Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We Say Goodbye to Grandma Fulton

Its been a hard week around here.  On her 91st Birthday, Grandma Fulton died.  We all knew it was going to happen however she was one of those people who was healthier than most 70 years olds and I thought she might live forever.  You can read her obituary here.  
Brian and I were part of the planning of her funeral and we all participated.  I read a poem that Gram has tucked away in her files called The Dash.

The Dash

by Linda Ellis copyright 1996
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of allwas the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 
If we treat each other with respectand more often wear a smile,remembering that this special dashmight only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

Then Alaric not only read but MEMORIZED a bible verse from 2nd. Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Then Brian and his sister, Anita gave the most beautiful Eulogy.
We are here to celebrate the life of our grandmother, Eleanor Fulton.  We have reminisced on stories, adjectives and attributes to describe Gram.  While there are plenty of ways to describe El, the one prominent and pervasive item was an unconditional and undying love for Coal City. 

One of the first things Gram would do when she met someone was tell them she was from Coal City.  When I began work in Chicago, she learned that I had a colleague from Coal City.  She instructed me to be sure and share with this individual that I too was from Coal City (I had to break it to Grandma that I had never lived here).

She spoke with great pride of the civic contributions of her father Thomas Berta, a local business man, land owner and school board president.  In 1922, she was born in Coal City where she resided her entire life.  Grandma was a historian of Coal City.  As we prepared her obituary we came across a story of a bank robbery.  Listed were the date, location and individuals involved.  She even noted how she was familiar with them.  Also, amongst her historical documents were hundreds of pictures.  Included in those pictures are faces of life-long friends including Betty Born and Vivian Finn who she was fortunate enough to reconnect with in the last few weeks of her life.

The friends she had in grade school were many of the friends she had throughout her life.  These were the people she would have as neighbors, raise her children with and play thousands of card games.  Grandma’s circle of Coal City friends would grow to include implants from as far away as South Dakota, like Marion Born, the Bakers and Dee Baumgarten to name a few.  Her friendship was so deep with these individuals,  that when she mistakenly called Glenn Baker to have him come over to scare off an intruder, who was actually her husband Sam, he raced over with a shotgun and she found herself giggling late into the evening retelling the story with her friends.  Our dad and uncle tell us grandpa didn’t think it was quite as funny! 

Grandma was raised in a home where church was not a high priority.  She would often attend church as a child with her aunt.  On April 13, 1941 at the age of 19 Grandma expanded her community and was baptized and joined this church, New Hope Presbyterian.  She would serve as trustee, chairperson of the Woman’s association and choir member.  Even late into her life she would find herself challenged by bible study groups and verses.  Through it all grandma developed a very strong belief in what god would see as right and wrong.  If she believed what you were doing was not right, even if you were the pastor, she would let you know!

In 1949 in this same church, Eleanor married Sam Fulton, and that was the beginning of their own family’s story.  Family had always meant a lot to Grandma. My sister has already related how close Gram was to her father.  She was also extremely fond of her mother, Clara, who passed away far too early, but was still a shining example to grandma of what a mother should be.  Grandma had two siblings, her sister, Mary, and her brother, Tom.  Mary would describe Eleanor as the “boss”, but would have her revenge when she “unintentionally” provided El with oil instead of vinegar to rinse her hair prior to a dance.  As Mary twirled past her sister, she mentioned to her partner the pungent odor of salad.  But the truth is that Mary and El were the best of friends.  They would stand with each other at their respective weddings, and would be constant companions throughout their lives. Mary’s husband, George Enrietta, was already an extention of her immediately family as a long time employee of the Berta Lumber Yard and would quickly become another brother to Eleanor. Both Grandma and Mary would assist in the care of their brother Tom, who despite severe disability, Grandma described as a genius with numbers, memorization, and Bingo.

Grandpa Sam and Grandma built their relationship over many years.  While cleaning out Grandma’s  apartment we found at least a dozen letters that Grandpa wrote to Grandma while serving in the army during World War II.  Grandpa was a quiet force in their home and a man of few words.  However, their love and dedication was apparent to all of us as Grandpa developed Alzheimers and had to be placed in a nursing home.  For eight years, Grandma would go to the nursing home every single day to share a meal with her husband.

Sam and Eleanor had two sons, their oldest Bobby….sorry dad, shared many of the same traits as his father and was her most responsive son.   Grandma was very proud of dad’s success in school, the CPA and business.  She leaned on him for financial advice and guidance and cherished her time with him and his family including Bob’s wife, Chris, who  Grandma would introduce as Bobby’s fiancé after they had only been dating a few months.  Their youngest, Tommy, was less responsive but loved every bit as much.  Gram would describe the twinkle in his blue eyes as he got into mischief.  She admired his commitment to this community and the kindness he showed to its citizens and his friends.

Gram loved her grandchildren (can you blame her?).  Grandma was a very independent woman, that worked for more than 30 years outside of the home.  She was very proud of my sister Anita, who shares those independent qualities and moved to the big city to make a name for herself.  She just worried that Anita might starve to death because she did not learn to cook.   Grandma and I were close.  Grandma enjoyed my thoughtful and caring nature and my kind heart.  We shared our recipes, as I can cook, and we talked about her hopes and concerns for the future.  Grandma admired my ability to marry a Presbyterian .  She loved my wife Katie as though she was her own.

Let’s just face it everyone, every single person previously mentioned and those of you she loved who we have not discussed took a GIANT step back in the pecking order with the arrival of her two great grandchildren, Alaric and Amara.  While I can admit these children are not the most precious, angelic individuals on a daily basis, grandma would never have found a single fault in anything they have ever or will ever do!  Remember we are talking about a woman who would tell a pastor they have done something wrong! 

As we stated at the beginning, Grandma’s greatest love was Coal City.  A part of that love was the buildings, businesses, and streets of this little community, but the greatest source of that love was the people and how they related to her city, Coal City.  She loved each and everyone of us from the bottom of her heart.  And as we lay her body to rest today, the greatest tribute we could provide for her memory is to love one another and share a story or two of your love for Eleanor and this community.  We love you Grandma.

Those parts, combined with an incredible job by the pastor, proved to be one of the most touching and personal funerals I've ever been to.  

It was beautiful.  We miss you already, Gram!

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