My grandmother died last October at the age of 96. She was an amazing woman and a wonderful person. At the age of 89 she kept herself busy by "feeding the old people" at the local mission. In her last year, as she was losing her memory, the most important thing on her mind whenever we were at a family gathering was "who is driving me home", a question she would repeat every five minutes. Have been thinking about her today, and thought I would post the eulogy that was given at her funeral mass last year.
Who is driving Nonie home?
Yes, we’ve had a lot of laughs at Nonie’s expense over the years. And that’s probably because we realized early on in life that Nonie was not like the rest of us. I remember playing a game with my cousins when we were kids… one of us would pretend to be Nonie and the other would try to come up with something so terrible to make Nonie mad.
“Heh Nonie, I just robbed a bank”
“That’s okay dear, did you get home in time for dinner?”
And of course, the game would escalate from there, but whoever was playing Nonie would always have to stay cool, calm and collected – no matter how horrible the crime. And it’s not only that Nonie never seemed to get upset… you got the sense that she never took it upon herself to judge someone else’s life.
It wasn’t until many years later that we truly came to appreciate the life our grandmother chose to live. I remember one day in church, and my friend Lou asked me why I was smiling. And I said Lou – every time you turn the page of the Bible, there’s another story about my grandmother.
And it’s true. Whether she was being our babysitter, acting in a play, telling an old Irish riddle, feeding the old people or taking a shot at the pot with a jack and a deuce, our grandmother did it with love, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, humility, joy and self-control.
Now I don’t know a lot about heaven, but I do know two things. It’s a really cool place and Nonie is there. But I do have a picture in my mind of Nonie showing up at the Pearly Gates. And St Peter brings her over to the Book of Life, where Nonie sees that a seat has been reserved for her at the table, buttered roll and all. And Peter says, “I’ve got great news for you Nora Jack. You finished at the top of your class.”
“And what does that mean?” Nonie asks. And St. Peter says, “It means you can choose any job in heaven that you want, Nonie. You can be the one who turns on the stars at night. Or if you like, you can paint the daisies in the field.”
And Nonie replies, “If it’s alright with you Pete, I would be content to scrub the floors. And take out the trash. And polish the railings from time to time.”
And just then, there is a glorious sound as God himself comes down to the Pearly Gates. And he comes up and takes our grandmother in his arms and says “Welcome, my good and faithful servant.”
Then the Lord looks Nonie in the eyes and says, “There’s a lot of people you know who’ve been waiting to see you. How about I drive you home tonight”.