In Memoriam – Nana Pearl Humphries

nana-pearl1.jpg 

This past Friday, August 24th, I received the sad news that my grandmother, my Nana Pearl Humphries, had passed away. Pearl was my Dad’s mother and has been a beloved family member of mine since I was first born. Afterall, I was her first grandchild.

That news kicked off a whirlwind weekend as Andi and I quickly cobbled together a plan to journey from parts West back to my boyhood home (Everett, MA) where my Nana lived for many decades and so many of her extended kin kept their roots entrenched. The Wake was Sunday evening and we then laid her to rest yesterday morning at Woodlawn Cemetary in Everett, MA where she would rejoin her husband, my Grandpa Ned, who passed away two full decades earlier. While I won’t delve too deep into the particulars of either event, I will say that my grandmother’s funeral service was greeted by a brilliant blue sky morning. The sun beamed bright for her shining soul.

Andi and I got to play our part in the service and etch our personal stamp on her remembrance. Andi began the tribute by singing my Nana’s favorite hymn, ‘Amazing Grace‘, which played as the perfect soundtrack to my grandmother’s life. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to stand up and say a few words in eulogy for my Nana.

I decided to place the text of my speech here in this post where it shall reside in memory of my grandmother for years to come. I’ve often spoken about how this blog makes for a nice journal of my own life. It’s moments like these that while sad, really add some fabric to this life’s tapestry. Anyway, I’ll let my eulogy speak the rest.

As sad as this occasion is, I feel incredibly honored to be able to get up here today and say a few words about my Nana Pearl.

With all of the wonderful memories we cherish of our times with Nana, there isn’t time enough in the day, let alone words enough in a vocabulary, to capture them all and pay proper tribute to her shining soul. Not that we won’t try our best to mark each and every one of those blessed moments with each and every day that passes from here on.

That said, I’ve always found it comforting to celebrate a loved one’s passing through the way they lived their life by focusing on those moments that made us smile. That made us laugh.

It’s the laughter that makes it all worth living… and reliving.

So, that’s how I approached my reminiscence. To look back upon key moments that brought a smile to my face.

As I paged through my life’s history with my Nana, one phrase jumped out that certainly defined her in my eyes. Simply put, even at the earliest age, she was my Great Protector.

See, I was the first grandchild in what would eventually become a pretty robust club whose ranks swelled each year with the announcement of new grandchildren. But, for a few years, I ruled the roost. Being the first usually meant being the recipient of the lion’s share of spoils.

And my Nana could spoil me rotten.

Well, with the sweet can sometimes come a little touch of sour.

Being the first – and as I mentioned – at the time, ONLY grandchild on the block, meant I was an open target for the good-natured teasing that relatives like to impart upon their younger kin.

So I often found myself in the line of fire.

My Grandpa Ned would tease.
My Aunt Suzanne would cajole.
My Uncle’s Bill and Don would torment.
And my Dad would try to make me eat some of the foulest vegetables the world had ever known. I swear, the man owns stock in beets.

Rallying to my defense at every front was Nana with her war cry – “Leave him be.” Of course, they were all just having fun with me (well, all except my Dad – he had those beet futures to consider afterall), and my Nana knew that but there was a genuine instinct there to keep me safe. And that, in turn, made me feel warm.

I think the phrase was first coined when my Dad and I would wage a battle of the wills over a topic heavily debated at dinner tables the world over.

For the love of all that is good and decent… EAT THAT SHEPHERD’S PIE!!!”

To a boy all of 4-years old, mixing meat with potatoes and (shudder) peas, was crazy talk. This wasn’t a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. None of those things belonged in the same county together let alone cohabitating in the same piecrust.

So while my Dad and I played Kennedy and Khrushchev at the dining room table, out in the kitchen Nana was preparing one of the only 2 dishes I would eat – either frying some bacon or cracking open a can of tuna (which I ate right out of the can – I know, my eating habits were a bit… BIZARRE).

That same scene played out over every holiday dinner or family gathering. I swear, Nana bought so many cans of tuna to broker the peace that her neighbors had to assume she had taken in every stray cat in the neighborhood.

