I wrote this for my grandmother’s memorial service today.

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you all today. As many of you know, I’m living in Russia right now, and I couldn’t have arranged a flight to get me there in time. In a way, it’s partly because of Grandma Lu that I’m in this chilly corner of Europe. Some of my earliest memories include slides of her travels, stories of family friends in the Netherlands, books of strange and scary Scandinavian fairy tales, and funny-looking coins with holes in the middle and umlauts over the vowels. Undoubtedly these things were a major factor in my interest in seeing the world.

Grandma Lu also sparked a lot of my other interests. She gave me a well-catalogued rock collection when I was little, and for a long time I wanted to be a geologist. Grandma made historical photo albums and books of geneology for Emily and me. When we received these as kids, we didn’t appreciate them so much, but I’m so glad we have them now!

Grandma and Grandpa’s relationship is such an inspiration to me. Just about two years ago, I wrote to her and asked her to tell me about it, what made it work, because so many other relationships seem to be much less successful. She wrote me the most beautiful six-page letter. I wish I had it here with me so I could quote from it, but it’s safely stored in a box at my dad’s house. In this letter, she wrote about the love, and maybe more importantly, the immense amount of respect she and Grandpa always had for one another. She wrote practical tips on keeping a relationship happy, such as “Even if you don’t have much money, go out to dinner once in awhile, or at least out for coffee.”

Her zest for life was tremendous. Just a few years ago, she was telling me how much she loved riding motorcycles with Grandpa — not the sort of thing you’d expect from an 80-something lady! She leaned over to me conspiratorially and said “Megan, if you get a husband, get one who rides a motorcycle.”

Grandma Lu was endlessly upbeat and full of love. While some people grow cynical with age, I don’t think there was a drop of cynicism in Grandma. A few years ago she wrote to me saying that the worst part about aging was that it was slowing her down when she still had so much enthusiasm “for the world and all the people in it.” Of all the things that I learned from Grandma Lu, that may be the most important.

I send my love to you all and I will be thinking about you today.