Below is the full text for the eulogy I gave for my grandmother on Wednesday.

Good morning. On behalf of my grandfather, Michael, and our entire family, I want to thank you for coming today.

I was introduced to my grandmother on my birthday, October 26, 1976….well, I should probably say she was introduced to me. Those first couple years were—as I’m sure you can understand—a little fuzzy for me. But I definitely remember all the birthdays that followed because as I was growing up, she was there for every single one. For most of my childhood, my grandparents lived in Rhode Island, and they would always time their visits to coincide with my birthday. I think I looked forward to it more than anything else all year. I would stare out our window hoping to catch a glimpse of their car cresting the hill in the distance as a sign that they were about to arrive. It made me feel truly special. She always went out of her way to do anything possible in the world to make each of us feel special.

My sister, Courtney, has a birthday a few short weeks after Christmas. Grandma started a tradition called the “pretend birthday.” This way Courtney could have her own special birthday celebration when Grandma was visiting for Christmas. But it was always about more than just feelings. She made it her job to always remind us that we could do anything with our lives and find success. And anytime I doubted that, a talk with grandma would always put my worries at ease. That mentality was the core of who she was. And it was something she developed a long time before the two of us were introduced on that first birthday of mine.

She was born on March 18, 1932 in Providence, Rhode Island—the youngest of 9 children in an Irish Catholic family of very limited means. Hand me down clothes and charity assistance was a fact of daily life. Eventually, she entered a 28-year career with the Providence Housing Authority. Here, she helped elderly tenants find the services essential to their survival.
Every day she surpassed her job description. If someone needed anything that wasn’t her responsibility, she would go out of her way to help. The tenants loved her.—not something you hear often in the beaurocratic world of public housing.

Talk to her and topics of conversation would always shift to those she cared about. Her tenants knew so much about my mother, Ann, that they chartered a bus to attend my parents wedding as a group. They weren’t going to miss the marriage Helen’s daughter!

She was the most selfless person I’ve ever known. During 57 years of marriage with my grandfather, she took care of him and always worried that he was OK. From making his favorite food for dinner to ensuring the garage light was on for when he returned, she always put her needs second. In the last few months, my grandfather was able to return that care to her when she needed it most. It’s always been clear how much they loved each other.

As I got older, the October birthday visits started to take on a different kind of importance. It was a chance to become closer, to discover and to understand. Our conversations grew more complicated and I started to realize how smart, wise and progressively minded she was. From politics to current world events, she enjoyed discussing it all.

But it’s the unending support that always meant the most to me. In high school, I had this crazy idea to become a marine biologist and train dolphins. “You can do it. You should do it!” she said. Of course, it took freshman year of college to discover how much I despised organic chemistry—and hate swimming! But I had to try to figure it out. Then, I had an even crazier idea. I’d always dreamed of making movies professionally. Why not transfer to film school and enter a job field that’s nearly impossible to crack? “You can do it! You should do it!”

After I graduated, I thought it might require a move to California to break into the film industry. And even though she wished I would stay close, “You can do it! You should do it!” Things didn’t work out exactly according to plan and my career took a few detours, but every time we spoke, she would always slip in—don’t forget, you can still make the movies. And one day about a year ago when I told her I was thinking about self-producing my first feature film—almost ten years after graduating film school—she said, “you can do it. You MUST do it. It’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” And because of her support, I’m in the midst of making it happen now. She taught me to believe that even the biggest dreams can become reality.…and that’s the piece of her that I’ll carry with me always in everything I do.

I’m confident that anyone who truly knew her could tell his or her own version of this story. Because that is what she did…she pushed us each to find happiness. And in doing so, found happiness herself.

Thank you, grandma, for showing us the way.

We love you.

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