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My eulogy for a life well-lived

ANAYA-OCT-nanaI wasn’t planning to speak.

We were crammed together on a hot California day in the pews and on the floor of a tiny Baptist church in La Habra, to laugh and cry.

This wasn’t just any church in just any neighborhood. And this wasn’t just any funeral.

This was the church where my great grandma, Anselma, raised her children and their children. This was the neighborhood where my mother’s beautiful voice found its first audience long before she became a professional singer. And this was my beloved Nana’s funeral.

My mother and her sister eloquently orchestrated the memorial service from the church pulpit lined with pictures of the lovely Esther who called me her “mijita.”

Family came from near and far to share their stories of “Aunt Esther,” “Espie” and “Nana,” just a few of the names she went by.

But I wasn’t planning to speak. 

I had just seen my 83-year-old Nana a few months before and not long after the stroke from which she would never fully recover. 

She couldn’t really open her eyes or speak. But I’m told she broke into tears when she learned I was coming to visit. I’m sure it was because, as much as she wanted me there, she didn’t want me to see her like that.

My Nana was the woman who lived life to the fullest. When I was younger she’d let me stay with her while my mother worked. Who cares that she lived over a bar! We’d bond over TV and her favorite shows like The Streets of San Francisco. We’d listen to music by Tony Orlando, the man she’d humorously refer to as “your grandpa.” And, some days, she’d let me into the bar to put a quarter in the juke box and sip a Shirley Temple. Yes, she was unconventional but that’s what made her special. She would “tell it like it is” long before my news station used the phrase. She’s the woman, who at 70 years old, wore biker shorts, skinny jeans and got her nose pierced. She was opinionated and sometimes even critical, but she always wanted the best for us. Her kids and grandkids took many different paths in life but she loved us all equally and, if we got into a jam, Nana was there to bail us out. Yes, it came with a heavy lecture, but we knew we could count on her. 

And, so, as my mom started to bring the memorial to a close, I sat in the back of the church with an overwhelming need to get up and share those memories. I was her first grandchild; I owed it to her. And so I did, adding the bit about my last visit with her. I held her hand and sang a silly little song that she used to sing to every baby she held. She smiled and let out a faint laugh. 

Even at the end, my Nana still had a way of making every moment we spent together unforgettable.

Catherine Anaya anchors CBS 5 News weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 and 10 p.m. She is a mother of two, wife and motivational speaker. Reach her at catherine.anaya@cbs5az.com; connect with her on Facebook, twitter and at CatherineAnaya.com.

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This Article appears on the October 2013 issue of LPM under Anaya Says

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