The afternoon of Thursday, September 28, I walked up to the podium to speak at the funeral of the late, great Nancy Nelson. I had prepared brief remarks on my phone, and for a moment I thought I’d be able to read them without crying.

I was wrong.

Nancy was a wonderful, compassionate, caring, and strong woman who treated my wife, children, and me like we were part of her family. I should give you some background. My mother in-law, Kim, has been dating Glen for at least five to seven years now. Nancy is Glen’s mom, whom we’ve known the duration of their relationship.

Now that we’re up to speed, let me go back to the funeral and the line that got me. “I always enjoyed talking to her (Nancy) because she reminded me of my grandmothers, both of whom have passed away.”

That was it; cue the waterworks, and I’m not ashamed to admit that to you here. I loved my grandmothers dearly and had strong relationships with both of them. But I wasn’t trying to make the remarks at Nancy’s funeral about me. It just felt right to acknowledge the special bond that the majority of us are fortunate to have with our grandparents.

Nancy had that with Kaden and Garen, her grandsons, and I’m sure that you can relate. But maybe you don’t have the best relationship with your grandparents. Here’s the thing: you have the power to change that. To quote the brilliant John Prine and his song “Hello In There”: “So if you’re walking down the street sometime/And spot some hollow ancient eyes/Please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare/As if you didn’t care/Say, ‘Hello in there, hello’.”

Funerals are never easy, even if the person passing is not related to you. I also want to say that there is NOTHING wrong with crying at funerals, visitations, memorials, or even when a song comes on that triggers some emotions/memories. Crying doesn’t make us weak; it makes us human, and for this rather larger human (6’5 and husky), I’ll cry every time I attend a funeral and listen to some speak on behalf of the deceased.

Oddly enough, October 4 marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my Grandma Catherine, “Babe” (everyone called her that). Contrary to the saying, dealing with the death of loved ones doesn’t get easier as time goes on. What has helped me personally is choosing to not forget those who are no longer with us physically, because my faith tells me that spiritually they have all ascended into heaven and will greet me someday.

But what about the times when I feel the presence of the departed? Don’t miss those opportunities to say hello in your thoughts or prayers, or, for me, in this space. Hello Grandma Babe, Grandpa Joe, Grandma Marge, Grandpa Bill, Uncle Mike, Hayden, and now, Nancy.