Monday, September 20, 2010

Saying goodbye to Granny

On September 9, 2010, a wonderful woman left this world. Mary Jane Chisler Neville - a.k.a. Granny - was born on April 5, 1925. She raised seven children, including the mother of my dear husband, and was loved by all who knew her.

While I have only known her for about eleven years, I felt genuinely loved by her and I truly loved her too. She will be missed greatly.

The week following her death, I took on a rather large project that I had been meaning to do for some time, but hadn't gotten around to. Back in 2001, her daughter, Judy, and daughter-in-law, Linda, sat down and interviewed her about her life. They video taped it, and transcribed it and turned it into a book that they distributed to the family members. I'm so thankful that they did that, because by the time I got around to trying to interview Granny (and I had been meaning to for some time) much of her memories had already left her.
Anyway, after my failed attempt, I found out about the book, and they gave me the original video. This was really a priceless gift to me because while the book was great, and I enjoy reading the stories, actually watching her tell the stories with her fun, cute personality... amazing.
Of course, the video was just raw footage. On VHS tapes. I thought it would be neat to have it converted to digital and make DVDs for anyone who wanted it. I SHOULD have started the process as soon as I got the tapes, but that didn't happen. I waited until she passed, and then I felt I couldn't wait any longer.
I found a VERY helpful friend who had the technology and was willing to convert the tapes to digital for me. (THANK YOU SO MUCH CURTIS!)
Then I started the process of editing. The audio wasn't quite as loud as I wanted, but I figured out how to separate the audio from the video and amplify it. The trouble was, it was trickier then I thought it would be to put them back together. So, that was frustrating... and time consuming...
Then we ran into some problems with getting the DVDs burned. The stupid program that came free with our computer let me get through the whole aggravating process of making the video exactly how I wanted it... and THEN told me that in order to actually finish it, I needed to upgrade to the full version. Nice.
Anyway, after we finally got all that figured out, and I missed about a week of sleep, the video was finished. Just hours before we left to go to the funeral. I didn't get very many copies made, so if you want one, please let me know!

But, even though it wasn't easy, I'm SO glad that I did it. I learned so much about who Mary Neville was. She grew up during the depression and didn't have much, at all. They were happy if they had some potato soup and a little bread for dinner. Her mother made her clothes out of flour sacks. Once, they waited for HOURS in line for government issued shoes, only to get to the front of the line to find out that all they had was BOY'S BOOTS. Mary and her sister cried the whole way home, but they had to wear them because that was all they had. She never had a Christmas before she met her husband.
She worked in an airplane factory during World War II. That's where she met her husband, Russell.
She was so very strong and survived so much. A rare, amazing woman.

The funeral was held on Saturday, September 18. The one thing that I enjoy about funerals is that it's a big family reunion. We saw family members that we hadn't seen in years. But, it was of course a very sad, difficult day. Granny's favorite color was purple, so there was a lot of purple being worn. All the girls had a corsage made of tissue paper, and everyone was given purple beads to wear.
Brandon was given the job of being Grampy's escort. Basically making sure he stayed upright. So, I was on my own with the kids. (Nothing new for me, really)

I was surprised at how emotional my kids were. Before the funeral started, during the viewing, Ady and I were sitting together. She told me that she wanted Granny to get up and dance. Granny did talk about dancing in the video, but I've never seen her dance. I don't know where Ady got that from. But she was very insistent. So, I talked to her about what it means to die, and about spirits and resurrection. It's a very hard thing to explain to a four-year-old. And she cried and cried. All I could do is hold her. She asked to see Granny, so I took her up to the casket and let her look in. Some well-meaning relatives (and I really know they only were trying to help, so please don't think I'm upset with them) told her that Granny was sleeping. That just confused her more, and we started the whole process over again. She kept asking me if Granny was sleeping in heaven.

Then, the actual funeral began. It was good. Not quite what I expected, but good. Zona, my mother-in-law, read a letter she had written to her mother several years ago for Mother's Day. I had held it together pretty well... until then...
At the end, they asked if anyone wanted to come up and say anything. Zander told me that he wanted to go up. Maybe I should have let him, but my first reaction was to tell him no. And then he started to cry. A LOT. So, I asked him what he wanted to say, and he just said he didn't know. And cried, and cried. He didn't really stop crying until we were in the car, 15 or 20 minutes later.

So, needless to say, it was a very emotionally draining day.
Afterwards, we all went back to Grampy's house for a dinner. I was AMAZED at how much food was there. I don't know where it all came from. One of the stores that Zona works with donated quite a bit. I think most of the people that came brought something. There was plenty to go around, and quite a bit left.

The kids had fun playing with all their cousins. We enjoyed visiting with relatives that we haven't seen for many years.

The burial was held on Monday. I didn't go, but Brandon and Ady went. I'm very glad that they did. Brandon took our camera and asked his dad to take pictures. I really appreciate it. I'm glad that we have some documentation of the event. But, most of the pictures I feel are very personal, and I don't think it would be appropriate to post them here. (If anyone - family members - would like to see them, you can contact me)

Farewell Granny. We love you!