Joy in remembering
by Lexiann Grant
Today, I’m sharing with you excerpts from the eulogy I gave for my uncle in September. Because he and I were the last of our family, there were no relatives left with whom to recall his life. So I invite you to meet my uncle, someone you may have enjoyed knowing.
Maybe you’ve lost a special family member or close friend with whom there was no one else to reminisce. Or, like myself, maybe there were few with whom you could share your grief, particularly during these isolating times. In the comment section below if you like, please share with me and our readers a treasured memory about your loved one gone before that you wish others could know.
Hast thou been a friend? Hast thou lived in the light? Is there one upon the earth who is glad thou hast lived?
These are some of the questions believed by ancients to have been asked in the afterlife hall of judgment. The questions go on to ask how one’s life was lived, if it was a life of integrity, sincerity and steadfastness.
My uncle’s life was assuredly those things. He lived the spiritual principles in which he believed, an example of quiet, solid faith.
He didn’t want to make anyone mad and as a result was seldom angry, resolving issues quickly. He loved and supported family and friends, sacrificing years to care for his mother. He loved his country, and respected his colleagues.
I had two heroes in my life, and he was one. Besides personal integrity, his intellect was inspiring. Jack Hanna of Columbus Zoo fame said that “you have to touch the heart to teach the mind,” and my uncle did that. Through him I grew to love science, classical music, exploring, and learning. He taught me to question, to think analytically, to look at all things from different perspectives but remain true to facts.
For fun we made glow-in-the-dark liquid in the laundry room, hunted fossils and arrowheads. He taught me how to swim, ride bikes, to play miniature golf.
He’d read “Jabberwocky” aloud to intrigue imagination:
“ ‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’ He chortled in his joy.”
After the wife for whom he searched for decades had passed, and he and I were the only family remaining, after he no longer provided care for anyone, he didn’t know what to do. He felt adrift, without purpose. In his final week he said he was “weary of all this.” He missed meaning in his life.
But his life had purpose and meaning even through the end. The staff in his assisted living facility loved him and enjoyed his wry sense of humor. Our daily conversations gave me joy.
We shared memories of trips, days-long monopoly games, getting lost under the streets of Chicago, washing escargot shells in the fountain of a five-star restaurant. He enjoyed hearing about the bear, fox and coyote we sometimes spotted in our woods, always responding with a loving admonition to be careful.
For myself and others his life offered meaning to us in our efforts of listening or personal care, all holy tasks when performed with love.
He had an enormous, positive impact on my life, and on the lives of his family, friends and colleagues. He was one of those special people who made the good parts of others better. Those who knew him were, are better for having known and been loved by him. That was his purpose.
It’s worthwhile that his legacy be shared beyond my life. Know that once there was a good man who: was an undefeated chess player; dated a Radio City Rockette; was a physics student under the professor who later worked on the U.S. government’s UFO project; was a code writer and breaker in the military during WWII; and, whose favorite food was chocolate ice cream.
“Did you find joy? Did you bring joy?” Leo Buscaglia paraphrased the judgement questions for the dead. Yes he did.
I mention joy several times in honoring my uncle. Theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Has thou been a friend? Hast thou lived in the light? Is there one upon the earth who is glad thou hast lived?
Yes. We can remember and be grateful we were so blessed.
How will any of us follow our loved ones’ examples? How will those we leave behind answer these questions of us?
Live with purpose, even if it becomes just listening or loving. Enjoy each small moment. Give of your talents generously. Honor those gone before who helped mold who you are today.
Godspeed to eternal joy beloved ones.
Lexiann Grant is a retired writer & author, a former chalice bearer and lay reader, but still an Episcopalian who enjoys encountering God in the mountain backcountry.