In Billy Joel’s Master Class, he tells the story of explaining to his young daughter what death is. He told her that people never really die, they never really go away. Instead, when you die you go into other people’s hearts, and they take you on their journeys. In this way, no one ever really leaves us.
I really like that idea for the obvious reasons, but also because it’s so much easier to use someone else’s words when you can’t figure out what to say. If you know me you know I love words, but I don’t think I could ever find the right ones to define my grandma’s life. There are a handful that stick out: crafty, musical, hard-working, charitable, loving, but none of these can sum up who she really was.
She tried – emphasis on tried – to teach me to play the piano. My biggest regret, and I think one we all share, was not listening. There are only so many times you can play “Hot Cross Buns,” and only so many times the average person can listen to it, but Grandma wasn’t average. Just like how she never got sick of playing “Für Elise,” Grandma endured listening to us hit the wrong keys over and over because she wanted us to be on the same journey that she was: a quest to always be a better you.
She love music, singing, art, and I think she instilled that passion in all of us. Not necessarily for painting or piano, but she gave us the ability to develop a deep and enduring love for something. She taught us all a lot of things. For example, she taught me key words and phrases in French: bonjour, merci, au revoir, pamplemousse – that one’s grapefruit. She also taught me to call my grandpa “Tony” or “To-neeeee!” But most importantly she taught me to keep learning. The world is full of more than any one person can ever really take in, but it’s our responsibility to try.
Everyone here played a role in my grandma’s life: a caregiver, a friend, a son, a daughter, a husband, and you all gave her things so special, so dear, that they are irreplaceable. There is nothing left we can give to her now that she doesn’t already have in abundance where she is. But there is something we can do, though it may be more for ourselves. Carry my grandma around in your heart, bring her wherever you go, show her the world, take her on your journey, because she would want to see you keep learning, and she would never want to stop.