August 24, 1933 – April 10, 2018
My grandmother, Joan, died last Tuesday, April 10th. I was in Utah when I got the call from my mom. I cried at my desk and then actually took a lunch to sit in silence in my car in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot.
I called her Nona, which is Italian for grandmother. She is my mother’s mom, and was a complete riot – the life and center of every party. Sometime after I was born she came to know Jesus and has loved the Lord ever since.
This is what I said at her funeral on Monday, April 23rd.
Joan Frankenfield was my Nona. As her only granddaughter I took pride in knowing I made this dazzling diva a Nona. We have always shared a deep connection, and in many ways, even more than she knew. As a woman, now in my late twenties, and more comfortable with my craziness, I often wonder if my love for people and passion for “the party” matches hers. My Nona has a roaring yearning for joy – this was most evident when I witnessed or heard stories of her provoking others. For example: by adding pickled-pigs-feet to a stranger’s shopping cart, or changing the prices on a restaurant’s “specials” sign. These sorts of things I find myself doing more and more. And for this reason I now know why I once told my mom, “I’m more like Nona than anyone.”
My husband recently took a survey about me, in which he answered “what annoys Sunny the most in life?” “People.” “What does Sunny love the most in life?” “People.” When I heard this I immediately thought of Nona… I think her greatest joy was knowing and learning people… more than they were sometimes comfortable with. She could make you part of the joke, but not with malevolence, rather a desire to be closer to you and appreciate you and see if you could handle it – not taking yourself seriously. Nona could cut to the core of you in search of a connection. And oh my stars, she was funny.
In these last years [with dementia] I saw her joy for people in her eyes. It was powerful. Her desire to connect could not be taken away. As I kissed her beautiful, soft hair the last time I saw her I thanked the Lord for placing me in the lineage of such a bold, engaged, creative, deep, witty, resplendent individual.
God is good, and I know Him more by knowing others, with the same desire to connect as Nona had. I cannot wait to love on her in heaven.