A Tribute to My Grandmother

There’s Both Peace & Solitude in Heaven

On mid-afternoon of Pentecost Sunday, my grandmother joined my late grandfather, four months and sixteen days after he passed away. She was 79 years old.

She was laid to rest on the morning of the 1st of June, and I was given the honour to participate in a tribute involving several people my grandmother knew. Being the youngest member of the group, I was asked to make a tribute on behalf of all the grandchildren. The following is the speech I wrote, which I recited after the funeral Mass, along with a letter emailed to me by a cousin who was present in spirit.

My Grandmother: Teacher, Woman of Unwavering Faith

Some parts of the speech were extemporaneously changed upon recitation, and apart from the omission of some names and details in order to maintain my personal privacy, and that of the rest of my family, the general context remains intact.

I stand before everyone present today, on behalf of the… grandchildren, to speak about my grandfather’s soulmate: my grandmother.

… My grandmother was born on April 22nd, 1931… Orphaned early, she lived in a convent and eventually became a teacher. She met my grandfather after he braved the strictness of the nuns to speak to her, pursue her, and eventually asked for her hand in marriage. They had children and eventually settled down… where we are all gathered today.

… [As a child,] I would have the privilege to see [my grandparents] during my summer vacations off school. My grandmother was the resident expert in making “water Coke”, which was the soft drink diluted in water. All [her grandchildren] knew of “water Coke”. There were times, out of concern for [our] young health, she would add even more water on occasion, and [we] would eventually refuse to drink. Years later, she would bring it up, saying it made her laugh.

My grandmother would also be my tutor, holding “summer classes” in English composition and basic mathematics. She had a particular technique that encouraged my life-long love for the creative field. English compositions were decorated with [pictures], and no math problem involving the division of a certain number of apples was complete without a coloured drawing of the fruit… on the paper.

However, the most unforgettable lesson she taught me as a child was one I learnt in tears and curled up on my grandmother’s lap. I assume it was during a particular interlude where I was being naughty, and I [asked]… “… why is it harder to be… good?”… We would write many letters to each other after that… Until now, I feel the same struggles, though the conditions are more complicated and adult.

In 2005, the [family reunited for an outing that came in the form of a spiritual] retreat… 2005 also marked the 50th year of my grandparents’ marriage, so we surprised them with a unique anniversary gift: a surprise wedding.

It was a humourous feat of secrecy: buying the wedding ceremony clothing without their knowledge, then talking them into wearing the outfits (“We’re having a family photo! Yes, the make-up is necessary!”), then leading them to the chapel without arousing any suspicion on their part — only to be greeted by an impromptu wedding entourage. I remember the tears of joy on my grandmother’s face, and their happiness is unforgettable.

My grandmother was a postulant before getting married, and her convent life had reinforced her as a woman with full trust in the Lord. She sang loudly and danced freely when praising God, and as a Marian, was devoted to [the Virgin Mary]. My grandmother was consistent in praying the Rosary, often dedicating whole [decades] and entire Masses to individual family members and those who were requesting prayers. She lived, loved, spoke, and acted with the awareness of Christ pulsating through every part of her being — and did so up to the very end.

There is a reason why I have used the word “unforgettable” several times during this speech, because she is. She helped many, and was like a mother figure to more than just her immediate family…

And her laugh… not only did it originate from her gut, but the joyous inflection sang from every chamber of her heart. It was a laugh that would be followed by laughs from others, a laugh so unique that sometimes I still hear it.

She left behind a legacy of children, grandchildren, love for homeland, and an eternal impression on the many people she helped during her life. May her memory continue to live through us.

The Unabridged Tribute Speech

I am currently in the process of transcribing the original version of the speech to email to family members, those who attended the funeral Mass, and anyone in reasonable acquaintance with me and/or my family who want a copy of their own. Requests can be made through the comments or through the contact form. The original written notes will be handed over to my mother, as per her request, to become part of a compilation of family memories in dedication to my grandparents.

To family members who have reached this post through Facebook or various instant messengers, kindly wait for your soft copy of the unabridged speech via email.

