Celebrating Grandma Tudor

Yesterday we had a service to celebrate the life of my grandmother, Sarah Tudor.  The spirit of the day was precisely what we’d hoped it would be, and I am tremendously grateful to all who helped make it happen and all who attended!  My dad, aunt, brother, sister and I all spoke, plus a former neighbor who was like a daughter to my grandmother.  Based on my emotional stability when writing and rereading my speech, I felt fairly confident that I would not make it through the talk without going into ugly-cry.  Thankfully, I was only a little shaky at the beginning and the end.  (I think the pep talk Andrew gave me in the car on the way there helped:  “You just need to lock it up.  You feel those tears coming, just lock it up.” ;-))

Here’s what I said at the service, for anyone interested:

Many of you who knew Sarah Tudor probably knew her as the hardworking CARITAS leader, or a committed Sunday school teacher for the Mastin class– always willing to help where she was needed, always feisty enough to get the job done.  I am fortunate to be one of the few who knew her as “Grandma”, and, as my Aunt Ann said recently, “Of all her roles, I think ‘Grandma’ was her best!”  (So, my apologies to most of you in this room for not getting to know her at her best. ;-))

Although she was only “Grandma” to a few, it’s clear to me that she loved anyone standing in front of her with the same sacrificial love that Christ speaks of in John 15:12—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  From the time I was an infant, she did just that for me, my brother and sister, and as I’ve learned over the years, countless others. 

When I was a baby and both my parents had to work, my grandmother moved to Richmond to be our full-time nanny.  One of my earliest memories of her was during my nap time as a toddler.  Years later, she’d tell me what a good baby I was, but I distinctly remember her holding me, rocking me in a chair, trying to sing me to sleep.  I would lie still on her chest for a minute, then lift up my head and ask if it was time to get up yet.  Time after time, she would tell me, “Shh…just rest,” and continue to rock me, but never leave me alone. 

On school days throughout my childhood, Grandma Tudor would drive to our house early in the morning, start a load of laundry, wake us up for school, cook us breakfast, pack our lunches, and see us off to the bus stop.  After school she’d fix us snacks, help us with our homework (sometimes more than others—like in second grade when my dad made me rewrite my paper on James Monroe, after correctly suspecting that the 5-page, single-spaced one I turned in may have been mostly Grandma’s work.)  Most days she’d cook us dinner before our parents arrived home.  It wasn’t until middle school that I realized other kids ate cereal for breakfast because their grandmothers didn’t make them pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, or whatever else my grandma made us at 6:30 in the morning.  The love she showed by serving us was just a normal part of life for me, and at the time I didn’t realize how special that was or what an impact it would have on my life.

But as sweet as Grandma Tudor was, she had equal parts sass and wit, and she was fierce in her convictions.  Intentional or not, she was always making us laugh.  Even today I have friends who, when we get together, say, “Tell me a Grandma Tudor story!”  So in the spirit of making this a time of celebration and remembering the happy times, I have a few Grandma Tudor stories to share with you:

-One year when I was in college, the family had gathered for Grandma’s birthday.  All weekend she’d been talking about cake, “There probably won’t be a cake.  No one needs to make me a cake.  We don’t need to make a big deal about my birthday.  Oh, I hope no one goes through the trouble of baking a cake for me.”  So after dinner that night when we brought her cake out and sang to her, she said, “My, my, my…there IS a cake.”

-Later that night my sister and aunt were discussing their Pashminas—hand-woven, fine fabric shawls.  I didn’t have one, and neither did Grandma Tudor.  After they spent a few minutes saying how great they were, how everyone needs one, and so on, Whitney said, “Mine isn’t real;  it’s just a lookalike.”  At that, Grandma Tudor leaned close to me on the couch and whispered, “Hers isn’t even a real cashima.”

-Grandma was above many of the frivolous things in life, and not afraid to say how she felt about them.  A few years ago when the social networking website Twitter had just emerged, she asked my brother, “Ross, are you on the Tweeter?”  We chuckled a bit, and Ross said, “No, Grandma.  I’m not on the Tweeter.”  Then, with no trace of a smile, she looked each of us in the eye, back and forth, conveying the seriousness of what she was about to say, and said, “America… is going to Hell.”

