Nana and little Alex

Nana: A Goodbye To A Good Life

My Nana passed away last week. She was a light in my life, and I miss her terribly. I wrote this for her funeral, and since she harassed me more than most about not writing regularly on my blog, I am posting it here as well. Please excuse any typos and grammar errors. I was so upset that I had to dictate the first draft and editing hasn’t been much easier.

Joy in everything.
Joy in everything.
And passing that joy along.
And passing that joy along.

For you, Nana. 

I had a hard time coming up with what to say because Nana is such a special person. I didn’t know how to put it all in words. In fact, when I found out she had terminal cancer, I told her: “I know people often say you had a good life, you got to be in the planet for a long time and see amazing things, but, Nana, I’m never going to feel like I’ve had enough time with you. I’ll never think it’s enough.” Even my kids chimed in to say they wished Nana could be the oldest person in the world.

My first memory of Nana is not my memory at all — Nana has just told the story so many times that I can picture it in my head: a little two-year-old spending a month in Dallas, Texas with her grandparents. Nana was driving and I reached out to her friend in the passenger seat and said,  “You have such beautiful hair.” And her friend was so overjoyed at my compliment.

What I love about this story and why feel like it embodies Nana so much is that Nana really didn’t have anything to do with it. She didn’t give or receive the compliment. She was just driving the car. But she loved to tell the story because she loved that I was kind. She loved to tell the story because she loved how good I made her friend feel. And those of the stories Nana told about all of us. What highlighted our kindness, our love, and our ability to love others.

This is what I think made Nana so special — she believed in the best in everyone and she was humble enough to not believe that she knew what was best for everyone. On occasion, she would come to me upset or concerned about something I was doing. Or you were doing. Or you. Or you. And I would explain how and why it would be ok and what I thought God thought about it and what modern life it like now. And she would pat my leg and say, “I knew there was a good reason, dear. Now I understand.” And that was it — she was on board. That’s what I loved about her — she wanted the best for us. And she wanted to be convinced we could find it.

She put relationship over being right every time. A good friend of mine will always ask me when I’m fussing over something: “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” And 9 times out of 10 I’d rather be happy. (I do have a lot of pride.) But Nana lived this saying. It’s not easy to make that choice every day or every month or every year. It’s easier to become bitter. It’s easier to get angry. It’s easier to hate. But in looking back over her life we can see how amazing it is to choose to believe in the best. To love first. To want a happy ending for everyone in your life.

I hope I can live up to half the person that Nana believed I am. I hope you guys do, too.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

21 thoughts to “Nana: A Goodbye To A Good Life”

  1. Oh Alex! I’m so very sorry for your loss and so very happy you have these memories of your Nana. She sounds like an amazing woman with a life view we should all have. Much love to you and your family. xoxoxo

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your nana. That was a beautiful post that will help me to rethink how I act in situations, so your nana’s kindness and outlook on life will be passed on even to people she never met. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  3. What a lovely tribute and believe me when I say you are everything your nana thinks you are.

    I’m thinking of you and so sorry for your loss.
    Sending love and peace to your heart.

  4. I am so, so sorry for your loss. My own Nan was just here for a visit, and I said goodbye to her this morning, and this resonates SO much right now. Love to you and your family. I’m sorry you didn’t have more time with her, but I am glad you have the picture of the two of you laughing. It’s gorgeous.

  5. Alex,
    The Ultimate Not Enough. Saying I’m sorry for your loss sounds petty and trite and does not express my compassion for your sorrow. I pray that you have some solace and rejoice for she is with Christ.



  6. This is beautiful, Alex. I’m so sorry for your loss. My Mimi passed away a couple of months ago, and I had the joy of reading something at her funeral as well. It’s the best way I could ever honor her.

  7. I know you miss her so. These grandparents are so special to us, and we to them. I love how you gave us a little glimpse in to what a lovely and amazing person she was. Thank you for sharing this and her.

  8. oh Alex…I’m so sorry. So very sorry. I could feel your pain in the opening of this piece. I am so very sorry. Thank you for sharing with us this amazing woman. Your stories of her certainly has something to teach me. We should see the good in everyone and strive to bring that out in them. Again I am sorry for your loss XOXXOXO.

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