This is the eulogy I gave at my Grandmother, Dorothy Champion’s wake. I wanted to make it available on the web for those who missed it, those who couldn’t hear it (there were so many people at the chapel that many of you came up to me later and said it was hard to hear) and for anyone else who wants to know more about the woman who is largely responsible for anything good I ever do.
Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of this wonderful woman. To be sure, we all have some fantastic memories and cherished stories, so I hope what I have to say here will capture the essence of all of them. I don’t think any amount of time is sufficient to properly honor such a long and beautiful life lived by such an amazing person, but I will do my best. I want to start with a story that stands out in my memory of Grandma Dot.
When I was about ten years old, my mom was in the hospital and so my Grandmother, who had come down to Florida to help out the family, decided to take me shopping with her. She must have sensed my fear that day, as I didn’t know when or if my mom was coming home and was too young to really understand what was going on. So, we went shopping, specifically to buy ingredients for a “Friendship Bread” she wanted us to bake together. A friend of hers had given her a plastic bag filled with some incomplete bread mix, along with a piece of paper, instructing us as to what must be added to the mix. We were also told that once the bread mix was complete, we must set aside several cups of the batter and then bake the rest. The idea was that the remaining batter would be divided up into several plastic bags, we were to attach the same instructions we received to each bag, and then we were to give several friends one of these packages. This meant that the bread Grandma and I were baking that day was composed of ingredients from many, many friends who had preceded us in baking this same bread. So, we baked our portion and sampled some, and of course, like everything she cooked, it was delicious. Then, when the time came to decide to whom to give the individual bags filled with batter, Grandma held one out to me and said, “Michele, I want you to give this one to your neighbors four doors down the street. “Eww, them?” I asked. “Why?” (These particular neighbors had not been so very neighborly to my family on several occasions). “Well,” she said, “They are your friends, whether they know it or not. Maybe this Friendship Bread will help them realize it.” She also reminded me that returning a wrong for a wrong is not right and that nothing teaches your enemies a lesson like kindness. So, begrudgingly, I took the bread mix to our not-so-nice neighbors. Unsurprisingly, although amazing to me at the time, the neighbors were so touched by the gesture that they soon became genuine friends of ours.
I learned something, well, lots of things that day, about life in general, to be sure, but also about the woman I have known for 30 years now as Grandma Dot. And I think this particular story reflects a little something from all of our lives and experiences with Mrs. Dorothy Hill Champion.
First, as a mother, it cannot be denied that she was as devoted as any mother could possibly be, always rushing in to take care of her children, even when they were all grown up, and always loving and caring for her children’s families. This of course implied that she was also an excellent Grandmother, as she let her love extend down generational lines as far as it could, which in her case meant all the way to several great-grandchildren and even one great-great-granddaughter. She was also the best wife any man could ever dream of marrying. How do I know this, you might ask? Because even though I never met my Grandpa Tom, Grandma Dot never let him out of her heart, not for a single minute, and so it felt as though he was still in our presence every time she spoke of him. Even in her last hours, if you could have seen the way she looked at his picture, you would know exactly what I mean. In addition to being a loving wife, she was also an aunt, a sister, and a cousin to so many of us, and of course, she began her life as a loyal daughter and granddaughter.
Many of the people to whom her love, generosity, and selflessness extended were not, however, biological kin. Grandma Dot adopted many of us, myself included, into the family. In fact, I am sure that any of you here today who have had the pleasure of knowing her feel more like one of her family members than simply her friend. That’s just how it was with Grandma Dot. Everyone she touched became her child, her grandchild, her niece, her nephew, her sister, her brother, and of course, one heck of a lucky person (even those mean neighbors of ours).
But besides all the roles she filled in our great big family, she was fundamentally a woman – a strong, independent, and courageous woman. And she was the smartest woman I’ve ever known. Perhaps her pronunciations of certain words were a bit ‘off’ – it took me forever to figure out that H-U-E-E-S-H meant to keep quiet – but that’s one of many things that also made her the most unique woman I’ve ever known. She led by example, which in turn taught me to be brave, especially in times like the one in which we baked Friendship Bread together, and she imbued the whole world with a love that transcends any otherwise superficial boundaries. All of this makes her not just a virtuous woman, but a beautiful person as well, because her life was definitive of humanity and all that is good about it. She’s my Grandma, yes, but she’s also my best friend, and she’s family to all of you here today. Most importantly, she’s someone, the likes of whom this world desperately needs, so I’m asking that we keep her memory alive and evident in all that we do henceforth. Much like the Friendship Bread had a ripple effect, extending its reach far enough that probably everyone has at some point experienced its magic, so too will Grandma Dot continue to ripple her way out into this world, touching lives, and inspiring us all to be better human beings.
To close, and to echo all these sentiments, I just want to recite three lines from a song written by one of my favorite artists, as it has been playing in my head ever since Grandma passed. I will paraphrase ever so slightly. Dear Grandma, Great Grandma, Great Great Grandma, Mom, Aunt Dot, Sister Dot, Cousin Dot, Mrs. Champion, neighbor, friend, best friend:
You’re the magic that holds the sky up from the ground.
You’re the breath that blows these cool winds ‘round.
We’re all in the presence of an angel now.