Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking at my grandmother’s funeral. My grandmother, Geraldine Magnie was 89 years old and her life, as well her funeral, was filled with love. The husband being an amazing singer and myself being a wordsmith came up with a tribute that hopefully fulfilled Gerry’s love for both of those things. While I don’t yet have a video of the song, I’m publishing the eulogy I wrote here for anyone who was unable to attend or for anybody else who knew and loved Gerry the way we did. xoxo- S.
I’m Sean Mahoney. I’m Gerry’s grandson which would maybe be amazing if I was the only one but the fact is Gerry had 17 grandkids and 10 great grandkids. Therefore, I could never speak about anyone else’s relationship with Gerry as there are so many of us and this eulogy would take about 4 hours if I tried. The truth is she somehow managed to have unique relationships with each of us and some of us even called her by different names. For a lot of us she was just grandma. For the Gregerson girls, she was g-ma. In an act of teenage sassiness for my sister Maureen she was Gerry. And to me in the last years of her life, she was Grams.
I started my life with Grams and my Grandpa Bob just right down the street as I was born in a house on 9th & Fillmore. We Mahoney kids simply got used to having them around. From babysitter and snack giver to sewing instructor and mountain trip facilitator, Grams and Grandpa Bob were just a stone’s throw away for whatever we needed. They were always enthusiastic audience members at school plays and recitals. They were fans at whatever sport we were participating in and genuinely so. These weren’t two people rolling their eyes and begrudgingly showing up. They were always thrilled to be invited and, as all of her friends know, this excitement was something Grams carried into every invitation for every event, big or small for the rest of her life.
We moved out of Congress Park when I was 13 but her love was already firmly cemented. As an extremely imaginative and effeminate child it could have been easy to keep me at arm’s length and not really understand me. But Grams always loved me no matter what. She never tried to change me or steer me into more traditional boy like behavior. In fact, she encouraged me to be even more creative. She cherished every poem I wrote and picture I drew. She took me to plays and musicals to expose me to theatre, a love we would jointly share into my adulthood as she would attend plays that I wrote and productions my husband Michael and I created.
During the last years of her life, I found myself right down the street from her again. In a rental deal that could only be orchestrated by a master organizer like my grandmother, we landed on 10th & Detroit just five houses away from her. My last three years with Grams have been an extreme gift. As a neighbor, grandmother and friend, Grams provided the love support and enthusiasm I had known when I started my life with over 40 years ago on 9th and fillmore. And now I got the chance to do stuff for her. From hilarious navigating the world wide web together to helping her transcribe her writings, any task I was assigned fit my skill set, especially after she figured out I was not the one to call if you wanted things fixed or hauled away. Just over a month ago I helped her renew her passport so she could attend Kay and Terry’s wedding in Mexico. See. I told you she never turned down an invitation. That our relationship had so beautifully and magically come full circle is nothing short of miraculous.
While our individual time together as grandchildren with Gerry was unique and special the one thing we all had in common was The Sound of Music. Whether playing on local tv on holidays during the 70’s & 80’s like it was for us Mahoney kids or on VHS tapes for the McClellan and Gregerson kids, the hills were always alive with the sound of music on 945 detroit. And if you think about it: what a perfect movie for Grams to love. It has incredible songs, an inspirational story, a slew of children and of course lots and lots of nuns. So now, please enjoy the Sound of Music as performed by my husband Michael Emmitt and my Uncle John Magnie. The last time these two played this song was at Thanksgiving two years ago after dinner. As they sang, I looked over to see Grams tearing up and wiping her eyes. It was incredibly touching that some fifty years later she was still moved by this song and it’s message of hope. So Grams, thanks for always making me feel like the most special person in the room and this one is for you.