April 21, 2001
Eulogy means “good words.” And eulogies are usually said at times like this – after a person has died and can’t hear the “good words” – and enjoy the “good words.” However, in Aunt Eunie’s case, she lived so long and had so many birthday parties in her later years that she probably heard many “good words.” But now is another appropriate occasion to say some “good words.” But this time is for us.
She asked me in September if I would speak at her funeral and of course, I said I would. I wasn’t her son (or grandson or granddaughter), nor was I her sister. I was her nephew – I suspect her closest nephew for I enjoyed her company at many Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters and other times throughout the year. Sometimes I would host her in my home on special occasions: birthday dinners, etc. In a sense, Aunt Eunie served as my maternal grandmother.
Aunt Eunie represented a world I never knew, but read about because she was a part of history – she witnessed the coming of the automobile, airplane, telephone, radio, television, motion pictures, recordings, computers, the rise and fall of communism – what she saw goes on and on. A personal reflection: Often when I pass the Vista House on Craig’s Hill I think about Aunt Eunie (and Uncle Art) because they helped build that Moorish castle in the early 1920s when Uncle Art came back from Europe as a veteran of the World War I who fought overseas. Aunt Eunie told me that the young veterans would build that building and their young wives would bring them lunch during the days of construction. Frankly, I don’t know if there is anyone left in the Valley who physically helped build that memorial to American veterans of foreign wars – Aunt Eunie may have been the last survivor of that group. Her involvement in that civic project always gave me a sense of importance since I was related to somebody to help construct that notable building.
A couple of personal memories:
*I remember as a schoolboy growing up in Ellensburg going out to Aunt Eunie’s (and Uncle Art’s) farm for family gatherings (like Easter) when the Gregory tribe would gather.
*When I got in high school I went out to her farm to go bird hunting with friends.
*All through my life I kidded her about her Grange membership and how much better the Farm Bureau represented the interests of the farmers.
The teasing leads me to remember her sense of humor and the sharpness of her mind, even at the end of her life. I could always tease her and she would respond with some clever comeback, and that cleverness never seemed to diminish with her age. Last Rodeo, before we returned to North Carolina, Kathy and I stopped by her room to see her and she was watching the Mariners, madder than heck because they were losing. She knew the players and she knew the mistakes they were making, and the day we stopped by she had no use for the team.
I think her metal sharpness was both her blessing and her curse, because while she could have an intelligent and thoughtful conversation about baseball, or politics, or religion, or current affairs, she also had an awareness and could have a rational conversation (if a somewhat prickly conversation), about her health care and condition. And as her century-old body began to collapse, her century-old mind remained vital and alert to the very end. And she didn’t like what she saw and experienced.
I suppose the contribution that I made to Aunt Eunie that I will remember was the brief times of prayer I had with her whenever we were together. That seemed to be the one thing we always did no matter what her mood.
Her passing means the reduction of a Gregory generation. And yet life continues (and Aunt Eunie as a farm woman understood that), for as one family member whose life spanned the entire 20th century dies, other family members are born into the new 21st century.
One final comment: A eulogy of Eunice Paine would not be complete or truthful if praise was not given to her sister, my mother. For years Mom cared for and looked after her older sister. As Aunt Eunie began her slow descent of physical deterioration, Mom was by her side, through easy times and hard times, when it was pleasant and when it was unpleasant, comforting and consoling and caring for the oldest member of the Gregory family. Mother, the family salutes you for being the faithful sister.
I believe Aunt Eunie is in heaven because I believe she had a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior. And that is a blessed thought.