?!), where she let me push a child-sized shopping cart and in it would go more Eggo Waffles, Rice Krispies Treats, JELL-O chocolate and swirl pudding, and peach rings. We’d then go to Ames for senior citizen discount Tuesdays. After all of that, it was time for pampering at Gary Coslow’s: Grandma would get her hair frosted and permed, and she’d even schedule in time for Martha to French braid my hair – and the appointment always ended with a big grape Tootsie Pop.

We’d come back to her house and eat bologna and cheese sandwiches with crushed sour cream and onion potato chips and put together movie poster-sized Disney puzzles.  By 4 p.m., it was time for dinner. We went to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets, French fries, an ice cream cone and playing on the playground.

Calories didn’t count with Grandma.

She even curled my hair before taking me to school Monday morning. And the timid, sensitive kid who was me suddenly had a spring in her step like the curls in her hair – and a sense of confidence that only Grandma could restore.

It was her month-long visits she’d spend with my family after we moved to Harrisburg when I was 8. As soon as she arrived, I’d carry her small bags upstairs, and, when most grandparents would want to unpack in peace and quiet after being bombarded with excited grandchildren, she’d let me sit on her bed as she unpacked – carefully placing out each item. She used to say, “There’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.” I get my obsessive compulsive tendencies from her. She even made it a point to schedule with each sibling and me a day to eat lunch with us at school and an evening activity after school.

It was the times when I needed to get away from college and just seek refuge at grandma’s. I went to college just about an hour away from Pittsburgh, and my friends were always lining up to squeeze into my car and make the trip to visit Grandma.

IMG_1943And it was the way she bid me farewell at the end of each visit, which never seemed long enough, telling me her door was always open, with a sincere sparkle in her eye as if she meant it.

Because she did.

She’d hold both of my hands and squeeze them repeatedly, just like she did when our entire family was with her just a week ago.

Grandma made my day every day. She made my life.

Long before Grandma’s passing, when I thought back on her 91 years of life, I’d feel extremely emotional, because I felt it was unfair that the woman who made so many others’ lives easier didn’t have an easy one, herself… But Grandma wouldn’t want us to grieve that, because she never did. What’s worth celebrating is how she always picked up and came back stronger. From her husband abandoning her and two adolescent boys to taking her first fall in October 2005, she always came back stronger – even during her most recent one for which she eventually traded in her earth angel wings for heavenly angel wings as her reward.

Grandma had this sign on the desk in her house on Pickwick Drive, right behind her stationary bike that she rode at 4 a.m. every day. It said, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” When I read that as a little girl, I thought hard about the meaning, and Grandma explained it to me. This past week has been the tomorrow I’ve worried about for a long time – losing her. I’ve been saying for years that the day I lose my grandma will be the worst day of my life, but the 30 years of love and memories I have with Grandma fill my heart with joy, peace and a celebratory spirit.

We have the blessing of remembering Grandma by so many things and knowing she’s always with us:

When you hear beautiful piano music or George Gershwin and Andrew Lloyd Weber show tunes, know that Grandma is putting on a hell of a show for her friends up in Heaven and giving us a sneak peek for the fun times that are ahead for us to have with her again.

When you see an old fashioned on a restaurant menu, know that Grandma is enjoying one, as she tells me that it’s always happy hour in Heaven – and that she won’t even have to tell the bartender how to make it…or remind the server to bring it with two black straws.

I hope and pray for a number of things as I stand here today.

First and foremost, I pray that as grandma peacefully passed and even as she lies here today, she knows how incredibly admired and adored she was and always will be.

I pray that everyone can allow the feeling of love to overcome the feeling of loss.

I pray that, even in this time of incredible sorrow, we can take all of the things that we learned from this resilient, loving woman and apply them to our own lives… Like when the going gets tough, the tough gets going… To “just whistle a happy tune”… And to be that one person to someone – that one person to not only make someone’s day but make their life.

Sweet Grandma, you are why I am strong.

You are why I am here today.

You are why my life is so good.

