The following are portions of my eulogy for my grandma, Retha Jackson Claxton, delivered at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart, IN, Aug. 20, 2014. The passing of grandma marked the last of my living grandparents.
Eulogy For Grandma Claxton
This morning I will attempt to deliver a eulogy the last time as the eldest grandchild in my maternal and paternal families. And do it without losing my composure.
It’s not done out of expectation or obligation but out of what my Grandma Claxton would see as an appreciation. My hope is to add honor to her memory.
I’ve been by the old Claxton house our family inhabited for decades and I’ve seen the body that used to be that of my grandma’s. She’s no longer at home in either.
This room last night was filled with laughs, jokes, love and fond memories. Only periodically were there tear-dimmed eyes and that’s just how she would have wanted it to be. A celebration of sorts. And relief that one of God’s servants finally has gone home.
What she taught me to enjoy in life: The tastes of good foods and the practice of having something good to feed others when they come to your house. Not necessarily healthy food, but gosh-dog it tasted good. For her that was:
- Chicken and dumplings
- Biscuits and gravy, eggs, rice and bacon
- Cinnamon toast
When my brothers and sister and I all lived in the same town, our house became the family dinner spot. My answer to “what should we bring?” became “only your smiles.”
Grandma loved to laugh. Maybe that’s one of the things that kept her young for so long.
The eve of Grandpa Claxton’s funeral, piled around her dinner table for snacks, I’d brought Mrs. Renfroe’s Habanero salsa. When people started dipping in I said Habanero means “Damned Hot” in Spanish. Grandma stood in her kitchen laughing. She thought it was hot, too, but that’s how Claxton’s roll.
She emphasized a love for music. She once gave me an Englebert Humperdink album. There also were albums from Abba, and in kindergarten she gave me an album with Alvin and the Chipmunks’ All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.
Her least favorite Christmas song: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.
She talked constantly about how she loved the trip to Germany to see my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Mike when they were stationed there in the Army. She loved the colors of the trees in Northern Michigan in mid-September. Yosemite in California. She and grandpa rode the Alabama Reunion Train with Gov. Hunt from Auburn to Montgomery in 1990. And they both went to a Cubs game with me and my friend Tim Cobbs in 1993.
When traveling home after wedding in December 1995, Tim was checking her bags in BHM and greeted her with, “Hey, I know you, I’ve been to your house.” It made her feel good to be so far away from home and have someone tell her they knew who she was and had been excited about being at her home.
Words of Advice:
She loved the quilts she made. If you have one, take great pride in your possession of it. There’s a story in the fabric. Her heart and soul still lives on in every stitch.
Even as you age, don’t ever let a dentist take out all of your teeth.
Work the tense situations in life like you were working a puzzle. Put the straight-edged pieces together first then go about filling in the middle part. In time, you’ll start to see the bigger picture.
True love doesn’t have age restrictions. This is the girl who eloped all the way from Athens, down to Decatur, AL—about 10 miles or so—with a man six or seven years older than her when she was 16, and she stayed married to him to the day he died 61 years later. These days we’d put a guy in jail for doing that. Where would you be right now if they hadn’t run off and gotten married at such young ages?
If you’ve been struggling over a puzzle too long, take a break. Go to the bathroom. Go for a walk. Come back in 10 minutes and the answer/puzzle piece probably will be the first one you find.
Read. Every night. Keep the phone by your bed and stop reading when your grandkids call you. They may be keeping you from your reading, but you’re giving them a lifetime of joy in every conversation. And if you can answer it before it rings, well, then you’re faster in their minds than the gunslingers you’re reading about.
Why go to the store and buy Playdough when you can make your own. Even if it was white and didn’t last, the story that you made it with your grandkids will endure for the next 40 years or more. The point is, time with little ones count. It’s not the big things, like trips to Disney World, that count the most. But making Playdough in your kitchen does. Trips to the store to buy things they really don’t need is pretty cool, too, though.
When your family is coming and going to and fro and the Air Force makes them feel like they don’t really have a home, let them know that no matter where they travel, your home is their’s, no matter how big or small it is.
Life can be difficult and families can be hard on each other. Love harder. No matter how mad you are or frustrated you are with someone else in the family, never close your door to them. Life’s too short.
Love God. But not being at church every Sunday doesn’t mean you don’t love the Lord.
If you’re sitting there sad about her passing I ask you to stop. She wouldn’t want that. She wouldn’t want tears. Just like in the old hymn Where the Soul of Man Never Dies … she would want no tear dimmed eyes today. She’d want us all to be happy, to tell a joke or two, to find Mike Feltman and get him to say something about “Mama” that would make her laugh. She’d want us all to find a way to get along … life’s too short to be mad at each other over differences of opinion or doctrinal interpretation. I heard so many times from her over the years the heartache she had over the fissures that were there between brothers and sisters. Life’s too short, she would say.
And it is. Forty-three years after I really came to understand who this woman was, it seems like it only was yesterday. Life has raced by with all it’s pains, sufferings, temptations, high points, celebrations, births, successes, and tragedies.
Grandma believed she was going to Heaven. When Grandpa died, her last words to him were “Grab hold of Charlotte and I’ll see you soon.” She lost a child who was age five and until these recent shadowy years, never forgot Charlotte had left so early to be in God’s arms.
Now she, Grandpa and Charlotte are reunited again and in the words of Grandma, we’ll all be seeing them soon. In Heaven.
Do not pain the loss of this great, loving woman. She’s dancing with angels now, and out of pain.
In 1973 she brought me a 45 of Paul Simon’s Loves Me Like A Rock. For all her four children, the 10 grandchildren and 22 grandchildren, really, anyone she knew, that was how she loved us one and all.