I Worked the Day of My Grandfather’s Funeral

Tara McEwen
3 min readSep 3, 2021


And as many family members noted, he would have wanted it that way

The day of my grandfather’s funeral is when I learned his middle name is “Eric”. His whole life he went by his first name “Orwill”, not “Orville” as he so often had to correct. Why he wouldn’t go by the simpler “Eric” is unknown to me. But the man never missed a chance to make a lasting impression.

I haven’t been to enough funerals in my life to know if it’s ok to have an inside joke. But when we buried my grandfather’s ashes this week, my family made the same one at least three times.

“I have to work today, but I think Grandpa would approve.”

I started the day answering client emails. My cousin, who is a teacher, needed to skip the luncheon to prep for the start of school next week. Even my aunt who arranged everything needed to work a half-shift at the nursing home later that day.

We all agreed, Grandpa would be fine with it.

For my grandfather, there was no such thing as work/life “balance”. He didn’t see them as being opposite parts of his life that needed weighing. He worked to support and care for his family, and he shared his work with his family to make sure we would all be financially secure when he was gone.

If business bored you, his endless lectures and stories about the insurance world felt like pure torture. But me? I loved it.

I vividly remember hanging on to his every word. In our family we don’t talk down to kids. Grandpa talked to me about the world of business the way he talked to all of the adults.

I felt so grown up and important. In giving me his full attention, he made me feel like I was smart enough, grown up enough, to understand this world that was so important to him.

Every year I would listen to the same lessons about living within your means, investing for the future and protecting your investments. And every year I understood more and more. Even today as I build a business from scratch, I’m pulling on lessons he taught me as a 7-year-old seated at the grown-up table.

Even though he worked and thought about work constantly, he still found a way to build a solid family bond that stretches to my aunts, uncles, cousins and now second cousins.

My grandparents loved to travel and would take us on vacations — a lot. And by us, I mean my immediate family, my aunts, uncles and cousins. Grandpa would help cover costs when some family members couldn’t afford the trips. He wasn’t around a lot when my mom was growing up, so maybe he was making up for lost time. Or maybe, later in his life, he had finally built enough wealth to spoil his family the way he always wanted to.

Whatever his reasoning, those regular vacations created an unbreakable bond. Sometimes years will pass between reunions, but the reconnecting is effortless. Grandpa worked to support and strengthen a family that came together and effortlessly supported each other at his passing — one two-week vacation at a time.

Whether it was a family vacation or holiday dinner, Grandpa would find one moment to talk directly to you, one-on-one, even for a little bit. Quality time with Grandpa was exactly that — because he didn’t have a lot of quantity time to give to everyone. Work took up a lot of hours in his day, but he found ways to prioritize family when he could.

Alzheimer’s took his mind and guidance from me around the time I started working full-time. I never got specific advice on how to build my career and financial independence. I could really use this right now, especially as I work at creating the right balance between working hard enough to reach my goals, while still making time for myself and my loved ones.

Even though I started the day of his funeral with work, by the time I connected with family at the cemetery, I put my phone on silent. It stayed tucked into my purse, collecting emails, while I put my full focus on those around me.

When the luncheon wrapped, we made promises to get together soon and took our time saying our goodbyes.

We had all carved out a four-hour window to be together for each other. And in that window, nothing else mattered but family.

He would approve of that, too.



Tara McEwen

TV producer turned media entrepreneur | Media Coach | Dog Mom