Anyway, it was through our own little Cold War, that the phrase “Leave him be” was adopted.

And it was heard often.

When my Grandpa Ned threatened the safety of my nostrils and taste buds with a good old-fashioned Canadian breakfast (you know – substituting my bowl of Kix with kaplan – my Pop Tarts with a slice of seal flipper pie) she’d rally to my defense.

NED!!! LEAVE HIM BE!!!”

When my Dad would surprise the family with a mouth watering dinner of boiled meat and cabbage it was…

ED!!! LEAVE HIM BE!!!”

When this bizarre alien creature that had taken roost in their home (she called it a dog but that pug didn’t look like any dog I’d ever seen) – anyway, when it would greet my appearance, as I crested the stairs of her 2nd floor abode, with a cacophony of snorting and barking, she’d admonish…

MISCHA!!! LEAVE HIM BE!!!”

And then there were the times when my tormentors would join forces and co-conspire.

I remember a family vacation to the Cape where Nana’s whole brood gathered at a rental house in Chatham. One afternoon, I took a ride with Nana, Grandpa and Aunt Suzanne to get some provisions. We arrived at the store and Nana announced that she’d run right in and get the goods.

There, across the street from the store, was a huge excavator – surely a little boy’s dream site. But my Nana scoped the scene and using her intuition sized up the scenario. She knew that what should be a few moments of boyhood bliss could morph into a trial of terror should Grandpa Ned and Aunt Suzanne get ahold of my wild imagination. All it would take is one little phrase – “It’s coming to get you, Eddie.”

Before she exited the car, Nana shot both of them a glance that said wordlessly…

I’m going to be gone for one minute. You two — LEAVE HIM BE!!!”

They responded with wordless looks of their own…

Who? Us???”

… and then, they exchanged a knowing wink that went by undetected.

Well, that seemed to be enough for Nana so with that, she was off. After all, what could possible happen in one tiny minute.

Sixty seconds later, Nana returned to find her beloved 4-year old grandson completely catatonic on the floor.

It’s in those formative years as a young boy that I learned two important lessons about my family.

1.   My Nana’s love was an infinite well that she dipped deep into always and she would do anything to serve and protect her family.
– and –
2.   Everyone else in my family is completely sadistic.

Of course, I’m joking. I’m sure some of these details have grown larger than life over the years and the details that I’m fuzzy on, I color in the corners with a bit of exaggeration. But that’s what happens when a man reflects upon his boyhood and his times with his Nana. She always seemed larger than life.

The greatest human beings always do.

We certainly have a wonderful family. And it’s these various branches of the grand family tree that serve as a real testament to my Nana’s hard work and boundless love.

She was real proud to call us her family.
I am extremely proud and fortunate to call her my Nana.

She will be remembered… ALWAYS!!!

May she rest in peace.

fam4th5.jpg

Comments now closed (16)

  • Jason,

    Thanks for the kinds words. Very much appreciated!!! You’ve always been a great cousin and a better friend.

    -Ed

  • A wonderful and beautiful tribute to a kind and caring woman. There are so many good memories that will never fade away…
    And Andi’s “Amazing Grace”-well, there are no words.
    With all my love,
    Mom

  • Just beautiful, Ed. One of these days I will be able to post the Top 5 Ed Blogs That Made Me Cry…this will be in there.
    I remember Mrs. Humphries at family gatherings in Everett and Rockland, and a Nana she was indeed. While I am not ready to wear the honored Nana nickname yet, I will take a page out her book and plan on being fiercely protective of that treasured Firstborn ( and that is NOT a call to action for either Jason or Jessi!), lay in a supply of Chef-Boy-R-Dee (instead of the odious tuna), and come up with a catchphrase that will immediately empower the little one and strike fear in his/her tormentors. The picture at the beginning says it all, a Nana’s love and undeniable pleasure in her new first grandchild… and you looking back at the camera as if to say
    ” Will you please take me out of the ducky outfit now?”
    I’m certain she was listening to her First pay such a loving tribute to her, laughing with Grampa Ned in all of the right places, and ( in my version of Heaven anyway) Mischa beside her. I am truly sorry for your loss, and to Jenna and Noelle, as well as Ed, Bill,Donnie, and Suzanne. You were blessed to have had such a long time with her, Uncle Ron never really knew any of his grandparents, but I knew mine until I was 27 ( and had Most Favored Status with one grandpa- there we 22 to choose from on that side!)The relationship with grandparents is very special, on both sides, and I know you gave back as much as she gave you.

