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.
And 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.