Grandma 1918 - 2010
05/21/2010 05:43 PM Filed in: Blog
I wrote a eulogy for my grandmother this week. I had to deliver it on Thursday. Here's how it went.
How do you sum up a person's life in such a short amount of time? I can assure you that no matter what I say to you today (or Brother John), we will not even scratch the surface of my grandmother's awesome life. Even this week I've learned a few things about grandma that I never knew–and I've known her for 35 years. For example, I learned that Grandma never made it past the 7th grade. Aunt Jan told me this on Tuesday. She said that Grandma felt like her clothes weren't as nice as some of the other kids and she didn't want to go back to school. So after 7th grade, her mom allowed her quit school. I grew up around grandma's house all my life. There were many nights where me and my cousins spent the night over there. Yet I still didn't know that until this week. I assure you that had I known it, I would've thought of a lot more creative ways to try to skip school the next day. I would've pointed out to Grandma that I was just trying to skip one day–not my entire high school career.
Grandma never told us that. At least not the grandchildren. She saw all of her grandchildren graduate college. We didn't know that she was a seventh grader.
Let's start at the beginning. Grandma was born in 1918. Claxton was less than 30 years old when she was born. Hagan was less than 15 years old. Grandma spent most of her life in Hagan. She was a member of Hagan United Methodist Church since she was 9 years old. For those of you counting, that's since 1927. Grandma was a child of the great depression. I once asked her how tough times were for her back then. She said that they never had any money anyway so it wasn't a big deal to her. I guess the great depression wasn't that depressing for her. That makes sense to me because the grandmother I knew didn't wear a frown for long.
That brings me to my next point. Grandma was always happy. There was a certain glow in her beautiful brown eyes that let you know that she wanted to be with you and that you were the most important person to her in the world. That smile always followed the sparkle in her eyes. Her eyes never judged you, they always welcomed and loved you. And... she loved a good laugh.
When you live a long life, you see a lot of changes. Grandma saw a lot of changes in her lifetime. She lived through Woman's suffrage, World War 2, the civil rights movement, and she was 51 years old when we landed on the moon. Those were all awesome things–but none of them were half as awesome as my grandma.
Now what makes a person awesome? What does a person have to do to be awesome? I thought about that this week when I asked them to put that she was an awesome grandma in the paper. The closest thing in my life that I could relate it to was playing an instrument. People often assume that certain people are born with 100% talent and they never have to work at being good-ever. This couldn't be farther from the truth. I assure you, the best musicians I know are also the hardest working musicians I know.
Then it occurred to me on Tuesday that grandma was awesome because she worked at being awesome. She wasn't awesome because she wanted to be, she was awesome because she was. When someone was sick, she helped out. When her church needed her, she stepped up to the calling. When her family needed support, she was there. Every time. She braved the losses of two husbands and two of her children. She outlived most of her friends and she had many good friends. You know why? She was out there living!
A lot of people foolishly believe that the man is the head of the family; that men have to call the shots and everything that happens in a family must pass through the all-knowing eye of the father figure. While at the same time, women plan family Christmases, birthday parties, orchestrate entire family reunions, call family members when a loved one is sick, schedule piano lessons, baseball tryouts, wednesday night suppers, weddings, graduation parties, or anything remotely having to do with a family. Of course at all these family gatherings where food is involved (and they prepared most of it) we sit idly by waiting to be told when it's time to eat, when it's time to open presents, when to clap during a recital, what to wear to each event, and we wander around a little lost sometime waiting for our cue to ask the blessing. Our one shining moment of glory.
Of course, women don't ask for glory. They just get the job done. Grandma never sought glory. She sought results. She asked that people not send flowers on her passing, but send the money to the church instead. She didn't want to make a big deal to the world.
In February, grandma had gotten sick and she thought she was dying. Ashlee and I walked into the hospital room for a visit and she had a very glazed look in her eye. I've never seen her look that way. It was almost as she was looking through me and seeing something else. She was ready to go and her specific words were: "If I can't be with my family, then I want to be with God". She then began reciting a list of things that she wanted us to do and say when she died. I'm going to read some of those to you now.
