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My Grandfather - Memorial Speech

posted Mar 23, 2011, 9:02 PM by Ian Massy   [ updated Mar 23, 2011, 9:04 PM ]

Over the past 16 years I have walked up to this stage and to this podium to speak in front of this congregation. I have worn a suit, a kilt, multiple different uniforms and on rare occasion even shorts and a t-shirt. I have recited scripture, played the piano, received awards, distributed awards, introduced this congregation to my Scottish heritage and given countless speeches – though none quite near as humbling or as important to me as the one I am about to give. In fact it is the only prepared speech that I have ever written out in my life. On all of these occasions, I have come before you to invite you to celebrate with me an event, a holiday, an award, a tradition or just because. And today is no different. Today, I invite you to celebrate with me. Today I invite you to celebrate the life of Edgar Clanachan – my grandfather.

For 13 years in a row I shared this stage with my grandfather at least one time per year. I had the honor of accompanying him down this aisle, through these pews, past this alter and onto this platform. And even on a few occasions I had the pleasure of accompanying him on the piano while he sang before you. Although that was only on rare occasion and mostly when everyone else had called in sick the night before.

Being nominated by my family to speak about my grandfather today probably does not come as a surprise to many of you, but I have to tell you that it is one of the hardest things that I have ever done in  my life. I had no idea of exactly what I could come up here and tell you that you did not already know. I could stand up here and tell you what a wonderful grandfather I got to grow up with and how greatly I will miss him, but see you already know that. I could tell you that my grandfather was one of the hardest working people that I have ever met, but that fact is known by anyone that ever got to meet him. For an hour or more I could tell you stories that would demonstrate how humbly and with such humility that my grandfather lived his life, but I know that he would not want me to speak on that. I could go around this room right now and tell each and every one of you how much your love and friendship meant to my grandfather, but I don't need to. I don't need to because I know that he told each of you that whenever he saw you. Grandma, mom, aunt-mary, you knew granddad far longer than anyone else in this room. I could stand here and tell you how much I know that he loved you and all of us, but there simply is no need. There is no need, because I know through the memories that we all share of the camping trips, cruises, international vacations, parties, weddings, Robbie Burn's suppers, St. Andrew's days, Tartan Days, holidays, and many other joyous times are so vividly etched into our hearts that we cannot ever forget him. In fact, my grandfather was so full of life up until the very end that it makes it hard for all of us to accept that he is not down here among us today. Instead of that I am here to invite you to celebrate with me.

So if I am not going to go into detail on on any of those aforementioned topics, then what am I going to share with you today. What I am about to share with you is no secret either to those of you that knew my grandfather. My grandfather's greatest love in life was his family. He would do anything for us. He would lend a helping hand whenever you asked him to or whenever he knew that you needed one. He would call you up on the phone just to recite to you his newest joke when he knew you needed a pick me up – though his comedy routine usually needed a little refining. My grandfather would do anything within his power for his family and friends. To my grandfather, a friend was just another name for family. Even if you did not share his blood, you were still family. So with this his greatest love in life – was giving to his family. That is why I am here today. To tell you that my grandfather wanted us his family to celebrate, he wanted to give that to us in this melancholy time.

Celebration came easy to my grandfather, he needed no more a reason than a beautiful day to celebrate. In fact, my grandfather's second greatest love in life goes hand-in-hand with celebration.  My grandfather took no greater joy than to entertain anyone that would give him a stage. For as far back as I can remember, my grandfather loved to entertain. Whether he was singing, dancing, playing his “box,”  the piano or violin he loved to entertain. Again, as you all are well aware, my family loved to be the toast of the party and when my grandfather was entertaining everyone would stop what they were doing to join in. Some of my greatest memories of my grandfather come from times that I would take trips with my grandparents. We would be at a campground and my grandfather would break out his “box” [button-keyed melodian for those unfamiliar with my colloquial phrase] and the next thing I know is that half of the campers, none of which any of us had ever met, would be coming to our campsite to see what was going on. He would continue to play and all of a sudden he was taking song requests from strangers who would be amazed at his talent when he began to fake the song. I also will never forget a cruise that we took to Alaska. Of course my grandparents, Douglas, Trevor, and I all took our kilts on the trip for the formal dinner. At this time I was 16 and used to the embarrassment that any other 16 year old might be feeling. If dressing up in a kilt for a formal cruise dinner was not enough, it was learning the next day that there was a talent show on the cruise for any guests that wanted to perform. And you guessed it, of course my granddad wanted to enter it. He never needed a reason to take a stage and share his vocal gift and proud heritage with everyone. He took that stage and he performed in front of 500 other guests. Whom, I assume most had never heard any of the Scottish ballads that he performed. Yet not one of them thought twice about giving him a standing ovation when it was all said and done.

Although I will never forget those special times I shared with my grandfather while on vacation, perhaps the times most memorable to me will be the times I spent at my grandparents home. I will never forget my Uncle Hugh playing the piano while grandfather sung in front of the fireplace in Malibu at a dinner party. Then, as I grew older, I will never forget replacing my Uncle Hugh here in Las Vegas and playing piano along-side my grandfather while all of you joined in a sing-along whither at my grandparents house, this church, or some other long-forgotten stage. And then I will definitely not forget getting replaced on the piano by my wife Amanda four years ago.

My grandfather loved music and performing not because he got attention and praise doing it. He loved it because he got to share the music of his life with you. In fact he loved music up until the very end. A few hours before he left us down here he was hosting a sing-along in his hospital bed and going over what his favorite Scottish songs were. He was also going through a list of what all of the family's favorite Scottish song's were. When he came to me he told my family that my favorite Scottish Song was also one of his, as it was written by his favorite poet. He told my family, just a few short hours before he took his last breath, that my favorite Scottish Song was My Love is Like a Red Red Rose by Robert Burns. He told them that he knew this to be true because I had it performed at our wedding. What he didn't know is that we had it played because we knew that it was his favorite too. In a few minutes Amanda will share with you some of my grandfather's favorite songs and I ask you to picture him sing-along with us as she plays. At the closing of today's service you will hear the words of Amazing Grace sung by Ellen Walsh and accompanied by Amanda. My grandfather loved sharing this stage with Ellen and I know he would take great pleasure in knowing she is here to sing today. He is there celebrating with us today.

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank each and every one of you for being here today. My grandfather did not ask for a funeral service. He did not want us to belabor his memory or to be sad at losing him. I would like to think in my mind that he did not want us to hold a service because he did not want us to replace him with any other tenors. Each and every one of you meant something to my grandfather and I know you will all miss him dearly. Thank you for being apart of his life and of ours. As he always thought, we as well all think of you as family.

In closing I would like to leave you with a quote that I attempt to live my life by and one that I know is truly fitting of one of the greatest men that I have ever gotten to know. It is not a religious quote, although it does come from a religious country song. To Quote Randy Travis: “...it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, It's what you leave behind you when you go.” And granddad, we will all cherish and celebrate all that you have left behind you.