-When Andrew and I had been dating less than three months, our family gathered in Raleigh to celebrate my niece Kendall’s 3rd birthday.  Grandma had met Andrew prior to this and liked him very much, though she never could retain his name and called him, “What’s-his-name.”  With all the family and Andrew gathered, Grandma said, “So Catherine, when’s the wedding?”  I laughed and said, “Well, Grandma, we just started dating.  We really aren’t thinking about that yet…”  She looked at me, in complete disbelief at my insensitivity, and said, “Well, I’m not going to live that much longer!”  How dare I?

She did live that much longer, and she made it to our wedding two years later.  In the months leading up to the event, when Alzheimer’s had set in, whenever we’d speak on the phone she would ask about the wedding.  “I can’t wait for the wedding!  Is it this week?”  “No, Grandma, not this week.”  I wasn’t sure she knew exactly who I was, but she could associate my voice with the upcoming wedding.  When the day came, Grandma Tudor arrived at the site while I was getting ready.  My hair was done, complete with a veil, but I was still in my regular clothes.  I went out to meet her, and when she saw me, a look of delight crossed her face, and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you who was getting married!”

It meant the world to have her present at my wedding.  The woman who rocked me until I fell asleep during naps, who would cook to order whatever I wanted for any meal, who sent me $5 bills when I was in college with notes to, “Buy myself a latte or something,” who spoiled me in every way for as long as she was able…  Grandma Tudor loved deeply and actively—her family, friends, and anyone she met.  She showed her love by putting herself aside to serve.  I know people tend to become “sainted” when others speak of them after they pass away, but Grandma Tudor really was this awesome.  A coworker told me this week that he used to call her “Mother Theresa,” and he was not the first person to draw this parallel.  I know that my life and the lives of so many others are not the same because of the constant love she demonstrated. 

Although I miss her tremendously, I know she is free and dancing with her Heavenly Father these days, and for that, I cannot be sad.

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Family gathered at our house after the service…I love these people so much! ❤

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My daddy and me 🙂
(My hair was flipped over my shoulder in this photo, but it looks like I had it chopped off;  seeing it that length, I may actually get it cut…)

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Independence Day, Yoga, and Laughter

Thanks to everyone–in real life and the blog world–for your kind words about my grandmother the last few days.  It’s been great to have what I know reaffirmed through so many: Grandma Tudor was a hell of a woman.  For those who didn’t know her, you’ll get to hear more about her in the coming weeks; don’t worry. 🙂

It has been a stressful week.  I leave tomorrow for a mission trip with the middle school youth at church, which I am so looking forward to, but there has been a lot to do related to the trip this week.  On Wednesday morning, hospice let us know that my grandmother was in her final 24-48 hours.  I think the anticipation of her death was, in some ways, worse than her actual passing.  I felt like, I am sad, but I can’t start grieving yet because I have too many other things that I need to do that will be much harder to do when I am actually grieving!

As Andrew walked through the door Wednesday evening, he made a playful jab about an email I’d sent him earlier in the day.  I immediately burst into tears and said, “I’m stressed, and I’m sad… can you not pick on me??”  (What can I say?  I am good at articulating how I feel and what I need… even if I word it the way a 6-year old might.  ;-))

After dinner that night we went to our yoga class.  I’d been looking forward to it as a stress reliever, but I didn’t anticipate all the ways in which it would help.  We set up our mats in the middle of the room; some people were already sitting or lying down, meditating.  The instructor entered the room and began setting up at the front of the class, but had not started the music yet, so the room was very quiet.  As I walked to the closet in the back of the room to get straps and blocks for Andrew and me, I heard a strange noise through the quiet of the room:

fsshh fsshh fsshh fsshh…

I turned around to scan the room.  Everyone was perfectly still… except my dear husband, who looked like he was trying to make snow angels on the floor, his socks making the fsshh noise as they moved back and forth.  I think from his position, he couldn’t tell how loud or obvious the motion was.

