Five weeks ago, on October 18, Dana Grote swing died surrounded by her family. She was 57 years old. On Saturday, November 20, a celebration of the life of the Evanston resident was held in the Crystal Ballroom on Chicago Avenue, an event attended by nearly 300 of her closest friends and family. Ordinarily, a statement like this would sound like a hyperbole, but in Dana’s case, it could well be an understatement.
Except for the excruciatingly sad reason for the gathering, it was like a fabulous party that only Dana could have planned. Fresh, vibrant flowers, lovingly supplied by her uncle, have been elegantly arranged on each table, adding a much needed splash of color in the blandly colored grand ballroom. Hand-sized sandwiches that could be eaten without making a mess. Many desserts that one could try without needing utensils. Abundant amounts of delicate French macarons and tiny Eiffel Tower charms to remind everyone of their favorite city. Boxes of tissues on each table. The queue to sign the guestbook that never gave up.
In addition to her loving family who traveled from Lexington, Ky., To attend the private church service leading up to the celebration, the room was packed with friends of Dana. Women she had known from primary and secondary school. College friends and sisterhood sisters of Vanderbilt University. Girlfriends from when she was single and worked for Marshall Field’s. Evanston’s beloved neighbors and church friends. Other parents whose children – also present – had been in class or on baseball teams with one of Dana and Chuck’s sons. Friends of the book club and the garden club. The people who accompanied her when she was training or walking (with or without the family dog, Zoey). His clients. The people she worked with at the New Life Interim Shelter in Rogers Park. Even his favorite oncologist, who had of course become a close friend and spoke to him regularly even though he had moved to California – he flew to be there. He told Amy, Dana’s close friend and neighbor, âI wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Of course I entered.
The slideshow her devoted sister Allison curated and presented, summing up Dana’s far too brief life, was beautiful, funny, festive, and made those in attendance miss her even more, as if possible. There were a lot of tears. After her conclusion, ending with a beautiful video clip of her preparations for her wedding day, several people approached the microphone to share their special memories of Dana. There were several common threads running through each unique and personal praise.
She was thoughtful. Dana remembered the details, the dates, the cards sent, the baked cakes. She listened. She was fully present when she spoke to you. She made you feel special. She was a problem solver and a hard worker. She was the unofficial big sister of so many people. Allison shared, “There was no one better to talk to when you were having a bad day, needed a second look at a presentation, or a good pep talk.” Her cousin Tiffany described Dana as “our modern millennial version of Mary Tyler Moore, with a dose of Carrie Bradshaw’s passion for fashion for good measure.” Another speaker greeted Dana’s grieving parents, Joyce and Charles, saying, âYou have raised a wonderful daughter. Look around this room. See what impact she has had on so many people.
Kelvin Johnson, social worker and program director at New Life Interim Shelter where Dana was a dedicated volunteer and board member, described how, at one point, he was particularly disheartened by the issues he was having at the shelter. , and he prayed to God, ask, “Why am I here?” What is my goal ? Soon after, he realized that there was this lady who came to his office all the time, and for every problem he shared with her, she had a friend who maybe could, and often did, help him find a solution. Over time, plans for a renovated shelter that languished like drawings turned into a real construction project. Johnson said Dana always focused on the babies who were in the homeless shelter. It wasn’t their fault that they were there – what could we do to make things better for them? Focusing on babies renewed her mind and sense of purpose. Johnson is convinced: âGod sent me Dana.
Towards the end of her remarks, Tiffany summed up the cornerstone of Dana’s life. “Her philanthropic accomplishments were extraordinary, but her crowning achievement was the beautiful family life she built with Chuck, Ben, Luke and Zoey.” Of all the words used to describe Dana, âwife and momâ were the most important to her. She savored every achievement of her two sons, enjoyed every game, celebrated every success and suffered every disappointment. Her family was her world and the reason she was willing to try any treatment that would allow her to spend more time with them.
Towards the end of her remarks, Allison quoted Dana, who may have quoted Audrey Hepburn, as saying “Paris is always a good idea.” On Sunday morning, a healthy-sized crowd gathered by the lake for a brisk 3-mile walk in memory of and honoring Dana. joy of living. Despite previous weather reports announcing possible rain or even snow, the sun was shining. How could he not? May his memory be a blessing.