Evelyn Francis Graves
My grandmother, Evelyn Francis Graves, died a bit over a month ago. She was a beloved woman and hard worker who spent most of her life content as a homemaker. I was honored to give the eulogy at her funeral. This is what I said.
My grandmama, Evelyn Frances Smith Graves, derived a great deal of joy from watching people succeed in life. And her definition of success was much broader than the three-car-garage definition. Success to Grandmama meant doing what one enjoys, being a good citizen, and working hard. She was proud of her children and grandchildren and would tell us so. I remember talking to her about what I was talking about what I was studying in graduate school. “I don’t know anything about that,” she’d say, “But I am so proud of you.”
She also derived a lot of joy from watching other people enjoy themselves. It was always so fun to play with my sisters and cousins at Grandmama’s house. We would swing, or play in the sand, or play Barbies. Sometimes, we would pick the wild onions that grew in their big yard. Grandmama reminded me of that when I visited her this past October. “Your little breath and hands always smelled like onions,” she said, recalling her joy in watching us.
Grandmama was a great wife, mother, and grandmother. She began taking care of others when she would watch her sisters Juanita and Norma Jean while her mother, Elizabeth Smith, picked strawberries or worked in the cotton mill. My mother gave her full authority over me and my siblings when we’d stay with her as children. “If you disobey your Grandmama, she will switch you,” my mother said. I don’t think that ever happened to me, but I know my brother once received a well-deserved punishment when he bit Shara.
Grandmama was a terrific cook and she loved to cook. Who can forget her pound cake with the caramel icing that some of us would eat separately from the cake, either before or after the cake, depending on one’s life-philosophy. She also made terrific pimento cheese, beef roast, ham dandy, fried chicken, turkey, and all sorts of vegetables. One time in college, I visited Grandmama. “Let’s have a vegetable meal,” she proclaimed. I was right-on with this idea, having recently proclaimed myself a vegetarian. She cooked summer squash, sliced tomatoes, and put some bacon in a pan for the green beans. Well, any vegetarian convictions I had went the window that night as I shared a delicious meal with her.
Grandmama was kind. She did not talk badly about other people and she saw the best in everyone. She was humble—not in a martyr sort of way, but in a genuine, true way. Grandmama knew what she was good at and had no false pretenses.
Grandmama loved music and flowers. She didn’t have a green thumb, she had a green hand. She had terrific flowers. My mother tells a story about a time when I was very young and I was picking flowers from her garden. “Don’t pick Grandmama’s flowers,” Mom told me. “Oh, she can pick them,” Grandmama said. “If she were to die, people would send flowers and she wouldn’t be able to enjoy them.” Grandmama enjoyed flowers while she was living.
She loved music, too. When I learned Scott Joplin’s “Entertainer,” she was so pleased. “Play ‘The Sting’,” she’d say. She loved hymns the most, though, and some of the ones we’re singing today are her favorites.
I could go on and on, but I want to encourage all of you to tell your stories about Grandmama—and maybe write them down and send them our way.
To my cousins: Grandmama was proud to be our grandmother.
She was proud to be your [to my parents and aunts and uncles] mother and mother-in-law.
[To my great aunts and uncles] to be your sister,
[To all], to be your friend.
But I am proud to be her granddaughter. May her kindness, generosity, humility, and green thumb inspire us all to be people worthy of her pride.
We love you, Grandmama.