Good Afternoon – and thank you for being here to celebrate Nana’s beautiful, well-lived life. My name is Emma and I stand here today, representing Nana’s four grandchildren – Nicholas, Joanna, Joel, and myself, as well as our spouses, and her four great grandsons.
We all had a different relationship with Nana, but it is apparent that we all learned to appreciate the same things from her. Today, I will share some of that with you.
Nana lived far away from us, but I can venture to say she was our closest grandmother. We all grew up on the other side of the country. But that didn’t stop us from knowing and spending time with Nana, and Papa.
We travelled to see her by car, seeing the beautiful country in between; by plane, often without our parents; and we’ve even travelled by train. We learned to love to travel solo across the country, just as Nana did while Papa was serving in The War.
Nana’s sense of adventure was passed on to our parents and then to us. We were lucky to have grandparents on the other side of the country that we got to visit often.
We came to visit Nana and Papa in the summer, two to four weeks at a time. The summers were spent visiting Mt. Rainier—always going to Paradise and hiking the Skyline Trail. Mt. St. Helens—where we heard the story many times about how Nana called Papa from Tennessee to make sure he was ok after the eruption, and he hadn’t even known anything was different, he was just mowing the lawn. We toured the buried A-frame house every year, and picked moss off trees seeing ash underneath.
We spent nights at the Lake Quinault lodge, and many trips to Kalaloch and Ruby Beach—where we tried to find the most perfectly round rocks.
She had activities for us to do at “camp nana,” we played word games—scrabble and boggle mostly—and she never let us win, we had to win fair and square. And yes, sometimes we did win.
We played in the treehouse, we walked the trails, climbed the trees, slid down the slip ’n slide, went to the Pearl Street Pool (Save Our Pool!) and the roller skating rink. We picked blackberries and huckleberries. And I remember always wanting to harvest enough wild huckleberries for a whole tart, rather than settling to mix them with the blackberries in a pie.
We were free to do almost anything we wanted; we could explore in the woods and come back when we heard the triangle ring for mealtime. It was a summer life we didn’t have back East.
It wasn’t all fun and games, there was always work to do, especially after Papa passed away. We were happy to do it though—Nana paid us. BUT Nicholas got to pour cement to make sidewalks, build a fence, mow the field, cut down trees. I, scraped moss…
With all this time we were able to spend with Nana, we learned to appreciate many things, including word games and eating berries off the vine. And to this day, we all still stop in our tracks if we see a trillium. And we pause to smell the dogwood and the honeysuckle.
Nana taught us to stop and look at things. She wanted to see the world around her, even though her vision was fading. She taught us how to be her eyes, how to describe colors, and how to lead her closer to the colors and the smells. She taught us to be distracted by the beauty of nature.
Our love for mountains most definitely came from Nana—the snowy peaks of the Northwest, and the green rolling mountains of Appalachia.
Three of us went to college in the Appalachian Mountains, while Joanna was in the Pacific Northwest. Now, three of us are living our adult lives and raising our families in the Northwest, while Nicholas raises his in the Appalachians—an hour from Nana’s childhood home.
We loved life at Nana’s house so much that we all brought friends to visit:
friends in high school during spring break, friends in college between semesters,
and now our significant others, our adults friends, and our children.
We have all introduced someone else to the house on the hill, and we all agree that this place has stuck with them also, so much so that Wynne and I were married there. Nana was thrilled and honored to share her house on the hill with all of our family and friends.
She loved her great grandsons. Max -11, Ethan – who’s turning 6 today, Elliot – 4 and Adrian – 2, 1 month shy of being exactly 100 years younger than Nana. Thanks to technology, Nana was able to see these boys way more often than she ever saw her grandchildren. She saw photos as soon as they were born. She was able to video chat with them as often as she had someone to help her with it. She travelled east as often as she could to see Max and Ethan, and she felt blessed that she got to hold Elliot and Adrian days after they were born. Getting to know those tiny people was a highlight of her last 10 years. She talked about how beautiful they were all the time, was interested in all their developmental stages, and what they were learning in school; she often said their laughter sounded like music.
Nana was interested in all our lives, and genuinely wanted to know what we were doing at work, she talked with us about trends in education and social issues that impacted us. She was so proud of each of us. Nana embraced us tightly every time she saw us, because she cared, and she didn’t know when it would be the last time. I’ll never forget how she looked at each of us, right in the eyes while holding our face in her hands. She loved us all more than anything.
Naming a kid may be one of the most important things you do in your life. A name is with a person forever. It’s easy to pick a name if you have people or places in your life that you love and can’t imagine not being a part of your child.
My first-born, Elliot, needed a middle name. “Staebler” was the easiest option to honor Nana and Papa and the family they built. But we knew his first name was Elliot, and we weren’t going to be those parents who name their child after a television character. Elliot Stabler is a crime detective in New York City, not our curly red head Elliot.
However, Elliot Hill will always live knowing that he was named after the best place on earth. Seminary Hill. The Hill. Nana and Papa’s Hill. Our Hill. The hill where they built a house for their family 60 years ago. I wonder if they thought they were building a place for generations to come. I don’t think they did, but I’m sure glad that they did.
Now all four great grandsons can grow up visiting the Hill, running in the woods, rolling in the meadow, picking berries, and even scraping moss.