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.