My last remaining grandmother died last week. It was fast; she went in her sleep the night after she’d been admitted to the hospital.
I delivered the eulogy, presented here in edited form:
Ladies, gentlemen, friends, and family:
We gather here today to mourn the loss of my Gramma, Jeanne Johanneson, but more importantly, we gather to celebrate her life.
Jeanne Olwen Gilliam was born March 24th, 19XX. Orphaned at a young age, she was raised by her aunt, Inez Kingdom, in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
During her nurse’s training, Gramma met George Johanneson, a soldier who had been wounded during the Second World War. They were married in Sussex, England, and moved to Canada, where they lived.
(If you don’t mind, from here on out, I’m going to call them Gramma and Grampa — I don’t recall ever calling them Jeanne or George in my life.)
Gramma was an avid gardener. Mom was always impressed by–not to say a little envious of–her flowerbeds, especially her roses. I remember one year when Gramma grew a rose in such a dark purple shade it might as well have been black.
She always seemed have a pet, too. At least one. She was partial to Siamese cats for reasons I don’t think I’ll ever understand — they seemed to like her, but I never got anything from them but grief. She was also fond of Welsh Corgis — the Queen’s dogs. I remember her little dog Taffy, playing endlessly with that slobbery ball of his. I also remember Rex, the first dog of hers that I can recall.
Gramma loved her British humour — Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Benny Hill, all the old classics. My sisters and I shared this enjoyment, though my dad doesn’t. My sisters and I would sometimes joke that maybe that particular gene skipped a generation.
A lot of my memories of Gramma centre on the Christmas season. I remember Gramma’s trifle — such a delicious dessert that I eventually learned to make my own — and what we refer to as Gramma tarts, which I’m informed are really “maid-of-honour tarts”, and the ham she’d cook. I remember the Christmas lights she had, the ones with water in them that would bubble once they’d got hot enough.
Gramma was a fan of the Royal Family, too. Sometimes it seemed like half the decorations in her house were green Wedgwood; half of what remained seemed dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and her family.
I still have the big black-and-yellow wool blanket that she bought in Wales for me when I was just a wee one. It’s great, and so-o-o‑o warm.
Jeanne Johanneson has gone on ahead of us, at the age of XX. She will be missed. She will always be loved.