Friday, January 7, 2011

On My Grandpa's Birthday and What Was Read at His Funeral

In honor of today being my grandpa's birthday, I decided to post the eulogy I wrote for him the night he died a year and a half ago. My aunt read it for me at his funeral.

Here it is:

Although it has been years since I have heard my grandpa sing, I can still clearly hear in my mind his strong, clear, resonating baritone voice. In fact, a good portion of my many memories of him are intertwined with the music he sang. I can picture him belting out “Jimmy Crack Corn” or the first few lines of “When the saints go marching in” as he made me ovaltine during one of my many sleepovers at my grandparents’ house.

I can hear him singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” or “This Little light of mine” in the car on the way home from the YWCA where he took my brother and sister and I swimming every Friday for much of our childhood.

If I try, I can hear him sing God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen as he cooked bacon and pancakes in a small condo kitchen during our yearly Christmas vacations to South Padre Island.

When he didn’t know or want to sing the right words he would sub in “do do do’s” sang with such earnestness that it almost seemed like they could truly be the correct lyrics.

He was also known to sub in his own lyrics from time to time. He had his own special version of Jesus Loved the Little Children which paid tribute to the red, and yellow, pink, and green among us. His made up songs were never bawdy, just silly and witty. A gift in and of itself, the talent for being funny and witty without being biting or unkind.

This brings me to perhaps the most outstanding quality my grandpa possessed. He was genuinely kind and giving. Probably the kindest person I have known. He helped people not to make himself look better, or to gain favor in anyone’s eyes, but simply because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated charity by being cheerfully, quietly, charitable. This charitableness was no doubt directly related to his faith. He had an unshakable belief in God that was peacefully moving and he shared his Christianity with the world through his actions.

It seems hard and somehow kind of impossible to pay tribute to such a great man with a few short words. Especially being that he was much more a man of action then a man of words. I think, maybe, the best homage I could pay him would be to try to pass on his gift of quiet charity and kindness to my children.

I want to end this tribute with a little exercise, if everyone here would humor me. If you can, picture my grandpa’s singing voice in your head. Now I want you to picture him singing these words to one of his favorite old stand-bys. I never knew if the “do do’s” he inserted in this song were there because he never knew the lyrics or because he just plain liked “do’s” better. It’s funny, but I don’t think I have ever heard the “right” words. It was always one of my favorites to hear him sing, and I sometimes find myself singing his version as I do dishes or play with my children.

“Come and sit by my side little darlin’,
Do, do, do, do, do, do, and sweet smiles.
Oh remember the Red River valley.
Up in heaven when life’s race is done.”

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