I learned from and was loved by the best.

I love you to Heaven and back.

 

I read this eulogy at Grandma’s funeral Saturday, April 8, 2017. I’m sharing this with you to give you a glimpse into who she was. I wish you all could’ve met her! You would’ve loved her. Thank you for reading.

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Goodbye to pushing, proving and pleasing, hello 30s + big news!

I’M 30 YEARS OLD, Y’ALL!

Am I supposed to dread turning 30?

Because I don’t.

While the idea of time passing can feel sad and scary, because it makes me think about my mortality, with time comes experience, knowledge and wisdom. As my older sister said earlier this morning, “30 is wiser yet still no wrinkles.”

And I’m at peace with this decade of my life coming to a close, because I feel so incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished and, most importantly, who I’ve become within just 10 years.

At 21, I graduated from college a semester early, in December 2008. Not many people understood why I was so excited to get my career – heck, my life – started. I put myself through college and, during those years, worked three part-time jobs to pay my bills and feed myself all while doing “normal college student things,” like building my resume – serving as president of two organizations, a leader within a third and writing for the campus newspaper – and maintaining a vibrant social life.

Saying I was exhausted is an understatement. I didn’t have the privilege of ever being on the payroll of Mom & Dad Inc., and I wouldn’t have it any other way because of the important lessons and character this instilled in me. But I was ready for a real paycheck and a life that I designed.

Naturally, my packed college years, which followed a childhood centered around trying to create peace in a negative home environment and raising my baby sister, brought on the same people-pleasing, balls-to-the-wall behavior through my 20s.

In early 2009, I landed an amazing job and moved to Washington, D.C., on my own in the middle of the night. By “on my own,” I’m talking a loaded-down Honda Accord filled with everything I owned and very little money in my bank account. Since the amazing job didn’t pay amazingly well, I waited tables after my 9 to 5, from 5:30 p.m. until after midnight. Riding the Metro home with $200 of cash in my pocket to an apartment where cars were often found on cinderblocks in the parking lot wasn’t ideal (and where deranged people would bang on my door in the wee hours of the morning), but I didn’t know “ideal” at the time and have never been a stranger to hustling.

And I knew that this was just the beginning of an excellent adventure…

I was dating a great guy at the time, who was about six years older than I. Six years doesn’t seem like much now, at 30 years old, but it did at 21. I fell in love with D.C. while I was with him. He introduced me to a few of my favorite parts of the DMV (stands for D.C./Maryland/Virginia), including sights, restaurants, bars, etc. And our breakup, before summer 2009 started, introduced me to some of my favorite spots to go and think and pray that there were wonderful things out there for me.

And there were.

I spent that summer and fall looking ahead a bit, thinking about my professional development and even dabbling in dating. After I kept getting involved with guys from my past who weren’t ready for the relationship I was ready for, I joined match.com. Everyone knows that I have the.best.dating.stories from my few months spent online dating before finally meeting my husband, Nate – like meeting the following characters:

  • A 30-something attorney who referred to Morton’s Steakhouse as his law firm’s cafeteria (pretentious much?)
  • A tennis player (that’s not the weird part – that’s actually really attractive) who fed me leftovers for dinner (that’s the weird part – a chicken breast and egg salad to be precise on our second meeting/first date)
  • And the Award for Most Horrifically Awkward Date Goes to: A guy who showed up wearing a backpack (I immediately felt so turned off and weirded out by this) … He drank way too much, professed his love for me then insisted on walking me home, forcing me to lie about where I lived so he wouldn’t know where I actually lived … And when he got radio silence from me, he decided to try to break it with texting a photo of some very personal information he received from his doctor. (You can tell there’s more to this story.)

Very shortly after cancelling my Match account (I was still getting messages, because I had paid through that month), I decided to take a chance on a 22-year-old nuclear engineer wearing a white oxford, red tie and fleece who said he had a college degree, wanted to get married and have kids. In his first message to me, he asked me out on a date.

“I really have nothing to lose,” I said to my roommate, cautiously optimistically.