Again, her words: "I know where I'm going and I want all of my children and grandchildren to follow me and see neighbors and friends". She told me to tell Dick Stanfield that he was one of the best friends that she could've ever asked for. She let me know to tell Marsha and her family that she loved them as her children too. Her specific words were: "She enjoyed you as children too". This is even better because this meant she loved you and liked you.
Ms. Carrie, she loved you all these years and she was very thankful for the card you sent not so long ago.
Wayne Massey: "Keep your head up, you're doing a fine job and stay at church and I'll see you in heaven".
As she was telling me this, I realized it was pretty serious and I asked her if I should call the rest of the family and she said that she didn't want anyone to feel bad if they weren't there.
As each family member walked in from the five or six different towns that we now live in, she began to feel a little better. Her complexion began to glow, her eyes got brighter, and as each grandchild and great grandchild walked in the door, her cheeks rose and she actually began to smile. After a while, there were 12 people in the room and she was as giddy as a schoolgirl. She managed to organize a family reunion and get all of us together from a hospital bed.
That's exactly what grandma did. She kept the family together both physically and spiritually. She made sure we were at the family reunion and church. There was never any moment in our lives where grandma would let one of us feel less than the other. She always loved us equally. She also made sure that we loved each other equally. That right there my friends is what holds a family together. We have a close family. We love each other. We can always be honest with each other.
I was asking my cousin Troy about some memories of Grandma he wanted to share with me for this. He told me just today that he could really remember the little white plastic church that Grandma had at her house all these years. For those of you who visited, it was always there (usually up on the china cabinet) but at Christmas time, it was always under the Christmas tree. It's funny to me because it's one of my most vivid memories as well. When I think of Grandma, I think of the little white church that you could wind up and it played "Silent Night".
Speaking of more mundane things, one of the things that Grandma was well known for was being a good cook. One year at Christmas all of us were sitting around the table to eat and I had piled a mound of peas and rice as high as I could get it on my plate. I loved Grandma's peas and rice. I think I probably starved myself all day because I knew I would be eating one of my favorite meals that night. Anyway, when we began to eat, I noticed something funny. Her peas didn't taste quite right. I put another spoonful into my mouth and they not only didn't taste right–they were absolutely horrible. I looked up and was about to say something to my cousin, Joe and he gave me the "Shhhh" motion with his pointer finger to his lips, followed by the hands strafing sideways motion that usually suggests a big "DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT THIS". I suddenly realized that he already figured it out. The peas were bad. Then I looked over to see how everyone else was responding to situation and I noticed that my other Cousin, Troy, had meticulously scattered the peas around his plate to make it look like he'd been eating them. He was playing the smart card. Me being the vocal person that I am, I had to speak out.
"Grandma, what did you put in the peas?"
"Are they bad?", she said.
"Oh yeah. They're horrible.", I confirmed.
"Well, I used this old bone I found in the freezer. I thought it might be bad but I figured I'd give it a try". Then she gave us a chuckle and laughed it off.
Then of course we all had a good laugh because after all, she never goofed like that.
It is the small things that you take with you.
One of the first things that grandma told me is one of the last things I'll leave you with. She wanted the song "Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone" sung today. I wasn't that familiar with the song so I looked it up. As it turns out, the melody was written by George Allen, who wrote one of my favorite hymns. I'll read a passage from that because it's very appropriate today.
Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on, let me stand I am tired, I am weak, I am worn Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
I learned a lot from my grandma.
I learned that I should treat everyone like I'd like to be treated.
I learned that being a good person requires you to BE a good person.
I learned the strength and power of a grandmother's love.
I learned that having a great family is more important than great riches.
I learned that you can never spend too much time with the ones you love.
I learned that you should make peace and not have a bad bone to pick with anyone.
I learned that you should make peas without using a bad bone.
I learned that the family of friends bind together the pages of God's symphony.
I learned that each one of us is what it's all about.
I learned that even in death's grasp, there is life greater than what we live.
I learned all of that.... from a seventh grader.