Tomorrow is her birthday

I have been asked countless times to share the words that I spoke at Mimi’s funeral service. While the words were written and delivered almost 5 months ago, I still haven’t been able to share them outside of that church sanctuary. Tomorrow Mimi would have been 87 years old. I always thought it was so special that she was a Valentine’s Day baby. It suited her well. She was so full of joy to everyone around her.

This year, Valentine’s Day seems a little duller. The colors are muted. The candy doesn’t taste as sweet. I could barely even bring myself to pickup a couple treats for my own kids. This year the holiday that I have always loved, stings and I am reminded again of the hollow shell that she once filled.

So, in honor of her birthday, I am finally sharing the words that I delivered for her eulogy last September.

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Good afternoon. In case you don’t know me, my name is Sabrina and I am one of Lyn’s granddaughters.

My grandmother, or Mimi, as we called her, was my person. She taught me so much just by allowing me to walk alongside her through life. I spent 37 years looking up to her. When I was little, she was the one who gave the best snuggles, took me to Sunday school, fed me corn dogs with mustard, made homemade lemonade and let me wear her big bunny slippers when I spent the night. As I grew older, I came to love her and respect her even more deeply because of the remarkable person that she was.

My grandmother raised me traveling. It was one of our favorite things to do together and we started when I was young. Almost every summer of my childhood, I would go to Colorado with my grandparents. My memories of these long roadtrips include reading in the backseat of their cadillac, stopping at historical markers, enjoying picnic lunches and spending the night in small hotels all over the southwest. I also remember laughing. A lot. There was one hotel in particular that brought us so many giggles over the years as we thought back to it. This particular hotel was very, very small. The room was equipped with two twin size beds that were pushed up against the walls and a tiny nightstand jammed in between them. With Mimi and Grandaddy in one bed and myself in another, the room was so small that we could reach out and touch each other while we were laying in bed. And after a long day of travel this was utterly hilarious. After the lights went out, Mimi and I got into a fit of giggles that we couldn’t stop. And every time Grandaddy would scold us to pipe down, Mimi and I would just laugh harder.

When I was a teenager, Mimi and I thought it would be fun to ride to California on the Amtrak. We had this tiny little sleeping car with bunk beds that folded out at bedtime. Being the younger, more nimble one, naturally I got the top bunk. It was a tight fit even for a scrawny teenager. When you laid down on the top bunk, there was only a few inches of clearance between your nose and the ceiling. Mimi and I broke into laughter every time I had to get in or out of bed because I basically had to roll to one side and hurdle myself out of the tight quarters like a gymnast sticking a landing. Our days on the train were spent in the lounge cars drinking lemonade, making new friends, laughing and her teaching me the ever-important life skill of how to plan Gin Rummy. I spent the rest of that trip beating Mimi at her own game. As a child, I wasn’t aware of this at the time but looking back now, I know that this was one of the first trips she look after my grandaddy passed away. And she chose to take it with me. I was her travel partner.

When I went off to college, our adventures got bigger. Three of my four college spring break’s were spent traveling with Mimi, first to Seattle, then to Mexico and my senior year we went to Hawaii. Think about it, how many college kids do you know who choose to spend their Spring Break with their grandmother? That was us though. We loved to travel together. And when we weren’t traveling together we were planning our next trip. She raised me traveling and made sure that I inherited her heart of wanderlust. In fact one of her favorite sayings about our relationship was that one of us would mention a new trip and the other’s response would be, “When do we leave”?

The last big trip the two of us went on together was in 2010 on a 10-day cruise through the Hawaiian islands. I was 5 months pregnant with my second child and Mimi was 79 at the time. You should have seen us together putzing around the ship. We were quite the pair. I might not have been able to enjoy cocktails and she might not have enjoyed walking but wouldn’t you know, we had a fabulous time.

That was our relationship though. We just enjoyed being together. It didn’t matter how big or small the occasion, just sitting and talking to one another was enough. Mimi was a permanent fixture in my life. She attended all the birthday parties, recitals, choir concerts and awards ceremonies. She took me to look at colleges, helped decorate my first apartment, went with me to shop for a wedding dress and was there when my first child was born. She knew and loved my friends from childhood to adulthood. When she met and got to know my husband, she fell in love with him alongside of me and told me on numerous occasions that if I didn’t marry him, she would. Mimi spent the last 12 years encouraging me as a wife and mom and loving on all three of my children. I spent every Christmas of my entire life with her except one.

One of the most important things I learned from my grandmother was the value of hard work. Over the years I have heard many stories of how hard she worked to support three young children as a single mom. And about the many political campaigns she rallied behind. And she was always running off to a meeting for one of the various organizations that she was dedicated too. And I can’t tell you how many times she mentioned that she was responsible for lobbying to get sidewalks put into Bunker Hill. All of these stories became embedded in me.

I looked up to Mimi and if she worked hard then I wanted to work hard too. When I had a hard time my freshman year of college her example encouraged me to keep going until I found my stride. Her work ethic was instilled in me when I had to work 3 jobs to help fill the gaps on expensive college tuition. Her enthusiasm and support helped me later as I climbed the corporate ladder and then decided to leave it all behind to become a stay-at-home mom.

I cannot talk about my grandmother without mentioning her faith. Mimi was active in her church, was a prayer warrior and she was deeply in love with Jesus. She was always studying the bible in one way or another and despite several deeply painful times in her life, her faith in God remained strong. Five years ago when her health took a turn, our conversations began to circle around family and Jesus and the things that really matter. I had always been aware of her faith and involvement in the church when I was younger, but as an adult her love of the Lord became very evident to me. Just a couple months ago, Mimi was so tired from the chemotherapy and she asked me what I thought she was meant to be doing at the end of her life. She said that years ago, she knew what she was meant to devote her time and efforts too. And when she moved into the Buckingham she knew her role was to build community and encourage others. And then Mimi said, “But now I am so tired and don’t feel like I have anything left to give. I am not sure what God wants me to be doing right now”. Even in the end, she had a heart to serve her Lord. She didn’t feel complete when she wasn’t serving others in some way. It brings me so much joy to know that she is finally at rest alongside both her beloved husband and her Savior Jesus.

Our family has a big hole with Mimi gone. It will never be filled. She will never be replaced. But she leaves behind a family that loves her, a community that thanks her and hundreds of friends who will miss her dearly. She leaves us a legacy of compassion, service, grace, friendship, faith and laughter. And I know that more than anything she would want us to move forward with joy and carry on that legacy.

Mimi was my person. And while she is not here anymore, my life is forever changed because of her. I am certain that I would not be the woman that I am today without my grandmother. I will carry her with me everyday and on every adventure. And while there will be some tears, there will mostly be smiles for all of the amazing memories I have of such an incredible woman.