On Saturday February 25, 2017, family and friends gathered to hold hands and celebrate the life of my amazing polish grandmother, whom many of us called Busia. I was honored and privileged to give the eulogy at her funeral. What follows are the words I shared, which only give a small glimpse into the immense love and gratitude I feel for the woman who shaped my life. You are forever my Busia, and I am forever your girl.
Some people in life make you better.
I’ve been convinced for quite some time now that God created Busia just for me. Meaning that God knew I would need someone to make me a better daughter, wife, friend, cousin… so he gave me Busia. But as I looked through the photos, remembered her stories, and read the comments posted online over the years I realized…
God made Busia for you.
He made her for ALL of us.
He made her so we would know… You are loved.
Whether you knew her as Armalla, Auntie, Mom or Busia… she never left you the same. She was always sharing something that made you better. A story from her childhood… that you were amazed she could remember. Advice about life, love and marriage from the 65 years she shared with Papa. The sugary sweetness of kolackys, cheesecake, poundcake. Her ability to modify old clothes my cousins and I could use for dress up.
Armalla. Busia. Shared.
She shared every part of herself. She wanted to make sure that you enjoyed this life. On her 90th birthday I asked her, what one piece of advice would you give? She thought for a moment and looked at me
“Enjoy life. Enjoy life. Every part of your life. Enjoy. There are times when you’re sad, but then you have to just perk up and just go on… Papa and I had a very happy life. We enjoyed life. We traveled. We enjoyed and had my children… That is what we wanted and we worked hard to have it. We had very good friends… Its just living your life.”
Busia had a way of simplifying the life that we all tend to over complicate. Of stripping away the nonsense and focusing on the most important parts. In this life we get to choose. Choose how you see people, how you treat people, how you prioritize your life. And I think she got it right. How do I know? Because of us. Because we chose to be here in this moment together, reminiscing and celebrating her life.
Busia was born in 1925, the youngest of three children during the depression era. She did not have a ton of education in the traditional sense. There were words she could never quite pronounce, and medical procedures that were hard for us to explain to her as her health declined. But she knew the important stuff. She knew love. She knew relationships, and she didn’t keep either to herself. She knew love was a verb, an action, a choice.
As I’ve grown in my own faith, I’ve come to a better understanding of God, and Jesus and love. And I finally started to understand what unconditional love is. And that Busia had been teaching it to us all along. Love is not about keeping score. Love does not demand “I’ll do this, only if you’ll do that.” Unconditional love is a non-stop no-score selfless act of give and give and give and give. Even if you get nothing in return. Because love is not about the return… it’s about the gift. And man did Busia give us gifts.
I thought of her commitment to Papa and their marriage. The way she kept up with and called all of us, making time, sending cards, planning trips to visit, and stopping by. I thought about countless donuts with sprinkles waiting for me after school. The way she closes her eyes when she talks to someone on the phone so she gives her undivided attention to the person on the other end of the line. The lamb shaped poundcakes she made for the family every Easter, and the special chocolate one she would always make for Kristen.
Busia gave. She loved. And because of her selfless love, I asked her on more than one occasion for marriage advice, for the secret to the love between her and Papa:
“Not to hold a grudge. If there is something wrong between the two of you, sit down. Talk it out. SENSIBLE. Not hollering not screaming not swearing. Talk it out, but LISTEN more than you talk. Never go to sleep without hugging and kissing…
…Never stop holding hands.”
And in the end, last Sunday, our family held hands. We stood around her in a circle praying to God and holding hands. God gave us all a gift. Her name is Armalla, Auntie, Mom, Busia. Because of her, we know we are loved.
When your heart hurts, and the tears don’t stop, be thankful you experienced a love and a relationship so powerful that it brings you to tears.
Some people wait a lifetime for love like that.
I want you all to do me a favor, I want you to hold the hand of the person sitting next to you. One woman brought us all together today. God we thank you for the gift of love and family and friendship. When you brought Armalla into this world you knew we would all need her. You gave us a woman that was more than she might have imagined herself. She was a daughter, wife, sister, cousin, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, role model and friend. God thank you loaning her to us for so long. We will carry her with us every day and do our best to multiply the love that she gave us. The love that comes from you God.