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On My Grandmother’s Birthday, an Opportunity for Connection

June 15, 2012

Five years ago today, my grandmother’s family and more than 100 friends gathered on her 93rd birthday to celebrate her life. And to mourn her death. Yes, her funeral fell on her birthday.

She would have loved it. All those people, there just for her.

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I love this picture of my Grandma Sara — with my kids and my mom (Sara’s DIL), celebrating her 92nd birthday. She loved being the center of attention.

Sara Buzgon was, to put it mildly, “a character.” Quite self-absorbed, quite less than self-aware, she commanded attention by speaking loudly, by keeping her teased hair dyed an unnatural shade of red, and by relentlessly calling on her conscripted cadre of drivers to get her out of the house at least once a day.

She knew just about everyone in our hometown, and just about everyone knew her. She drove them crazy, and they drove her … to lunch.

From childhood, my relationship with her was somewhat conflicted. Her manner and style and interests were so different from mine that it could be hard to relate. As I grew older, it became more important to me to find common ground. I created new ways to connect with her, mostly by eliciting fascinating stories of her youth and young adulthood. Still, I often had to work hard to keep my eye-rolling at bay.

So when my dad asked me to deliver a eulogy, I balked. What would I say? How could I be honest and still honor her?

I gave in to my father’s pleas. I sat down with my laptop and started writing, with no idea what would emerge.

It was one of the most healing, cathartic things I have ever done.

I was amazed, as I wrote, that so many of her quirks spilled out onto the screen. But instead of holding them with the embarrassment and disdain that I felt when I was younger, I held these eccentricities with love and compassion.

My words miraculously came out as an honest, humorous portrait of an outsize woman who, for example, never said goodbye at the end of a phone conversation. When she was done saying whatever it was she had to say, she abruptly hung up — whether the person on the other end of the line was done talking or not. And the funeral crowd knew exactly what I meant. When I asked them what sound signaled a conversation with Sara was over, they all said in perfect unison: “Click.” My speech was met with more giggles and knowing nods than I ever would have imagined.

A couple of years ago, I accidentally deleted a bunch of files from my computer. I’m only now realizing that the eulogy must have been among them. I’ve been tearing apart my house looking for a hard copy, still to no avail. I’m a little sad that today I don’t have it. It would have been a nice way to reconnect. But, come to think of it, so is this.


Coach’s Query

Eulogizing my grandmother — quirks and all — created unexpected healing for me. In what unexpected places have you found healing? Where might you look to create an opportunity for healing?

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