I was honored to give the eulogy at my dear grandmother’s funeral last month. Friends and family who were unable to make it to the funeral have requested to read it, so I’ve decided to share it here. I will never forget the cathartic, healing process of writing this in the days following her passing, and sharing these thoughts with those who loved her so deeply. I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.
February 16, 2012
Since our beloved Pat passed away last Sunday, the concept of legacy has been on my mind. A legacy is something that is passed on from an ancestor or predecessor. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Pat would quickly deny she set out to leave any sort of legacy. With genuine modesty, she would insist that “legacy” was too grand a word.
But I ask Grandma Pat and all of you to bear with me for a moment. After all, the longest lasting legacies aren’t always planned or premeditated; instead, they are built slowly and steadily… day by day, act by act.
Pat’s legacy is right here, in this room. It resides deep inside our hearts and souls. If you are here today, it is because Pat touched your life in some way. At last night’s memorial, we heard stories about Pat’s powerful presence as a person— a combination of Doris Day and Lucille Ball as my aunt so aptly put it— the way she walked into a room and just lit it up. We recalled of some of her unforgettable sayings like “a cat from every alley” and “everything needs salt.” We were reminded of how Pat’s competitive streak revealed itself during shuffleboard and croquet matches. We each have our own stories about Pat. Likewise, the impact she made on each of our lives is unique.
In talking with Pat’s family and friends over the past few days, a resounding theme emerged: love. Pat was such a loving person. And she translated this love into action. Each time she made soup for a sick friend or family member, each time she offered her mass for someone special, each time she brought a bud vase with a beautiful flower to a friend, each time she tutored a young student, each time she stood up for what was right, she modeled how to live a life of love. For many, Pat was a refuge, a trusted confidant, known for her keen listening skills and her readiness to offer a pearl of insight when it was needed.
Pat was gifted with the ability to cut through superficial boundaries and find common ground, to accept and to truly understand those around her. What’s even more impressive is that she regularly took the time to do this, while bringing communion to friends in nursing homes, chatting over coffee after daily mass with her dear friends, calling and visiting with family members, and serving her church community in numerous ways. Pat knew how to connect with people and how to connect people with one another, and she used this gift throughout her life, most recently at The Glenn, where she introduced long time friends to people who were new to the area, facilitating friendships and fostering a sense of community.
These seemingly simple day-to-day actions have engendered something so profound, so meaningful, that we were all compelled to gather here today to celebrate this admirable woman’s life.
The English term legacy finds its roots in the Latin legatus meaning “ambassador or envoy.” How fitting. While Pat was living her life and building her legacy, she was also creating ambassadors in each of us, calling us to live lives of love.
Over the past year, I had the privilege of helping Grandma Pat write her memoir. A vibrant woman who grew up in Wadena, Minnesota, moved to the Twin Cities to study nursing and then work as a nurse, married one of the first neurosurgeons in Minnesota, raised 5 wonderful children, traveled the world, and maintained many great and lasting friendships, Grandma had her fair share of fascinating tales.
As I recorded our interview sessions over the past year, I learned many things about Grandma Pat. It will come as no surprise that her memoir is completely focused on her wonderful relationships, the relationships she had with all of you. Toward the end of the project, I asked her to describe her life in a single paragraph. This is not an easy task, but Pat approached it with grace and honesty, just as she lived her life. I want to share with you what she said. As we celebrate the life of Patricia Breher Blake, I hope her own words bring you both peace and joy.
“I have truly enjoyed every phase of my life and I consider myself to be a happy person. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for many things. Raising my family, going on trips with Paul, spending time with my friends and enjoying our reciprocal love. I’ve enjoyed my volunteer work at all stages. I am enjoying retirement and my life now. I love spending time with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, watching them all progress so beautifully in their lives. My heart is filled with gratitude for life’s many blessings.”