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