Saturday, March 19, 2005

My Matriarch Mae --- a eulogy for my grandmother

There is a woman I’ve had the great privilege to know during my so-far brief time here. Her name is Mae. She is my grandmother.

When I think about her now at her passing, there are many things I remember about her…from stories she told me, stories I’ve been told, experiences I shared with her, and impressions from old photographs.

Mae… the first girl in her town to wear a halter top and short shorts…those long, perfectly painted pink fingernails, and long, long legs (from which many of us have benefited.) I imagine her in her youth…beautiful from photos I’ve seen, a young mother sent on her way to hard times, but determined to make the best life she could for herself and her children. Sometimes it was really, really good.

As for the things I know more about, there are certain memories that mean Mae for me. Mostly they have to do with holidays and food. Things like learning that the reason why I never liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is because I never used enough of either and that it is very important to spread them all the way to the edges of the bread.

Then there is Cherry Delight Surprise, always to be counted on like clockwork at every family reunion. I’ll be needing that recipe. And finally, creamed lima beans…it isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas without them. For years I tried to make this seemingly simple dish to absolutely no avail. Then one time, determined to faithfully reproduce this delicacy, I called her. She walked me through it from beginning to end. Turns out there IS a secret to it after all.

On top of all these memories that I hold so dear to my heart are the lessons she taught me, and maybe you too (they are a lot like Uncle Eddie’s lessons):

* how to pray
* how to be kind even when you don’t feel like it
* how to be strong even when you don’t think you can
* how to do what needs to get done
* maybe how to be stubborn
* she gave us girls certain genetic predispositions (some of you know what I mean!)
* but above all, she taught me the true meaning of family and what it means to love

It is my great hope that not only can we share this brief moment in our lives and share our sadness at the loss of Mae, but that more so we can celebrate the fact that we had the singular great privilege to know her and have her touch our lives.

Desi Opal Elsie Mae Moore Johnston Wickham

(I read this at her funeral on March 5, 2005. She was 88.)

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