Eulogy, Marie Taylor, 1918-2007

Good morning.  I am one of Nannie’s 11 ½ grand- and great-grandchildren.  I’m going to start by reading a letter to Nannie from her daughter, my aunt Linda…(Letter)

…Linda spoke the truth about her mom.  I volunteered to speak on behalf of Nannie’s grandchildren, and I know that we too shared the familiar physical and emotional presence of our grandmother in our lives that Linda just described.  We are a big, boisterous, vibrant and loving family, and Nannie was unquestionably our matriarch.  She has been a constant in all our lives, no matter where we’ve lived – though most of us have never lived too far away from her – and I know that my feelings of shock at her death are not exclusive.  While I am trying to represent a common love for Nannie up here, and some of my memories are shared, some are just mine.  I think this is the best way to try to represent the loss my cousins and I are all feeling, because we all had our own unique relationships with Nannie.

As I mentioned, the biggest feeling I have right now is one of shock.  Nannie was 89, and these last couple years were not the easiest on her physically and mentally.  Nonetheless, Nannie had a feistiness to her that seemed to indicate death would never be able to take her from us.  Even from her most recent bed in a nursing home, she coyly told my boyfriend and me that she’d always wished she’d been “tall, instead of just good-looking.�  This from a woman whose choice of footwear – hip purple Pumas sneakers – were much more stylish than anything I was turning up in to visit her. 

This shock is also due to the daily familiarity of Nannie in my life and my family’s lives.  It took an active effort on my part in the last bunch of years to realize that Nannie would not always be around, be at the dinner table with all of us, or in the car beside me headed to lunch or for shopping or a holiday dinner, as her age finally started to belie her permanence in my life.  I can’t wrap my head around the idea that she’s gone, because she has never been far from any of our daily lives.  Many of my friends have said to me this week, I remember your grandmother with us when we went on that adventure, or picking her up and taking her wherever with us.  As evidenced by the wake last night, there were apparently countless friends of our large, fortunate family who also felt Nannie was a warm and easy presence in their lives too.  She would have been pleased at last night’s turn out, as there’s nothing she loved more than socializing and sitting in the center of the activity around her.  I was always telling her, “Nannie, you’re very popular!�  And she would just smile, sort of demurely, but also sort of knowingly. 

So many of Nannie’s friends and acquaintances have mentioned this week how warm and friendly she was, how she always had a smile and kind words for people – one didn’t have to know her well or long to realize this about her.  More than that, she had a real interest in people’s lives and experiences.  Nannie was the best audience in my family for my trips and adventures.  “Isn’t that marvelous,� she’d croon when I showed her photos of my latest vacation or travel photos.   In exchange, she told me about her life growing up in Dorchester with her sisters, and then her husband and kids.  She told me how much she loved her friends and sisters and going out with them, the places and neighborhoods where they’d hang out, how much she loved working at Prudential, less so because of the job, but I think because she loved the activity and idea of working downtown everyday, because of the independence it afforded her, and no doubt because she probably had a million friends in her office after about 5 minutes there.  Her friends at Independence Manor last night told us how hilarious Nannie was; she had this way of dropping these one-liners that had us all exclaiming “Nannie!� and bursting into laughter.  And there’d be that innocent, knowing smile again.

The best part about Nannie’s feisty spirit was how it kept company with her elegance, as Linda put it, she was the essence of a lady.  Nannie is legendary in our family for being a clothes horse, for knowing how to shop well and how to stretch a budget – my mother remembers some of the best times as a kid as when her mother would come home from Jordan Marsh Dollar Day with the necessary socks and underwear, but also a skirt for her, a shirt for another, etc.  The staff at the nursing home told us they loved helping Nannie get ready, because her closet had so much to choose from.  She was always put together so well, and this was a source of pride for her, and for all of us.  I loved showing her off to my New York friends when she came to visit.  For better or for worse, Nannie has passed on this love of shopping to most of us. 

The other inheritance from Nannie that I have to mention, along with Linda, is how to be a strong woman.  No doubt largely because of her generation, I think Nannie believed that life didn’t always give her many choices.  But I think Nannie really made the most of what life delivered, relishing her single life with her sisters and friends, getting a business degree, serving as a local volunteer during WWII, doing her best to instill in her kids that there was a life out there for them beyond their immediate surroundings, and especially teaching her daughters that they could do anything and go after any opportunity.  She never learned to drive, but she traveled when she could, with her kids, and she was riding that van to the Plaza to shop for as long as she was physically able. And she lived through the adventures of her kids and grand-kids, listening to our stories and adventures, knowing our friends, and just always being there, whether we were down the Cape, in Connecticut or North Carolina.  I know that all of us feel pretty lost right now without Nannie, and I can’t imagine that feeling is going to dissipate anytime soon.  But one thing I’ve learned in big Irish families is that we keep each other close through the best and worst of times, even if laughter has to supplant the tears just so we can get by.  I also know that the best way we can honor Nannie is to keep her presence alive among us through our stories and memories and appreciation for how she loved us and lived among us all of our lives, from her eldest, my Uncle Michael to our newest addition, my 9-month old Cousin Kate.  The events of this past week have left me overwhelmed and awed, but immensely thankful for this family Nannie created for me and for all of us.  We have our work cut out for us to come to terms with this loss; she was the Queen of this family, and she’s irreplaceable, not only to us, but to every person whose life she touched in her 89 years.  We love you and miss you, Nannie. 


3 Responses to “Eulogy, Marie Taylor, 1918-2007”

  1. January 27, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful post. I’m sorry about Nannie; my Mam Mam passed away 5 years ago, and I still want to pick up the phone and call her sometimes. It’s such a special relationship that we were blessed to have. When I read of your Nannie’s purple shoes, it reminded me of another post that featured my grandmother that maybe you’d like:

    The House of Violets

    Hope this enriches your well-deserved time on the couch 🙂

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