I wrote and gave this eulogy during the funeral of my beloved Grandma. Known by most of our family as "Grandma Babe," she was the heart of our huge family. This woman means the world to us, and I wanted to share how special she was.
(Music: Amazing Grace)
As you can all probably guess, doing this service for Grandma is going to be really hard. But it’s the last thing I can do for this little lady. And it’s not much considering all the things she did for us over the years.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried writing this over the past few days. How do you put into words how much this woman right here has meant to all of us? And I realized … there aren’t enough words in any language. Because this woman—this precious lady—was our sun, and we all revolved around her.
This morning, I stand here as a representative of our family and for our family. No pressure! I’m going to do my best to express what this woman has meant to us—both for her and for all of you. All of us.
Let’s start with the facts.
Babe was born on November 30, 1918 in Urbana, Illinois the daughter of James William and Violet Elizabeth Roughton Johnson. She married Alger “Curly” Bray on Sept. 25, 1937, in Tuscola, IL. He preceded her in death on June 20, 1998. She was one of five children, including June (whom we lost just months ago), James, Beverly and Betty Jean.
Curly was the one who first called her “Babe,” and she’s been Babe ever since. They lived in a few different places, but 48th Street in Moline resonates the most as “home.”
She has 4 children, 9 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, 4 great-great-grandchildren … and there are two more babies on the way.
Those are the facts, but we all know a person is more than dates and numbers. The best part of a person is how they make you feel. Babe made us feel special and loved, and she didn’t ask for anything in return. She was our sunshine, and we were the flowers she tended that basked in her light.
But this little lady—this beautiful little lady—never understood just how bright a star she was to us and so many others. She worked so hard throughout her life without stopping to realize the impact she made on people.
Willa raised her family of six on a tight budget and a prayer. She could make a meal out of anything. She sewed not just quilts and dolls, she also made clothes for her family.
She took a tiny house in a ravine and made it into a home for her husband and children. Everything about that little house was a reflection of her—tiny but impressive. It was her blood, sweat and tears that made it possible.
As a kid, there was always a special joy in walking down the steps to get to the little house. The tiered hillside, flowers of all colors, circular brick patio and strings of colorful hanging lights. It was like walking into a fairytale. So many good times were spent in that yard, rocking on the red swing, sitting in lawn chairs, sipping the best iced tea in the world.
So those are the facts and a little nostalgia. But let’s talk about who she really was.
Babe would do anything for anyone. She never complained, and she was always happy to see her family—whether one-on-one or in a big, loud group.
Because family was her most-treasured accomplishment. Of all the things she did—sewing intricate quilts, building decks and planning gazebos, baking the best bread and oatmeal cake--we were what she was most proud of.
“I’m the reason you’re all here,” she’d say. And she was right.
Babe didn’t discriminate, either. She considered the ones her children and grandchildren married as her own. They were her kids and grandkids. She didn’t consider them anything else.
Yesterday, Micheal and I were talking, and he told me about someone back home who told him he was sorry for his loss. While the sentiment was very nice, Micheal said, “Don’t be! She was 97 years old, and she didn’t waste one bit of her life.”
Maybe she didn’t build skyscrapers and wasn’t a world traveler or a great adventurer, but she was amazing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children … to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
She succeeded. Now I’ll share with you some of the memories people wrote about her at the visitation …
“I remember that Babe, me and my grandfather used to go out to eat every Tuesday and had a great time.” – Annabella
“I will always remember her laughter.” – Bill D.
(read from notebook)
I read a poem by Sanober Khan that made me think of Babe and her kids.
“my mother is pure radiance. She is the sun I can touch and kiss and hold without getting burnt.”
We are all glad that our Babe is no longer in pain or lost inside herself. But the worst thing about losing her is that we no longer get to touch her or kiss her … or be touched or kissed by her. For that, my heart breaks.
But she will always ALWAYS be our sunshine. Just look to the sky and know she is still shining down on us.
We love you, Grandma.
(Music: You Are My Sunshine)
I actually do write things that don't involve cemeteries. Right now I'm focusing on mini fiction stories. Let me know what you think.