August 4, 1924 - June 4, 2014My Grandma passed away this past week. I was asked to write her eulogy and read it at her funeral. It was so difficult to narrow down all that I wanted to remember about her and all the ways her life has affected mine. My original draft had to be cut down over and over to try and keep it a reasonable length.
Speaking in front of people isn't something I do well or often, or comfortably, but I wanted to honor her in this way and I'm so thankful for the opportunity I was given to share. It was for her.
Grandma would have been 90 this August.Her name is Frances Kathleen but she went by Kathleen. Her children call her Mama, the grandkids call her Grandma and her siblings and their children call her Katsy.
Her life tells a beautiful story, a legacy of love
to family and God.
It can be clearly seen in each of her children, how the seeds she planted, now thrive.
Grandma's mother died, when she was 10 years old. After this, Grandma and her siblings were split up and moved around living with relatives. The people who took her in and each of her sisters and brothers were very dear to her.
I always wanted to know more after she talked about her time being a waitress in Chicago, how she went ice-skating in the winter on frozen ponds. "If I was having a bad day, I'd go buy a new hat. A new hat always made me feel better." she said remembering her single life.
She loved Papaw with deepest devotion and commitment, she made a promise to stand by him til death and she kept her word, faithfully honoring him for 59 years.
I asked her, what would be her best advice for marriage and she replied, "Well, I think marriage is give and take. Sometimes you give and sometimes you take, and sometimes it feels like the other person is doing all the taking and you're the one doing all the giving, but I think in the end, it all evens out."
Grandma's house was a special place. When Papaw took her to see the farm and where they would be living, she cried. The farmhouse was old, it had snakes in the walls and skunks living in the fireplace, but Grandma made it their home. Home for almost 65 years. Home to their 10 children,
where she sewed their clothes and quilts,
made do with what they had,
made things go farther,
worked with her hands,
fed mouths and fed souls.
Going to Grandma's house always meant peppermints on the mantle,
pop cycles in the deep freezer,
cookies in the jar,
running up and down the cellar hill and sitting with her on the porch swing.
I loved looking over the family albums that held small snapshots, windows into the past.I remember picking Easter Lilly's,Through such sweet times getting to know this incredibly strong,
picking beans and breaking beans,
picking cherries and making cherry pies.
To make anything, she didn't have to have all the ingredients, just what she had and it would turn out alright. Grandma always had her freezer loaded with left overs, nothing was ever wasted. She could whip up a meal in no time, the table would be covered with all kinds of food,
"A little of this and little of that." she'd say!
One time, Grandma sat me down and had me write our genealogy. She wanted me to know and remember these names, roots to my family tree. She loved family. Reunions were her favorite because her family was together.
always positive grandma of mine, I learned...
...she lived life one day at a time,
she made do with what she had and trusted God for the rest.
She never complained and always showed how much she cared for others.
It was her great love for each of us that kept her going. She wanted to share life with us, she wanted nothing but the best for each of us. She often said she wasn't ready for heaven and I think that is because she knew that Papaw and Theresa where just fine there, but the rest of us needed her.
Those of us who knew Grandma,
those of us who are pieces of her story,
continue to write her story.
We carry of her strength and love in our hearts and pass those on to our children and our grandchildren.
There are pieces of my heart that live life the way I do because of how she lived hers. "What we do for ourselves, dies with us. What we do for others remains and is immortal."
It is our privilege to continue sowing the seeds that Grandma sowed, from the fruit her faithful, love produced.
As the years went on, there were times I stayed with Grandma while Papaw was in the hospital for open heart surgery and rehab. I had just gotten my permit and drove Grandma back and forth to and from the hospital or rehab to visit him everyday. It was an hour drive and she used to fall asleep on the way home in the passenger seat! I remember watching the two of them say good bye to each other when it was time to take Grandma home and knowing that they really loved each other.
When Papaw unexpectedly passed away, 7 years ago, Grandma was very sick in the hospital. When her family told her Papaw passed away she said, "God is good." I stayed with her for several hours the night of his visitation. That is the night I asked for her best advise on marriage and that is when she told me she hated war because war changes people.
WW11 changed my Papaw. He fought for our country and nearly died when his tank flipped. About ten years ago, my husband, Joe was working at a rehab hospital and my Papaw's life long friend, Buddy, was a patient there. Joe asked him about my Papaw and he told Joe how they served together in WW11, he'd seen the tank that my Papaw was in flip and while telling Joe about it, he started to cry. "I just knew Louis was dead!"
Papaw saw alot of hard things during war, those things changed him. Grandma loved him despite those changes and become what he needed her to be to build a life together.
My mom always said she never heard either of her parents talk bad about anyone, neither did I. They both cared about people. We used to laugh when my Papaw would say he went and visited the "shut in's" on a winter day when he couldn't be outside or going to the stockyard.
I asked Grandma what was her favorite time in life and she said it was when she was single. She used to love to show us her postcard collection of places she'd been and tell us about the people who sent them. She got married at 23, had her first baby, of 10, at 24. 8 girls and 2 boys, my mom is the seventh child.
My Aunt Theresa died when she was 10 from cancer. Grandma said that she never stopped missing her. When all the kids would run in the lane off the bus, she always saw the empty space of Theresa. She said, people often told her things like "at least you have all your other children" and it hurt because nothing could replace or fill Theresa's place. I admire her great strength to carry on, to not become bitter.
The first year they were married Papaw ran a gas station in their little town and then he purchased a farm. It was a run down, old farmhouse at the time, part of it is built with cabin logs but it's still standing and very much Grandma's house. Grandma loved her house so much, it was her home. She lived there until the last 2 years when she moved in with my Aunt Angela. Some days she liked to take a drive to her house and go back inside just to look around and sit for awhile.
Papaw made a living growing crops, buying, selling and trading animals, farm equipment and sometimes items from auctions. Grandma stayed at home until her youngest daughter was in school, then she got a job sewing at a sewing factory. Grandma learned to drive when she was 50, my Aunt Angela taught her. When she was 70, she bought a treadmill, changed her eating habits and lost 100 lbs!
Grandma used to love sitting on the porch swing, sometimes visiting, reading her mail or watching for Papaw or company to come down their long gravel lane. She had two cement flower pots on her porch that always had red geraniums in them. There were always new kittens on the back porch that Grandma and Papaw both acted annoyed by, there was always a different dog roaming around and we never knew what animal Papaw had bought or traded to sell for profit. Most of the time it was just cows, maybe some sheep, but every now and then there might be a horse or a donkey in the barnyard.
I love old things. Sour lemon aid will forever remind me of visiting her. She had a special way of doing things. She was contented and always happy, even when she was sick or in pain she didn't complain and asked me how I was doing. The past 10 years she has been in and out of the hospital, she kept going when most would've given up.
I am blessed to be a piece of her legacy and pray I can take the rich heritage I have been given and continue it on. I am thrilled that we will be naming Laynee after her, Laynee Kathleen.