I went to mass on Friday night for All Saints’ Day. It was nine months to the day of my grandpa’s death. It was good and also hard. I held myself together until we were invited to place objects, photos, and food offerings for our dearly departed on the altar. Then everything went slow-motion and I sort of stopped breathing. I managed to light a candle and place a photo and one of the shells from his military honors on the altar. I got back to my pew and sat down and I was afraid I would start screaming. But my partner sat with me and held my hand and I managed to just cry a lot instead.
These were the readings.
And this was my photo:
Since technically today still falls within the Triduum of All Saints, I’m sharing the eulogy I preached for Grandpa’s funeral.
Delivered February 6, 2013 in Scotia NY
Thank you all so much for coming. It says a lot about who my grandpa was, to see that so many people have come out to remember him with us. My name is Aaron Scott, and we’re here today to celebrate the life of Leland F. Scott. You might also know him as the Mayor of Alplaus, the Legend of Mohawk Avenue, and the Man with the Million Dollar Smile. Lee Scott was my grandfather, the grandfather of my sister Kelly and my cousins Ashley and Lee. He was a father to my aunt Iris, my dad Ken, and my mom Greta. I’d venture a guess that he was like a dad to many of you here as well. Most importantly though, he was the husband of my grandmother, Mae West. I mean, Ivy. Surely you all can understand my confusion.
I hope you won’t think I’m disrespectful if I share a few jokes in this eulogy. I mean them to be a tribute. If you knew my grandfather at all, you’d remember him smiling a lot. You probably also remember a mischievous twinkle in his eye, his tremendous skill on the dance floor, and his love of laughter. When my grandparents were going together and considering marriage, my grandma turned to my grandpa one day and said, “But Lee, how will we manage? We don’t have any money. What will we live on?” He responded, “Don’t worry, Ivy. My uncle is heir to the Scott Toilet Paper fortune. We will never run out of toilet paper.” My sister and I are both pretty bad preacher’s kids. And church with Grandpa on Christmas Eve was our favorite service of the whole year, because his jokes during the boring parts of service were always the loudest and the funniest… and he was more likely to get away with it than the two of us. So I don’t think he’d mind if you all want to whisper some jokes on the side while I’m up here talking.
For all his charm and wit, though, he was never a show-off, or arrogant, or self-centered. He was as rock solid and as steady as they come. He was genuine. He always put other people before himself. He taught me a lot about integrity and discipline. He taught me a lot about what it means to serve– to serve your family, your community, and your country. He and my grandmother taught me how to be married. He always said, “Marriage is fifty-fifty.” That it’s a way of living life “shoulder to shoulder” with whoever you love. He taught me that love is mostly made of quiet daily actions, of paying attention to the details, of going out of your way to be careful and thoughtful so that others won’t have to worry. That love is in the big celebrations and the public pronouncements, but more often than that, love is in things like: showing up unannounced to your granddaughter’s first junior varsity basketball cheerleading event to videotape the entire thing [It’s the most boring home video we own, but it is full of love]. Love is carefully setting up all the kitchen chairs in a row to play the most convincing game of “airplane” possible with your grandson in the living room (or alternately, sitting patiently through one more round of dress up, or “beauty parlor” while your granddaughter jabs all of your wife’s curlers into your hair). Love is: when you can’t afford to buy your kid a shiny, sparkly new bike at the bike shop, you buy a used one, you clean and paint it up, and you spend a whole day teaching him how to ride it. Love is snow-blowing your neighbors’ driveways before they ever ask for help. Love is checking up on people when you haven’t heard from them in a while. It’s like my dad said: he was always the kind of guy who wanted to do things the right way. That’s how he showed people he loved them. What we heard in that reading from 1st Corinthians just now is precisely how my grandpa lived his life in love– patient and kind, not envious, not boastful, rejoicing in the truth.
He wasn’t himself at the end. And I want to make it clear that that doesn’t change a single thing about the man he was for the rest of his eighty-three years. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you go. It matters how you lived. We are here to remember how Lee Scott lived. Proverbs 10:7 tells us, “The memory of the righteous shall be a blessing.” The memory of my grandfather is a blessing, will always be a blessing.
I think he would want us to do two things in memory of him. I think he would want us, first, to do what is proper. To pay our respects, to acknowledge our loss and our grief, to give thanks for all the lives he touched, and to take very, very good care of one another in our sadness. I think he would be proud of us as his family, friends, and neighbors, to see what good care we are already taking of one another– and especially the thoughtfulness and the care that everyone has shown to his wife, my grandmother Ivy. And after doing what’s proper, I think he would want us to remember this: that there will be laughter again someday. My grandfather was so full of life, and mischief, and dancing, that I know that he would want us, when we are ready, to keep dancing. To keep laughing. To keep telling inappropriate jokes during church on Christmas Eve. He would want us to remember the good times. He would want us to keep telling the stories that he and my grandmother told all of us– the stories they lived with all of us. He would want us to live new stories, to tell new tall tales, and to teach these to our own children and grandchildren. He would want us to never stop learning and growing. The greatest gift he ever gave me was to come to mine and Shelly’s wedding, and to dance with us. Knowing that we had his blessing and his love changed me. It made me a better person. He has made many of us here into better people. That, along with his laughter, is how we should always remember him. Thank you.