My grandmother recently passed away at the age of 95 (Just think of all she had seen!). I was asked to give a eulogy at the funeral, and this is what I wrote and delivered. I may have jumped from the script a little bit but this is essentially it. In retrospect there are a few things I wish I had included, but I think this tribute does a pretty good job. RIP Grandma.
As the eldest grandson I have been asked to say a few words in honor of Elmarie Herweck. Well, that’s what most of you called her. We grandkids had a few other names for her. For my brother and me, she was Grandma Her, because apparently Herweck was too big a mouthful. To cousins Cory and Samantha, she was known simply as “MeMaw”. And my kids knew her as “Great Mom”, harkening back to what we all called my great grandmother many years ago.
There are many stories I could tell today, illustrating the many different sides to Grandma’s personality. I could reminisce about family meals with good conversations around the table eating food prepared by loving hands, and what is still the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. We could talk about the trips she has taken with family and friends, always ready for the next adventure. Or how about her love of games, like “Solitaire” or “Rook”? Remember the long marathon games of “Rook”? How about “Dominos”? Don’t get me started on “Aggrivation”.
But instead I would like to focus on Elmarie, the person, as I knew her. She was a Christian woman, good Southern Baptist, and she loved her God and rejoiced in her faith, sharing it with others whenever possible.
She also had a great sense of humor, and kept it until the end. Her laugh was whole hearted and contagious. She loved a good joke, or a good story. But I don’t believe she ever said that anything struck her as funny. Nope. It “tickled” her. That was the expression. There were levels, too. “Kindly tickled” was pretty funny, and “tickled” was hilarious. I always liked that.
She loved her family and loved being around us all. Earlier this week my brother posted to Facebook a picture from a birthday celebration we had a few years back at Chevy’s Tex Mex restaurant. When it’s your birthday at Chevy’s, you get to wear the birthday sombrero. So there she is, my sweet Grandmother, wearing a sombrero twice as big as her head, and a smile almost as big as that sombrero. It was silly, and she knew it but the look of joy and love on her face is one that all who were there will surely cherish.
But in thinking about Grandma over the past few days, what I really keep coming back to is her generosity. Especially toward family. If you were traveling to or through St. Louis, she would always make room for you. That’s just how it was, you stayed at Elmarie’s house. When cousin Pam first moved to St. Louis and needed a place to stay, who did she go to? Aunt Elmarie, exactly.
She put my family up more than a few times too. The St. Louis heat can do a number on your air conditioner, and we had one that failed on and off for a few seasons. Time to go stay with Grandma. She had no issues at all with bringing in a family of four, sometimes for a week or more at a time. That couldn’t have been the easiest thing in the world, but she did it gladly. That was her heart.
Grandma was also very accepting of new people to the family. Not just the babies, everybody loves them, but new partners, new spouses were always welcomed and made to feel like family from minute one.
Even back when Valerie and I were dating, a few years before we got married, I would take her to the family Christmas and every year Grandma made sure there was a present under the tree for her. Mostly socks. But Grandma made sure that she wasn’t left out. Again, that was her heart.
One more example of generosity. A few years ago, it was made clear that Grandma would no longer be able to live independently, and moved in with her son next door. My wife and I were given the opportunity to buy her house. We talked about it and decided that moving next door to family could be a real blessing. And it has been, but in one way in particular.
For most of their lives, my kids knew Great Mom as a lady they saw a few times a year at family gatherings. But now, they had the opportunity to know her and grow to love her as a real person who loved them just as much. I am very grateful for that.
When you move into a house, you make it your own. Change the paint here, update this or that, make some changes. The master bedroom in our house has a walk in closet. And on the first day we moved in, hanging from a nail on the wall right next to it was a giant Chevy’s sombrero from that birthday party back in 2017. Seeing it made me smile. And it’s still there. And it still makes me smile.
I think that might be the best legacy any of us can leave for those who knew and loved us, that whenever they think of you they smile. So Elmarie, Memaw, Great Mom, we miss you. We love you. We will see you again one day. Until then, thank you for the smiles.