the words I spoke at the funeral

Dear Family and Friends,

So much can be said about my grandma, her love of travel, her pride in her heritage, her stubborn insistence on keeping every sock and butter packet and letter. I could write a novel about her kindness, her strength, and her courage in life. There are things that she taught me that I carry with me every day: always stop and ask for directions instead of wandering around lost, ask where to find something in a store, plan ahead for the worst case scenario and be prepared for the bumps along the way. Put family first; always love family unconditionally.

This last she did especially well. She worried about each of us, she celebrated our joys and cheered on our triumphs. She suffered when we suffered. She flung her doors wide open for us, any of us, for however long we needed a place to stay. Her home was the shelter in the storm for many of us over the years, and for me it was the one place I found safety in the world. “Grandma, come and get me,” I would say over the phone, and she would come. Right away, no questions asked, she would arrive and take me home with her, where I could stay for an hour or for years. She would feed me, proudly save my report cards, and give me rides to and from school every morning and afternoon. She later told me she liked driving me to school as a teenager because that’s how she got to hear all about my day.

She not only protected me and gave me a safe base from which to explore life, but she gave me the wings I needed to explore it, too. She paid for and attended every one of my music lessons, and there were many. My concerts, karate classes, recitals, and sports games: she was there for every one. My first trip overseas was with her, and the means with which I traveled later to Europe and Asia were provided by her. She wanted me to fly, and because of her love, I did. And because of her heart, I always will.

We all think of birth as a miraculous event. The beginning of a life is awe-inspiring to witness but I wasn’t there for her birth. I didn’t hold her as a baby to soothe her cries, but I was honored to be the one to do so when she left this world, which is an event every bit as magnificent as birth. As often as I needed her to comfort and protect me in my life, at this most important time in her life she needed me to comfort her, to provide her with a feeling of security. I was humbled to be the last person she waited for, told about her day, and asked for. I was honored to be the last person to sing her a lullabye, to hold her in my arms, and to whisper goodbye.

I know we are in a church of God, but I hope you don’t mind a bit of a scientist’s offer of consolation upon the death of someone we love so much. Grandma herself was a lover of science, as well as a Christian, and she never saw why the two could not go hand in hand. This is a quote by the writer Aaron Freeman:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

I will be looking to these words for comfort often in the days, months, and years to come. Because in a world without my grandmother, I will need to remember that all of the happiness, love, and comfort she gave to me is still here, in this world. And she would’ve wanted it that way.

Thank you.

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Categories: loss and grief

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