Nonfiction

A Eulogy

My grandmother died a couple of weeks ago at age 95, and my youngest brother Ben Grimes gave this eulogy at her funeral. It was so good, I wanted to post it.

It was a bit of a joint effort among him, my brother Sam Grimes, and me. It was more my brothers’ work than mine, and they did a great job on it. They don’t have hastily-assembled WordPress websites, though, so I’m the one posting it.

A Eulogy for Catherine Grimes

The first thing that was readily apparent if you knew my grandmother for more than five minutes—and if you met her you knew her for more than five minutes, because she did not have short conversations—is that she loved people. She genuinely cared for them, and that’s a rare quality. If you heard my grandmother describe someone else, you’d think they were the King of England. I’m a little embarrassed to think about how she might have described me to some of you. She would sometimes make laudatory claims about me that were not strictly true. But she did the same to everyone. She wasn’t critical of people behind their back. She was always effuse with praise. Moreover, she was remarkably forgiving. She did not hold onto grievances, because she believed people were essentially good. Sometimes, I must admit, I would try to bait her into criticizing someone who might have wronged her in the past. Every time I did that, she would always respond profoundly to my good-natured goading. She would say “We have to put those things in the book of forgetfulness.” This phrase was indicative of how she treated people. And she was trying to impart to me the value of a forgiving nature and not to hold onto bitterness.

Another prominent quality of Grandmother’s was her creativity, and part of her creativity was in her spontaneity. Once when I was young, I visited on a day when her Garden Club had a flower arranging contest with various categories. Grandmother had not planned to enter, but on our way to the meeting, she got a cup from her china cabinet. She went out in her yard and picked up what looked like a bunch of weeds. Wild strawberry, small flowers etc. She said, “We won’t win anything, but I thought we should enter something.” When we checked that afternoon, she had won second place. Things like that happened to grandmother all the time. As she used to say, she was a “get-by grandmother.” The last time I spoke to her, I called myself a “get-by.” She remembered that phrase, and said, “You got that one from me because I’m the original get-by.” She knew she was much more than that, but she meant that she was a fun, spontaneous person who cared more about enjoying life than she did about what people might have thought.

Finally, grandmother was extremely wise and had an uncanny intuition. She was always trying to teach us lessons as children. It’s odd, when we would spend the night—she’d tell us stories she made up about “the deep, dark forest,” where strange friendships formed among the forest creatures. Her house was surrounded by the woods, and in the summer it was filled with the chorus of crickets. You really felt as if you were in the deep dark forest. But before she’d tell us the stories, she’d read to us the verses printed on your program from the book of Ecclesiastes. Now let me say, these are not the happiest verses in the Bible. In fact, they can be quite disconcerting. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how odd it was that when I was five, she’d start off my bedtime by telling me there was a time to be born and a time to die (which was not what I really wanted to hear at the time).  A time to mourn and a time to celebrate. But she had a strong belief that the world was working towards good ends and that God had created the world to be fundamentally ordered. It was her own version of the natural law. I attribute this belief to her positive outlook which was radiant to everyone around her. Though we mourn her death today, I ask you to join in celebrating her life by remembering your own stories of her. Thank you.

 

Poems

Marrying the Bear and Women’s Studies

These poems appeared in Salt Hill.

“Marrying the Bear” is a retelling of a beautiful Nez Perce story about a man who marries a pretty girl who turns out to be (yes) a bear, an arrangement that turns out to be more dangerous for the bear. You get where I’m going with this.

“Women’s Studies” is a very short history of womankind + an acknowledgement that different generations of women misunderstand each other.