the only time you’re pronounced something is when you’re pronounced man and wife (or what have you), or when you’re pronounced dead…
…or so i’m told. but the bureau of vital statistics in austin, texas, only carries two types of paper work – death certificates and birth certificates. no marriage licenses. i’d originally called this bit “pronouncements” until i realized that it’s the last holla back bit before my birthday (juneteenth), and it’s about my grandmother’s funeral. what’s NOT mentioned is that it )the funeral) had been rescheduled more times than a concert tour during covid because of various commitments at the church my uncle insisted needed to be the place for the service, and since grandma had donated her body to science it’s not like we had to deal with a rotting corpse or something (admittedly a tacky way of phrasing that, but it’s been twenty years at this point). it was almost rescheduled yet again because of it’s proximity to my birthday, but i insisted that it wasn’t that big a deal and we really, really needed to get this thing over with. after i had improv eulogized my mom she asked me to speak at her service whenever it happened, so we got…
06/16/2002: “You Low, Gee…”
on the rare occasion i have to speak in public, i tend to go at it dry; kinda like when i’m fucking (TOTALLY kidding on that one, folks…but it DID get your attention, right??) no, i mean with no notes, and little if any mental preparation. i’ve always been pretty good at improv and a bit quick witted, so i just sort of wing it in most situations and do okay. i can be lazy like that sometimes. today was grandma’s memorial service, and i began preparing my speech while in the shower about 2:15. the service started at 3:00.
by the time i arrived at lockhart first united methodist (shudder) i had my stuff pretty much mentally prepared. i was all set until i saw my uncle arthur in the parking lot, and he had PAGES in his hand. LOTS of pages. like, “i couldn’t glance down quick and do a count” kinda pages. like, “i could hear the trees nearby weeping kinda pages. you may recall i mentioned he had planned to do a speech that covered my grandma’s entire ninety-five year existence that would be about half an hour minimum, which he DID do, and it contained the phrase, “my mother” approximately 2,467 times…but we all grieve in our own way and i believe this was therapeutic for him.
but if the “main act” is gonna run long, the “opening act” must take the hit; and with no note cards to line through, it meant i had to do some quick editing on the fly at the pulpit of the church i grew up going to but have avoided since i was old enough to know to do so. loooooong story there, so we won’t go into that. but here, i shall give you, the eulogy i had mentally scripted, with the usual running commentary, astrowhore style (i.e. in parentheses).
“we are hear to remember my grandmother, kay edwards. but we are not here to mourn her death; but rather, to celebrate her life. my grandmother was living proof that incredible things can come in very, very, very, VERY small packages (she stood barely five feet tall and rarely weighed over 110 lbs.) while it was no mystery that she did not attend college on a basketball scholarship, (i actually said that) nobody in our family stood taller when we all had to come to this exact building six and half years ago and say goodbye to my mother, her daughter, when she was taken from us by cancer at the age of fifty-five; FORTY years younger than grandma would be when she went to join mom only six weeks ago.
shortly after mom’s service, grandma pulled me aside and told me how proud and happy it made her to see me up at this very pulpit, offering kind words in my mother’s honor at what was undeniably the saddest day of my life; and using my “gift” (as she called it) of making people laugh and smile in a situation where laughing and smiling was at it’s most difficult. she then requested that when HER time came, that i would do the same for her, and that is why is stand here before you today.
despite her tiny stature, she was a strong, vibrant woman (know another one in the same height range right now, actually…equally as incredible) who never stopped giving to others, no matter what life handed her. she endured the great depression, two world wars, the premature losses of both her husband and her daughter, and also had to deal with the emotional stress and strain of trying to raise ME (picture what a joy THAT must have been).
i recall many a time she would tell us she was going out to the golden age home to visit with, and teach bridge to, the “old ladies” out there…many of which were ten to fifteen years her junior. she taught me to always see others point of view, take into account where they were coming from and what might lead them to think and act the way they do, and to react to and deal with them accordingly; but all the while to stand up for, and look out for, myself.
this, and the many other lessons she taught along her way through life, and the lives of all that she touched, will be her most lasting gift; and is how i will always remember her.
all of us will miss her dearly, and all of us thank you for coming.”
and i thank all of you for reading.