A brief eulogy for a great storyteller - and a reminder why your story matters.

 

I delivered the following short speech at my grandmother's funeral. I'm sharing it here because I think she had an important message for anyone who feels like they have a story to tell -- and especially for those who are afraid they aren't "talented" enough to tell it. 

Here's what you should know about my grandmother and her stories: First, they were simple. She never would have called herself a writer or an artist. And yet, she wrote. She created.

She wrote her memoirs (which I helped her with) about 10 years ago. She also created scrapbooks of memories. She made me a recipe book that had a short story to go along with each recipe. She wrote poems. She painted and sketched. 

At her funeral, her creativity was a theme in every speech: her work inspired a lot of people. As I explain in my speech, her storytelling taught me a lot. 

Her work was imperfect, homemade, simple. Yet it was very important: to her, and the others around her. 

See, my grandmother trusted that her stories were worth telling. 

And you can do the same. You don't need to be a great novelist; you don't need someone else to sanction or publish your work; you don't need to be an adventurer or a millionaire to have stories worth telling. 

Your perspective. Your unique take on the world. You. That is why your voice matters. 

And with that, here is a story about another storyteller: my Nana. 


Nana was one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever known.

She loved to tell stories. And my sister Megan and I never got tired of hearing them.

Nana had a way of capturing our imagination while sharing her appreciation for the simple things.

She would take her time, and draw us in.

Before you knew it, you were in the schoolhouse with her, teaching.

Or with her in the kitchen, learning how to cook for the hungry farmhands.

Or collecting apples together before the greedy cattle gobbled them up.

Stories of farm life were among our favourites.

Sometimes she would lean in conspiratorially and lower her voice, like she was about to let us in on a secret. (These stories usually had to do with Dad and his foibles. No surprise: they were also our favourites.)

Nana told us stories not just through her words, but through her art, her crafts, and her collections. In the house in Appin, the basement was a veritable treasure trove of curiosities: trinkets, pictures, antiques, memorabilia. Megan and I loved exploring it, and Nana would tell us stories about whatever we found.

Together, we shared a sense of wonder.

Nana taught me a lot through her storytelling. She let me into a different time and place. She gave me insight into my Grandfather Gilles, who I never met. She inspired my love of nature and the country. She showed me the value of ‘art for arts sake.’

She also taught me a lot by the stories she didn’t tell.

For one thing, as grandkids, she never fed us stories about who we should or shouldn’t be. There was no hidden script.

Even when Megan and I showed up as weird-looking punk teenagers Nana didn’t blink.

At a time when I felt lost, I was accepted with open arms.

Years later, when Nana lost her legs, she could have written a sad story for herself. Instead, she got on with things, pouring her time and energy into arts and crafts: her room at Sprucedale became a collage. She made us little gifts like bookmarks and painted cards.

She made a scrapbook of her favourite memories.

And she continued to tell stories: Stories that made people feel special, simply by listening.

Megan and I both credit her with inspiring and shaping our own creative pursuits and appreciation for the little things in life.

She taught me a lot about what makes a good story. 

Better yet, she taught me about what makes a good life.

So thank you, Nana, for sharing your stories with me.

In your honour, I plan to write many more.