I was visiting Iowa when both events happened, and thankfully, was able to spend this difficult time surrounded by family, instead of alone in LA.
Grandma Breen passed so peacefully, she just faded away. She was 94 years old and had suffered with dementia for the last 8 years. It's a bit of a relief now, to know that she's no longer confused and scared, but up in heaven rocking the babies to sleep by singing the Irish Lullaby to them, as she used to love to do with all of us as infants.
She was an amazing woman. She and my Grandpa Breen had 10 kids; 5 boys, 5 girls. When she passed she was surrounded by 8 of her children, all her son- and daughter-in-laws and 6 of her 30 grandchildren. She also had 31 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, their oldest son, Jim, 2 of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She raised her 10 kids to be wonderful adults, and always made sure they had what they needed before she got her own, whether it was a meal or new shoes. I think it's an amazing testament to how loved and respected she was that every single one of her 30 grandchildren dropped everything and were able to make it back from all corners of the country to attend her funeral and celebrate her life. There wasn't even a doubt from anyone, we HAD to be there. She had a way of making each of us feel as though we were her favorite. I only hope that some day I can inspire the same devotion and love in my own children and grandchildren.
Her spirit, her compassion, her laughter, and her love will live on in each of us.
Below is the Eulogy written and shared at her funeral by my cousin Carrie. I think that she says it better than I ever could aspire to:
Eulogy by Carrie Bolshaw
Grandma Breen was our rock. Our true north, and the calm you knew was coming after the storm. She was the anchor that never let your boat drift out to sea. For all of us, she was this and more;
She was pure,
She was honest,
She was strong,
She was humble,
And most of all, she was loving.
We have all spent the past week remembering and sharing our stories. Some we’re hearing for the first time, others we could recite word for word. In all of them, we learned more about a woman we love deeply.
Like how you would open her front door at any time and be greeted with the smell of fresh baked bread. Or how she sang the Irish lullaby to calm and comfort all of us and our children. She kept us warm with her hand-sewn quilts; her love was in every stitch.
Grandma Breen had an infectious laugh. She would giggle until tears filled her eyes, and when you looked around - everyone was laughing with her.
We remember piling into her house on Christmas; how condensation would collect on the windows as the snow fell outside. She wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would we.
She was there for our birthdays, first communions, baptisms, graduations and weddings. She attended our concerts, our plays, and our sports. Grandma committed herself to attending our lives, and we are all better for it. Each of us knew that we were her favorite.
She never wanted more than she had, and she was thankful for all she was given.
And so as we come together today, we know that Grandma Breen is in everyone one of us. The things she taught us we now teach our children, and hope they in turn teach theirs. Because of this, we know she will live on forever.
This is a short video clip I took of her on her front porch in July of 2002, singing one of her favorite songs. She may not have known who we were all the time, but she never forgot the words to her favorite songs. As we gathered around her bedside during her last days, some of the only times she responded were while we sang to her these words:
Goodbye, Grandma Breen. I love you and miss you.