Phyllis Lipman

My grandmother died recently. She was extraordinary. This was my eulogy to her:


My grandmother’s love was fierce.

It was a force. It could lift you up and light you up, and make you the center of the universe. It was warm. It was smart. It was addictive.

She drew people in with her intelligence and beauty and wit and built experience by experience upon nature’s generous armature, adding and building and actively shaping her story, her way.

My grandmother was one of the two key figures who shaped my life. I am who I am in sympathy and in opposition to the force of her.

As a kid, I was her first grandchild. No one was bathed in her love like me. I had it all to myself. To young me it was a thrill. To have this beautiful, brilliant woman show me off and take joy in my company meant that I had to be worth quite a lot.

So I started my life with a deep set confidence in my own self worth, which is a super power of a kind especially for a shy kid. It’s enabled me to set my shoulder to the work and go after whatever I’ve wanted.

As a teenager we were extraordinarily close. We worked together at Marci’s store for years. We hung out. We ate, we drank, we smoked a little pot. It was a gift for a teenage boy to have that support at such a time. What kindness and ease with strangers I have is not natural. It comes from watching her engage with the world and copying her. I would not be as successful in my career without her as a model.

But grandma’s true gift to me is the one that causes me (and at times her) the most pain and the most grief.

It’s this:

This Artist’s soul

This yearning to feel the for the edges, to dangle a hand in the flow of experience, and to bring out something beautiful and meaningful.

My grandmother was a complex, multifaceted person. We didn’t agree about everything. That fierceness I mentioned at the start? That fierceness was hard to live up to. Like all good friends there were times when we didn’t even like each other. But our souls knew each other’s. And recognized each other’s scars, at a level way below words.

We were bound by the same need, to create, at all costs.

We are all here today at a literal crossroads. When we go out into the world tomorrow we have very real choice to make: to go back to our jobs and our pursuits and follow our current path, with it’s hard won positions, and status, and comforts. Or to follow our souls.

I don’t know grandma would have told me to do. It would have depended on how quiet we were being. On how honest we could be.

Because that’s really the struggle we all face, isn’t it? To do what’s in our souls. Grandma was better than most of us at doing what was in her heart. So in lieu of an answer I’ll take this:

Always be moving towards your soul’s calling.

That’s what she did.

Thank you grandma.