I hurried back over  to our mats and whispered,

Andrew!  Stop!  What are you doing?

The floor is so slippery!  They just redid it, and it’s SO slippery!

That’s great… but stop…you’re being a lot louder than you think!

Then we did our best to stifle our laughter.  What is it about laughing when you aren’t supposed to that makes it so hard to stop laughing?  The harder we tried to stop, the harder we laughed, and laughing is great stress relief. 🙂

(But seriously, we are the worst yogis.  Let me apologize now if you ever happen to be in the same class as us.)

On Thursday, after the news about my grandmother arrived and I spent some time crying and talking to family, we decided it would be nice to get out of the house rather than spend the day moping.

We harvested some veggies:

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…ate lunch at Burger Bach, by which neither of us were wildly impressed.  We were lured in by the gluten-free bun option and grass-fed beef.  The burgers come with side salads, which is nice, and you purchase fries and dipping sauces separately.  We were turned off by the fact that a small fry comes with one sauce, and if you wanted to try multiple sauces, you have to pay extra–that includes ketchup.  Come on… just put the bottle of ketchup on the table; people will still try the other kinds.  Also, the cooking options were “pink or no pink.”  Well, I don’t want it to be pink, but I also don’t want it charred, which is how my burger arrived.  To be fair, I was having a bad day, but don’t be lazy;  a “medium-well” option won’t kill you.

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After lunch we went to Maymont to see the goats (I’ve mentioned this before, but I really love goats.  I regularly petition Andrew to let us get one as a pet.)

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Because it was so hot, they had all the animals inside, so unfortunately, I didn’t get to pet them.  Still cute. 🙂

That night we had dinner on the river and watched fireworks with our good friends Amanda and Diron.

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We love these guys. 🙂

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While waiting for fireworks, we laughed about the insane flash on the iphone camera:

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😀

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It was a great end to a tough day. 🙂

What did you do for Independence Day?

Heaven’s Gain

On July 4, I awoke around 8:00 AM.  I made breakfast, poured my cup of coffee, and sat down at the computer to write a blog entry that I never posted (or finished.)  Around 8:20 AM my phone rang.  When I saw that it was my dad, I knew it was the call that I had been expecting and dreading.

My sweet grandmother passed away in the early hours of this Fourth of July.  She was 90, and lived the fullest life a person could dream of living.

At some point in the coming weeks I will write a tribute that hopefully conveys, in some small way, the greatness of this woman, but this morning I am not emotionally ready to do so (and writing such a piece is a task that will take weeks, not minutes or hours.)  For this morning, I will simply share what I posted to Facebook yesterday:

Heaven gained an incredible lady early this morning. Words cannot do Grandma Tudor justice, and those of you who knew her (or have heard my infinite stories about her) know what I mean by that. She always loved and served wholeheartedly, putting herself before no one–family, friends, or complete strangers. After battling Alzheimer’s in her final years, today is truly a day of freedom for her. We miss her tremendously, but we know that she is (probably line-dancing) with God today.

If you had the pleasure of knowing my grandmother, please feel free to share your favorite memories here. ❤

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What followed was an unbelievable outpouring of love, memories, and testimonies of how this tiny lady had touched so many lives.  My friend Katie wrote:

“I don’t think I have ever told you this but Grandma Tudor is who I envision when I think of Mother Theresa…everything I have read about her was embodied in your grandma: loving, always busy taking care of the poor, full of wisdom, but delightfully humorous and full of spunk! I hope they are in heaven swapping stories right now!”

(Katie: thanks for bringing me to tears when I read this as well as ever time that I’ve reread it. ;-))

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 I know there will be plenty more tears shed in the coming weeks, but as my sister said yesterday, we are the only ones crying… not Grandma.

Thanks to everyone for the love, encouragement, and kind words on what was a very tough day yesterday.  We take comfort in knowing that Grandma Tudor is finally free from the darkness that is Alzheimer’s and dancing with her Heavenly Father!