  • Eddie,
    Nana always had a smile on her face but never was it bigger than when she saw her grandchildren. She was so proud of every one of you. You being the first (and a boy, she especially loved boys)she held you a little above the others. You made her proud when you spoke so eloquently at the funeral. Your eulogy and Andi’s beautiful singing was a loving tribute to your Nana, my mom.

    …and just for the record you weren’t catatonic on the floor of the car, you were SCREAMING CRYING…sorry about that

  • That was such a nice tribute to Nana, Eddie. I love that picture of you in her arms. I have so many good memories of Nana. I remember going to her house for Sunday dinners. Boy, did she make a mean italian sauce, a talent which she passed on to my mom. She always had the best italian bread and cookies on hand from the local bakery. She would often kid with us, saying that the South Shore didn’t compare with the North Shore in that department. I would protest, but I know that she was right! Living in the North End now, I often go into Mike’s Pastry (as I did today actually) for an italian cookie (or two!). It never fails to bring me back to those days and remind me of my Nana. I remember staying with her in the summer. My cousin Lani and I stayed over one time and snuck cannolis after she had gone to sleep! There are lots of memories, many times and things that I will never forget. I remember her doing the dishes and always using a small bucket of soapy water, her red cranberry glass, the candy dish filled with colorful gum drops, her porch on Dartmouth Street, her beautiful hand-knit blankets, and so much more.

    Nana had such a strong will. She went through so much over the past few years, but she refused to give up. She wanted nothing more than to be home with her family and friends. Although I will miss her terribly, I am glad that she is no longer struggling.

    Dad, Uncle Bill, Uncle Don,and Aunt Suzanne — may you, and all of the good people in her life, both friends and family, find comfort in your memories of her.

    I love you, Nana.

  • As I said to you as we walked out of the service yesterday, “that was an excellent remembrance.” I am glad you posted it here so it can be read again and again and by those not present. It was a wonderful final gift to give your Nana.

    During the service, I too remembered her afghans that you brought with you when we moved into Mansfield. She did some excellent work and while I only met Pearl a few times, I will always remember her kind smile.

  • Ed
    I`m so proud of you.What a nice tribute to Nana.I know she was watching down on you and smiling.She loved you so much.Andi`s singing was so beautiful,I know Nana loved it.Oh,dinner sunday we,re having shepards pie with beets.
    Love you,Dad

  • What a beautiful tribute to such a deserving woman! You all were truly blessed to have had such a wonderful grandmother for the treasured moments, unconditional love, the spirit to have fun and be indulgent will be forever with you all. We have fond memories of our visits with your Nana. May your memories bring you comfort. Wendy & Dale

  • raisinhead;
    Now you know why I deferred to you at the
    church. I am proud of you.( actually I always
    have been ).Andi’s singing left me in such a
    relaxed and peacful state, I felt like I was
    back in th 70’s. You are a Class Act Ed.

    Uncle Bill

  • Hey Eddie,sorry I can’t call you Ed it doesn’t sound right to me.You and Andi did an awesome job at Nana’s funeral service. There are so many memories we all shared with Nana, that will be with us forever. I remember Nana always used dove soap at her house and I always loved the smell of it. Now that I have my own house I never use anything but that soap. This may sound stupid but every time I smell my soap I think of being at Nana’s house. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most treasured. As for Dad,Uncle Bill,Uncle Don & Suzanne you were the best children a mom, ma or mommy could ever ask for.Now you have each other and remember family & love for each other is all that we ever need.
    Love Jenna

  • Ed,

    What a loving tribute to your grandmother. Your words are a testament to how much she loved you and what a wonderful family you have.

    Jen

  • Sometimes its easy to forget that the most important things in life are the people who love you. Nan loved all of us and we all loved her. That i will never forget.