What Grandparents Teach Us About Life

Clockwise from the top: Granddad Eaker, Fred, Fred's mother, me, and Granny
Clockwise from the top: Granddad Eaker, Fred, Fred’s mother, me, and Granny

I am a woman who loves grandparents.

Fred teases me for my affinity for senior citizens, my obsession with the elderly, and my hunger for old stories of times gone by.

But, my depression era-born, war-surviving maternal and paternal grandparents and all their friends were my always heroes—because their lives spoke to what it meant to make something out of  nothing.

When Fred and I married in 2010, I was thrilled to be adopted into a family with two sets of living grandparents. Mine had passed away when I was still in high school and college, leaving an emptiness that made my heart hurt.

I became close with Fred’s grandparents on both sides, but was particularly fond of his Texan grandmother whose sharp wit and contagious laugh kept me in stitches. The affection that followed built a strong bond between us, and I was honored to officiate her funeral services this week when she left transitioned at the ripe age of 89.

Below is my tribute and our goodbye to Granny. May God grant us grace, that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow—hope, in death—resurrection.

Eulogy for Jackie L. Eaker, Monday, January 12th

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”[1]

 The first time I met Jackie, whom I knew as “Granny,” was at a North Carolina Family Reunion in the summer of 2009. Months prior to my engagement to her eldest grandson Freddy, Granny told my then-boyfriend, “If you don’t marry that girl, I’m gonna beat your butt!”

I was grateful for her endorsement and Freddy’s follow-through and even more grateful when, in the short five years that I knew her, I was blessed to know her humor, her strength, and the way in which she adored her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

You all knew Granny, too. You were her beloved family, friends, and neighbors. You knew the joyful exterior of a woman whose laugh was unforgettable, but also the tough interior of a woman who was a survivor—a woman who’d lost two sons, sisters and countless relatives—and a woman who’d conquered numerous health challenges. Jackie knew life’s ups and downs—but she always managed to end up on the side of a laugh.

Often, I’d call Granny from our Raleigh home just to chat. I know you all remember her uncanny ability for conversation. She’d ask me how life was going, encouraging both Freddy and me in whatever we were up to. We’d talk “Dancing with the Stars,” and of our mutual love of the Dollar Tree. She told me about the latest romance novels she’d borrowed from the library or the Hallmark movies she’d seen. She’d update me on news from the HLN TV network, and of course, fill me in on what I’d missed from Nancy Grace. Between caring for her dogs Bubba and Baby Bear, Granny even kept up with the Kardashians. She found happiness in the ordinary, and could put any of us at ease with a good story.

And here in Hampton, VA, where she and her husband Fred lived in this community for 48 of their 58 married years, Jackie had beloved friends who were like family. She loved her beauty shop ladies, the Women of the Moose, Sharon, her neighbor Gail, her friends Judy, Anita, and Anna Mae—and many, many more who formed the tight-knit family that poured out love and support for her—because she loved them in return. She enjoyed talking with her nieces from Texax as well as her friends, who were spread out across the United States. They brought her immense happiness because she was a person who loved people—and could make any difficult or stressful situation less so with her boisterous sense of humor.

At yesterday’s visitation, Freddy and I spoke with Fred and Jackie’s next door neighbor, Gail. We’d met Gail years ago, and loved hearing stories about her Corgis. Gail recalled the times when Jackie would open the kitchen window and holler, “Meet me at the fence!” where she would hand Gail a plate of hot dinner. As Gail so eloquently put it, “Jackie just had to cook an extra portion, and she just had to give it away to me.” It’s this kind of love and care—this generosity—that exemplifies Jackie.

Though this strong, caring, funny woman has physically left us, Granny will never leave our hearts.

Paul’s words in Romans 8 remind us that we are never isolated from the care of our Lord. He writes in verse 39: “For I am convinced that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.” Family and friends, because we can never be disconnected from God’s love, we will never be separated from Jackie—for she belongs to God. She is merely a prayer away, a story shared, or a memory of that unforgettable laugh.

Fred with his Granny on her 89th birthday
Fred with his Granny on her 89th birthday

Last October, her Freddy and I had the honor of celebrating her Granny’s 89th birthday with both her and Granddad. I remember thinking that day how blessed I felt to be a part of the Eaker Tribe—the one whose matriarch enjoyed trying new foods at her favorite buffet and gave big bear hugs every time you saw her.

The afternoon of her birthday, Freddy and I sat next to Granny on the couch and flipped through photos of her Vegas travels with beloved friends and heard stories about her winning jackpots. We made plans to take her to a casino for her 90th birthday this coming October—just so she could win big one more time.

But, the truth is, she’s already won, because she’s right where she belongs: at peace and at rest with her Creator. Though we miss her so badly it hurts, we are connected to her through our faith in God and our precious memories.

So, I encourage you today and in the weeks, months, and years to come, to “Meet Jackie at the fence.” Share hugs and stories, support one another. Pass her love and affection on to the next generation. Tell them about her legacy as a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—as a sister, aunt, cousin, neighbor, friend and community member.

Jackie’s spirit lives on through us. For, I am convinced that nothing will ever separate us from her love.

Amen.

[1] Matthew 5:4


2 thoughts on “What Grandparents Teach Us About Life”

    • Latisha:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

      It’s an honor to me that you read the post and that it connected with your personal story. May the Spirit send you comfort and strength in your grief journey.

      Warmly,
      Dana

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