The Edinburgh Fringe Festival started on August 4th for me. Ever since then, my life has been waking up, catching a bus (where the seats don’t recline) for an hour and twenty minutes to Edinburgh, strategically maneuvering myself through people who lack walking etiquette up to the Royal Mile (a place as busy as Times Square), flyering and promoting my shows with classmates (who are either enthusiastic about doing so or negative about doing so) and then of course, performing in the shows I just advertised. Once the show is over and I’ve returned my costume to its hanger, I return to my routine of walking back to the bus station before it gets too late and I sleep or read on the way home. I’ve done this almost every day now for the past 2 and a half weeks. Yes, the trip is consistent, but I notice every day, how much the people aren’t.
When I’m at the bus station, I tend to either just get on a bus, or I have to wait for one, but regardless, there is always a bus to catch. The people who get on that bus are different, however. The types of people who board and later leave a bus are innumerable. They all have histories and baggage which I’m sure would fill that space under the bus a million times over. But that’s not what I initially see when I board the bus with them. No. Instead I see a person who can’t move out of my way quick enough for me to get to the seat I want near the front. Or I see a person who I’m praying will sit next to me instead of the old woman who I’m quite sure might try to spark a conversation with me. Sometimes, I don’t see them at all because I’m looking out of a window thinking about how afraid I am that I will not be a successful actor one day as I’m sure many of my classmates will be.
Regardless of what I see, again, all of us have in common the fact that we are passengers with stories. Before we get on that bus, we live a story and we will continue to live our stories after we get off the bus. Do we affect each other while we ride? Sometimes we do. On a bus ride earlier this week, a man kept going to the bathroom to smoke a cigarette. He made me short of breath and angry. But I was also sitting near the bathroom. The people in the front of the bus may not have felt his affect at all. Occasionally, on a journey, I am affected. I expect to be affected in some way…to make my journey memorable. Who knows…I might actually affect someone else. This all being said, I am reminded of something my grandmother said to me a while ago. She used to tell me that life was like a bus. People get on and people get off, but we all take a journey. The only thing that will eventually stop us is when we reach our destination. But even then, we start another journey. I think of those words and realize how much I miss her, and how right she was. Her journey ended, but I’m sure she’s begun a new life in Heaven as an angel. And then I think of all the children and grandchildren she left behind and I think if she finished her journey, maybe us, the children, are actually the ones who continue it. That is what I will do. I will push myself to continue on this bus ride that is my life, while remembering the work of my grandmother who rode with me for a lot of my life and affected change in me all the time. Today I finish my memories of her, knowing I have a ton more to share, but feeling it is time to go on. Below you will read my Eulogy to her. I’d written it while on the plan back to America the day before her funeral. I never got a chance to read it to my family or anyone else, but the words have been on paper since March 6th 2009. Have a gander…and to my readers….keep riding!
The Final Say
“To die loved is to have lived.” I’d come across this quote a while ago and was so intrigued by it that I was compelled to write it down. At the time I’d come across it, though I knew the word to be true, the concept was so out of reach for me that I never grasped it’s meaning…until today. “To die loved is to have lived!” Well all of you here loved my Grandmomma so much that it confirms the truth that she definitely lived. And contrary to popular belief, she is still living! Don’t let that body fool you. Nellie Jones’ spirit is free of that broken vessel and she has a new home and a perfect body waiting for her upstairs.
To be completely honest with you, I’m a little envious of Miss Jones. I mean, she gets to go to this perfect kingdom, convene with all of the ancestors who came before, AND she’s about to be the close proximity to the miracle man himself: Jesus Christ! All I can say is, “I see you shining grandmomma. Shining like new money!”
But I’m also a little jealous because she has the luxury of escaping all the negative things about this life: sadness, war, pain, the lying, the deceitful, and those who try to take advantage of her or hurt her pride. I’ll tell you this; she won’t have to worry about things or people like that anymore. She has the advantage now. And knowing her, I know she’s in heaven this very minute talking to one of the Saints saying, “Please keep an eye out for every seed I planted. Help them grow and be bountiful.”
Planting seeds and living the best way she knew how. This, to me, describes the woman I know as my grandmother. The fact that all of you are sitting here today to pay and show your respect to her proves that she planted something in all of you, as she did me.
Allow me to share something with you. It is one of the best stories I think I was ever told. My grandmother was present for every minute of my birth. Thought it was my mom who actually had me, my Grandmother still says it was the hardest she ever pushed in her entire life. But when she was done “pushing,” she held me (was the first to hold me to be honest) and our connection has never been broken to this day. I don’t think it ever will be.
You see, she didn’t just help push me into this world at that moment. Upon witnessing new life being brought into this world, she pushed me to be greater by believing in what I could potentially give the world. She pushed her children to be better than herself because she didn’t want them to struggle. That’s what I call a mother! Some of us are still on that journey to being the best we can be. If it weren’t for the love, hope, and faith that my Grandmomma had in me from the beginning, I know I would not be where I am right now. I know many of you can say the same thing. See, Nellie planted seeds inside all of us and when a seed grows it produces more seeds resulting in exponential growth. We are products of that growth.
I am hopeful, because of her. I am constantly driven because of her. I am overjoyed at the happiness and peace she is experiencing right now! My grandmother is more than grand. She’s angelic! I will miss her physical presence and think of her all the time, but I will not be sad. Instead, I will “Snatch Joy” (to borrow a phrase from an author friend of mine)! I will snatch joy in the name of Nellie May Gilliam Wilkerson Jones because she planted a seed of hope in me and loved me enough so that when I die, I will have lived!
So to Grandmmomma I say: have a safe trip, have fun living, and as always, I love you!