Everyone’s Gramma has died. – Eulogy by Blacksun
Barbara Fusselman, whom nearly everyone called Gramma Fussie, lapsed into a coma on Tuesday, July 29, rallied for a short time, and then journeyed on to the Great Mystery in the early, dark hours of Tuesday, Aug. 5. Though she received medications to ease her pain, she had long ago decided to forgo any extra measures to prolong the life of her body. She knew she was dying and, though the body will always strive to maintain life a little longer, Gramma Fussie passed without objection. She was as she always had been, quietly trusting that the gods knew what they were doing and that she was their servant and priestess. During her last days, she was visited by many who loved her, including her daughter Lavanah, and was able to talk with other loved ones by phone while she was lucid for a short period before her passing.
Anyone hearing this who didn’t know her might wonder at the first sentence of this eulogy. But everyone who met her understands exactly what is meant by it. Barb was ‘Gramma Fussie’ to everyone she met in about two seconds flat. That was her energy to everyone. She was the light in the darkness, the kindness one needed no matter what the circumstances, and the loving wisdom of the crone. There was nothing that could not be made better by spending a little time with her. She was everybody’s Gramma.
Don’t get the idea that Gramma automatically approved of everything… not at all. She had strong opinions and a strict code for herself and the world around her and wasn’t afraid to give voice to it. But she always was compassionate and knew that each and every person was a child of the gods, to be given respect as such even when they did things that she could not respect. It was more than simple good manners; Gramma had grace. She delighted in giving of her time and skills and served the community without hesitation in a thousand ways. Her magic was based on her generous and giving spirit and it was great magic indeed. Many of us have dear memories of Gramma sitting at her sewing machine at Spring Mysteries. She seemed to be there every minute of those long weekends, making costumes at the last moment, repairing or adjusting outfits… not just for the ritual actors, but for anyone who needed her help. Her talents were wonderful.
Her life wasn’t easy. She had many physical problems that plagued her throughout her life. But she was a survivor. She was a survivor of domestic violence and still managed to raise four wonderful children. She was a cancer survivor but she never lost hope or bothered to slow down. And her spirit was always strong. Even though she might have looked like an easy target, one would-be purse-snatcher got more than he bargained for when he attempted to practice his trade on Gramma Fussie a few years back. Without hesitation, she splashed his eyes with lemonade and tripped him up with her cane, causing him to run and trap himself inside a small store. I imagine he was relieved when the police came to take him away.
In her final years, she knew few days without pain and was bed ridden for the last couple of years. Her inability to get around and visit with her many ‘kids’ was a loss to all who knew her. And, as is always the case, her infirmity was a reminder to us all that we will eventually follow her into the final mystery. That made visiting her sometimes uncomfortable. We knew that Gramma wouldn’t leave the rest home where she was cared for. She received good care, but there was always the knowledge that she would end her days in that bed, in that room, in that place. It was difficult to visit her and not show how sad we were, knowing that someday we would not have her anymore.
But we were wrong. Though her body has died, the spirit she so freely shared with all of us lives on. I could tell many stories of her as could everyone at this gathering. Everyone who knew Gramma Fussie has a tale to tell, a memory to share. And in those memories, she will probably have been doing something when you encountered her: sewing or helping with something. And she might have kept right on doing her project while she spoke or in some way shared her time with you. She might have told you about something that had happened to her in days gone by… or a friend of hers… or one of her family of whom she was so proud. Or maybe she related a First Nation tale that perhaps didn’t seem to fit at the moment but later on would come back to you and you’d see how it had influenced you for the better. Gramma probably couldn’t have told you why she’d said what she did or told you that tale; it was just a matter of passing the time for her. But we came to realize that some brand of magic was always working through her and she never fought it. Indeed, she was very aware of how the gift of life, hard as it was for her at times, was a gift to be shared.
Though she had children and grandchildren that she counted as family, Gramma’s family was much larger. We all were her family and she was definitely part of ours. She never bothered much with material wealth but generously gave of herself, which was priceless. She was a treasure.
There are no words to describe what a great gift the gods gave us in Gramma’s time with us. What a beautiful person. If we wish to honor her life, then let us try each day to have the grace that she demonstrated, the hope that she displayed in the face of suffering, and the faith she always held as a beacon to follow.
Many knew Gramma wrote beautiful poetry, some of which will be shared with you here. Nothing I could write would be as wonderful but there is a piece, a song that she loved and I’ve adapted it for today.
There is a land I can see,
Where we all long to be.
Where the rivers run swiftly,
To carry your soul to the farthest star.
There is a land we all know,
Where we lived long ago.
How strong comes the pull of the wild-hearted Spirits,
Who are calling to me.
They say there is a land of the sun,
Where all souls may come.
It’s not easy to win it,
It can fade as the spring dew that runs through your
Come with me tonight,
While the young moon is bright.
You can feel the earth spinning down pathways of
starlight that dazzle your sight.
There is a land I can see…
—————————————(adapted from Sally Oldfield… Water Bearer)
So, goodbye Gramma. Dance, and play, and laugh in your Summerland. For you, we offer this prayer:
Oh Great Spirit, listen to our song of love for your daughter whom we all called Gramma. Accept her spirit into your meadows of mystery and give her peace. Let her dance with the spirits of Coyote and Raven and Hare. Give her love and wisdom to Grandmother Moon who looks after us in this land and who shared the magic of Gramma Fussie’s life with us.