11 Comments

  1. Leann

    It’s wonderful that you have such great memories of your grandmother. I enjoyed reading your tribute, it was beautifully written from the heart. I’m sure your family loved listening to it too.

  2. Maria Celina

    @sorpaolareyes: Nice to see you on my website, Auntie. She indeed had laughter that made an entire room of people exponentially happier. I was told by one of my best friends that couples who pass away within months of each other are told to be soulmates, and that’s a very comforting thought at this time.

    @Nadine: Nadine, you have around 49 years of implying the idea to Zayden Asher and the other possible future children! Kidding aside, you more than deserve something of that measure during your 50th year with your husband, and I am sure that your child(ren) will have wonderful ideas by then.

    @jannie: She was indeed a very intelligent woman, Jannie. She had the title “Doctor” (of Education), and it was very apt.

    @Nikz: If I remember correctly, Nikz, my grandmother responded by agreeing that it was indeed difficult to be good. There was never a concrete solution, because it is a battle that every person undergoes all throughout their lives, regardless of age or creed. However, I am sure there is somewhat of an answer, to quote the imitable Dr. Bob Kelso of “Scrubs”: “Nothing in this world worth having comes easy.”. In that context, nothing worth being comes easy. She recalled that moment in letters that we would exchange to each other in the subsequent years. I guess she did precisely that because it was the moment I realised that life wasn’t going to be as blissful as playing on the swings or as difficult as trying to trick your grandmother into pouring more Coke than water in her infamous “water Coke” recipe.

    @Kristine: Your empathy gives me comfort, Kristine. Thank you.

    @anna: Honestly, Anna, I thought structure-wise, the entry I made for my grandfather seemed to be much better woven. In hindsight, I cringe at the closing. However, I know that matters that come from the heart cannot be quantified — and I was a bit pressed for time, considering this was a recited piece.

  3. Skye

    That was such a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like a very special person, who left a lasting impression in her family. It is so nice that you can celebrate her life so well.

    My thoughts go out to you and your family at this time.

  4. anna

    That was a beautiful speech, Marz! I can totally see why she was a woman loved by many. I’m sure she was flashing her big smile at you while you were sharing this at the funeral. :)

    *HUGS*

  5. Charles Ravndal

    What a beautiful tribute to your loving grandmother. I bet that she’s a lovely woman especially the way you wrote about her. Beautiful.

    Though it is sad to lose a loved one, but it is lovely to know that they are in a better place.

  6. Kristine

    That was beautiful, and I could not help but cry to this… It is very touching, and I’m sure your grandmother is happy wherever she may be. :-) Thank you for sharing this, Maria.

  7. Nikz

    Beautiful speech, Marzie. Makes me wish I’d known your grandma, given the liveliness and joy that you’ve just described her with. I’m really curious as to how she responded to your question about the difficulty of being “good” :) I’ve never really gotten to ask my grandparents these kinds of questions, really… and I find that you’re really blessed to have known your grandma to this level of writing her eulogy.

    Keeping you and your grandparents in my prayers ♥

    Hugs,
    Nikzie-boo

  8. Veronica

    I can tell you loved her very much. Very beautiful speech. I’m sure she heard you from where she was and enjoyed every second of it.

  9. jannie

    this is a very beautiful tribue to your grandmother. i love your memories of her like about the water coke and how she made summer classes fun. especially with math. i was impressed by reading about how she integrated art with whatever she was teaching. especially math.

    she seemed like a very beautiful woman with a beautiful heart. you are lucky to have had a intelligent, loving grandmother like her. she was lucky to have you too. in spirit, i’m sure she was very proud to have listened to the lovely speech about her.

    thank you for sharing your wonderful memory of her. take care, marz. :)

  10. Nadine

    this was a lovely speech.
    their wedding anniversary gift made me smile and
    hope that someday, I, too, will be able to have
    that.

    she will be remembered dearly and fondly by those
    who love her.

    thank you for sharing this maria.

  11. sorpaolareyes

    while reading it, i can “see” her simplicity and “hear” her contagious laughter… she will be missed and always be remembered…
    may she now rest in peace, together with Uncle.

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