(I really didn’t.)

I used to think that Tuesdays were the most useless day of the entire week until I met him – my husband, Nate. We met, enjoyed our first date and, without realizing it at the time (at least I didn’t), became a couple on that random Tuesday night and the second day of winter. Despite the fact that I ate a chopped chicken salad on our first date and not pizza, I could tell pretty quickly that our relationship was the most special one I’ve ever had and ever would have.

For this very reason, about three months into our relationship, I decided to start seeking therapy to overcome childhood trauma so I could bring the healthiest me into the relationship. I found myself challenged by the drama in my family and keeping it from Nate out of shame; I clearly struggled with finding my own identity outside the family I was born into. Through therapy, I learned that “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

This investment in myself started to play out in my life. I found out that spring, right after turning 23, that I had been accepted to Johns Hopkins University to pursue my master’s degree in communication. I got the initial acceptance email while I was at a boutique hotel in D.C., right near my office, booking space for a team meeting. I immediately texted Nate from the hotel before heading back to my office. We celebrated when he came back to town the following weekend. (He was living in Pittsburgh during this time for a five-month training, followed by Bremerton, Washington for a month.)

Life was coming together, and I finally started to feel as though I deserved it.

I spent the next few years working on my degree, one class at a time while I worked full-time, building my relationship with Nate and working on myself – one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. In addition to continuing therapy, I started my weight loss journey in February 2012 and lost 50 pounds within eight months through heathy eating and continued exercise. Practically as soon as the final pounds came off, I moved on to a new job, in November 2012.

Six months later, in May 2013, we got engaged. Seven months after that, in December 2013, I finally ate the last piece of the huge elephant I had been choking down for three and a half years and earned a master’s degree. I was 26 and less than five years into my career and in a healthy relationship and body and single-handedly planning our wonderful wedding, lived in a beautiful condo that my fiancé owned and had a great job and a shiny degree that I never thought I’d measure up to or afford.

My life was everything I dreamed for it to be, and perhaps I romanticize about this time in my life a little too much…

Nate completed his five-year commitment to the U.S. Navy and went on terminal leave just two weeks before our mid-April 2014 wedding. Two weeks later, we were headed south on I-81 bound for Augusta, Georgia. Everything about my life changed suddenly, except I was telecommuting for my job in D.C. and had Nate. I felt so incredibly thrown off and attribute this to keeping myself so busy leading up to the move that not only did I not have time to visit Augusta before deciding to move there and look at the house we would rent for our first year there, but I didn’t have time to process. I dealt with this in the same way I have through other big changes like going away to college, graduating from college and moving to a big city – I kept busy.

I continued working full-time; launched this blog right away; started teaching group fitness classes; made friends; and even found a good gym, nail salon, you name it. I reconstructed the life I had in Arlington, Virginia. Within six months, I found a job in my field, a perfect outlet for my health communication experience. A month later, I ran my first half marathon, and a little more than a year after that, Nate and I bought our first home together.

There you have it – a recap on my 20’s. I’ve been holding pretty steady at 28 and 29, avoiding any big life changes but gearing up for new adventures.

Speaking of which…

I’M WRITING A BOOK!

I’m working with a major health website on a book about a certain healthy eating practice. That’s all I can say for now, so stay tuned!

Goodbye to pushing, proving and pleasing

While I look back on my 20s with great pride, I realize that they were about pushing, proving and pleasing – and I refuse to bring this unsustainable lifestyle into my 30s.

Instead of concerning myself with pleasing people, I’m going to bring a stronger sense of self and confidence into my 30s.

And instead of becoming more serious, I’m going to continue to focus on nurturing my inner child, something that therapy has helped me to do. For this very reason, I did a smash cake photo shoot with the super sweet and talented Jessica Miller of J. Miller Fine Art Photography – keep scrolling, and enjoy!

Now that my crazy, over-stuffed 20s are over, I’m ready for a nap.

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So long, pushing, proving and pleasing. Hello, contentment, confidence and being unapologetically myself.

charm

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