This is the first Christmas my family will spend without Marian Hall Plein. My grandmother was the quintessential family matriarch. Never shy about her opinions, always one to love you fiercely, she was and always will be looking over our shoulders. Christmas just won’t be the same without her.
Nana was my last surviving grandparent. When you lose the generation ahead of your parents you can’t help but recognize life is swiftly moving onward. And that’s ok- it is how life should and inevitably will be, even if I sometimes forget that.
I spoke at Nana’s funeral this March. I really wasn’t sure how I would get through it, but my brother gave me a steady look through my words, and I made it. Thanks for that, Bo.
So as I look back at this year I’ll remember the biggest moment- where we said goodbye to Nana. Below are the words I shared that day.
I love you, Nana. Merry Christmas.
We’re all here to celebrate the life of a woman who left one very special mark on the world. We all knew her differently- she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. To me, she was The Nana.
Nana wasn’t your typical grandmother. This wasn’t the sort of woman you could put in an ivory tower and admire from afar. Nana loved you up close, never letting you forget what was right or wrong, and never ever letting you forget how proud she was of you. She was there at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, telling you stories about listening to Giants games on the radio with her mother and rooting for Willie Mays. She was there in my classroom, reading books in a circle with a bunch of six year olds during story-time. She was there, playing Battleship with her scared eight year old granddaughter as she spent a week at Fairfax Memorial Hospital. She was there in the kitchen, whistling a tune and tapping her foot, while fixing her grandkids spaghetti and salad. She was always there, in the thick of everything, with everyone.
Nana was a mother, dear friend, advisor, and confidante to many. I never knew Nana and Day-Day’s house to be empty- family and friends seemed to be drop by at a moment’s notice. Nana loved that. Her house was as vibrant as she was, and the people that filled it were her community. I looked forward to the big family summits at their house during the holidays. There was always some sort of political debate, with guitars and a few songs thrown in for good measure, Nana bustling from conversation to conversation to the turkey. But I also loved the quieter moments at their house, where us kids would get a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and watch Murder She Wrote or Matlock with Nana in her bedroom. And that was Nana- in chaos or in the quiet, you could count on her to be there for you.
The Nana we knew may have been taken away by Alzheimers in the past years, but her big heart and essence was always there. Every laugh, every toe tap to the music of her childhood, and yes, every finger wag, reminded us of the Nana we knew. She was a lady committed to the community of family and friends she built from her childhood in Queens to the very end. And to me, that’s her legacy. We’ve lost a great light in our lives, but Nana’s fiery spirit and legacy will live on always within us.