Today is the one year anniversary of my Grandma Soden's passing. I loved her so much (and we share the same middle name, Mae). She was so incredibly special to me, and I hope to write more as I process this day. But for now I wanted to leave the eulogy I wrote and read at her funeral:
I am honored that Grandma and her kids have asked me to speak today, but let me confess… putting Grandma into words has been one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever been asked to do. I have asked many of you for input and I thank you greatly. I have prayed, tossed and turned, written, deleted and rewritten again. And still, I may not summarize it all. Simply put, there’s too much about Grandma to fit into this time, but I will try. And what I have forgotten, and the memories you have that you want to share, I hope will be the background music for the rest of this weekend, and years to come.
Let’s talk about the woman Grandma was:
Grandma was a fabulous cook, wasn’t she? In our home, we have all kinds of little tricks that she taught my mom and me. Together as a family, we have all kinds of recipes, smells, and traditions that started at her stove. Cinnamon Rolls, home-made dinner rolls, Chicken and Noodles, and true home cooked meals around her dinner table or out on the deck just to mention a few. Many of the grands and great-grands like Andrea and Ellie will also remind you of the vanilla and fudge swirl sundae cups she kept at her house. Grandma was never short on love, but she wasn’t short on great food, either!
Grandma was your biggest fan. If I had to guess, I would say that Grandma was present at at least one important event of every person here—and more likely, dozens of events that she may or may not have traveled hundreds of miles to attend. I love that Grandma loved watching us do ‘our thing’—maybe it was a ball game, a recital, a holiday or birthday or graduation, a wedding or shower—for you, your kids or your grandkids-- if there was any possible way Grandma could be there she was. Her love and pride for her family went beyond events though-- I think Becky said it best, “she made me feel special for who I am on the inside...and while she always was proud of her family's enormous personal and professional achievements, she seemed to know that they are really only minor considerations when it comes to the beauty that lies within…”
Grandma was selfless—in fact, probably one of the most selfless people you have ever known or will know. What truly made her happy was getting to experience the joy of the people she loved. When I first consulted my OB about traveling in late pregnancy, I cried. And she said “oh sweety, would this be your grandma’s first great-grandkid?” I laughed. “No, it would be her 29th, but if you know Grandma she would love the 29th just as much as the first!”
Let me share story with you about Grandma’s selflessness that Kris told me about Grandma’s last weeks in the hospital…
Kris said he took Jack with him to the hospital, and odd as it may seem, Jack was very comfortable with Grandma and talked to her often and told her he loved her. Grandma had this big balloon in her room at the hospital that her kids had gotten her with flowers and when he came to visit, Jack would grab it and play with it. He thought the balloon was so cool. When they were leaving one day from the hospital Jack wanted the balloon but was told that it was Grandma's balloon and that we should leave it for her. Jack, who is normally very persistent, was ok with that answer. The next time they visited, Grandma insisted that Jack take the balloon. Kris said, “I knew she would have so much more enjoyment in that balloon by giving it to Jack then seeing it in her room for her to look at.”
Kris continued, “That is who Grandma was. She got so much enjoyment out of other people’s pleasure and happiness. That is what made her happy.”
Grandma was the glue. She was “Grand Central Station” for many of us. Whenever I talked to Grandma she could tell me what was going on around the nation of Soden families. That is something that we will all miss. It’s going to require a different type of effort on each of our parts. Our family is more than a group of people who kinda share a last name. And our family is different than many families. I believe the closeness that is our family is one of the greatest legacies Grandma and Grandpa will leave behind. I like the way Brandon said when he said, “Grandma and Grandpa created a foundation, a way of living, a family, that I live my life everyday trying to uphold.” But this did not happen by accident. And it will not stay this way by accident either. One of the ways we can maintain our closeness is to keep the tradition of camp alive. I believe that through camp we can honor Grandma’s memory and legacy each year as we have fun, talk, eat, connect and catch-up. Because, after all, Grandma was a camper, too.
I’m nearing the end so hang with me…and let’s end on one of the most significant roles that Grandma lived.
Grandma was a child of God. Just like many of you, I believe that one of the greatest connections I had with Grandma was through our love of Jesus Christ, and I know this was one of the reasons she asked me to speak today. Grandma made a courageous decision to choose hospice. And, like so many who have gone before her, Grandma made this choice with a faith resting on eternal life in heaven.
Grandma understood John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Hear me when I say, Grandma was wonderful, but she was not perfect. She was a sinner saved by grace just like you and me. She was a good person, but more than that, she had asked Jesus to be the personal Lord and Savior in her life, and in doing so the Bible promises us “that to die is to gain because it is to ‘be with Christ’” (Philippians 1:21-23). Grandma lived her life with genuine love for Jesus Christ, and it is through Him that she was all that we loved.
Let me end by saying this… good-byes are hard. I know. Grandma understood, too. We cry, get awkward, avoid them, our tongues tie and our eyes water up. It happens at the end of a holiday weekend, at camp, at an airport, on the phone and in person… and if we’re lucky, it happens at the end of someone’s life. But do you know what I think? I think God gets it. I think each time we struggle through a good-bye, that God is touching a very special place in our heart. You see, God knew that good-byes would be very hard, so he created a place where we never have to say them again. And Grandma is there. In heaven, Grandma has a new body and a new mind, she is walking down streets of gold, is in the presence of Jesus her Savior, and has reconnected with her love, our Grandpa. Perhaps the two who first connected on a dance floor are dancing again. They are loving every minute of it, I am sure. They are reaping the rewards of their very faithful lives on earth and they are doing it together. Please, let that comfort you today and know that through a personal relationship with Jesus, the same gift is offered to you.
Grandma was a great cook, our biggest fan, incredibly selfless, our glue, a camper, and a Child of God. And so, I end today in a way that might sound familiar— Ultimately, Lord, when my day comes and you welcome me home on the other side of the Eastern gates, please bring with you three familiar warriors—Grandpa and Uncle Don and Grandma, too.