The following is an excerpt of the eulogy I gave at my grandmother’s funeral in 2004. She died from Alzheimer’s.
Grandma lost her own mother when she was only 14. She told me stories about learning to cook on the farm. The farm hands brought in a hog’s head to the table and told her to “put it up.” I wonder how ma 14-year-old girls today could manage making head cheese, unaided? Her frugality stayed with her. In later years, I would tease her that if there were three green beans left in the dish, she would save them.
She told me about walking to school along dirt roads, even while being in charge of the house, she managed to graduate as valedictorian of her high school. Her teachers told her she needed to go to college, but in those days, daughters of poor dirt farmers didn’t go to college.
Grandma didn’t tell me any stories about her early married lift, raising three baby girls during the Depression, but I know that during World War II, the local ration board gave her extra gas stamps so that she could continue a Girl Scout troop. In later years, she cared for her father and her father-in-law in her home, nearly to the end of their days. She served others.
She taught me to crochet, and to cook without recipes, and sewing tricks so that my things didn’t look too homemade. From her years of experience and her skillful hands, she taught me how to wear my clothes tastefully, which has been valuable to me in the professional world. I learned to make her cornbread dressing, and although I can’t burn it quite the same way she did, I always get compliments. After she retired, she taught herself to paint. She was interested in learning new things. All of us can attest that she always had a stack of crossword puzzles in various stages of completion. I know that my own love of needlecrafts came from her influence.
The most valuable thing I remember about Grandma, however, is her spirit and kind heart. She had a good word for everyone, even those people whom the rest of us could only have hard times seeing good things about. Her voice was soft. I only heard Grandma raise her voice one time.To me, she was the finest example of a woman who loved her family, her husband, her church, and we call called her Blessed. Her life was often very hard, but she never complained about herself or her lot, she was never bitter, she lived to serve others. She was a gentle person, and a gentlewoman.
I can’t live up to her example, but my work ethic and my attempt to be a charitable and good woman are indebted to the influence of my grandparents, Virgil and Helen Hughes. I tell my own sons that she was a true lady, and a role model for you. And if you boys feel about me the way that Grandma’s daughters and grandchildren felt about her, I am a success. In the eyes of the world, she was a simple woman. In the eyes of her family, she was everything.
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