——Yesterday would have been Dorothy Speigle’s 97th birthday. She passed away in January of this year. In her memory, I’m posting the eulogy I shared at her funeral.——
I’m the youngest of her three granddaughters. We all adored her.
I called her Momaw, but she’s been known by many names in her long life. Dorothy. Sister. Aunt. Dot. Dorosha. Mama. Hobie. Grandma. Great Grandma. In the last few weeks, hospice nurses have been coming in and out of her house. My mom told me that one of them commented that there was so much love in Momaw’s house.
It didn’t surprise me to hear that. If you knew her, you know that’s how it’s always been.
No one was more full of love than Dorothy Speigle. She was everything a grandmother should be.
Warm. A hugger. A foot rubber. Comfort food cooker. Easter egg hider. Band-aid giver. Christmas stocking filler. Jesus-follower. Prayer-warrior. Faithful wife. Friendly neighbor. Occasional prankster. Birthday rememberer. Oatmeal crème pie and Mountain Dew supplier. Lover of old hymns and good music. Tireless, devoted homemaker.
I remember making homemade ice cream at her house — the kind where everyone in the family has to pitch in and turn the crank until each person’s arm hurts and you’re forced to pass it on to the next person. But it somehow tastes better that way.
I remember walking to church with her on Sunday morning in Empire and singing next to her and memorizing her alto voice.
If anyone could ever be called “sweet,” it’s her. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative word about her. But I can’t call her sweet without pointing out that she had a sneaky side. Many nights when I would spend the night as a child, I remember her using a tissue to tickle Popaw’s nose after he had fallen asleep in his chair. He would jump and say “Dammit” and she would laugh. She loved to laugh.
When I was in college, she would send pound cake and peanut brittle that my roommates and I devoured. She was always the best cook. I would say everything she made was sprinkled with love, but I think it was the Crisco.
Even after she was in her 90s and I was married, she kept trying to take care of me. Giving me peppermints or Werther’s candy. Or wanting me to take a nap on her couch while she put a blanket over me.
I think she believed it was her duty to meet the needs around her. Especially when it came to food. Fried chicken. Biscuits. Fried Okra. Cornbread. Sweet tea. Lemonade. Whether it was the mailman or the door-to-door salesman or her neighbor or the friend from long ago. Or a granddaughter. We always had a place at Dorothy’s table.
As she got older, I think one of the last things that left her was her awareness of the people around her. My husband even remembers this about her and he only met her 8 or 9 years ago.
She didn’t just love people well. She made everyone around her feel loved. Even after she stopped cooking. And tending her garden. And walking to the mailbox. And making the bed.
I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned from Momaw through the years. Some of them have my own take on them, but they all started with her example.
Things I learned from Momaw
1. Pray to Jesus without ceasing. He is faithful.
2. Always respect and honor pastors. (And when they come over for Sunday dinner, make sure to hide your dirty jokes).
3. Make home a place of comfort and caring.
4. Love the people around me sacrificially. Unless, of course, it’s my husband. Then it’s ok to steal his dessert.
5. Always pray for my loved ones.
6. Look for people who need a little extra encouragement or support … and feed them.
7. Chocolate is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Even after 90.
8. Always have something set aside to offer people to nourish them.
9. Cook chicken and dumplins while getting flour all over the kitchen. The bigger the mess, the better it tastes.
10. A party can mean sitting on a couch next to people you love, eating cheese and crackers or popcorn and hard candy out of aluminum pie tins with crinkle edges. And drinking Mountain Dew.
11. Marriage means sharing life with a man you can cook for AND tease.
12. Awww…shit! (Sorry, mom!)
13. Nothing is worth having if you’re not willing to share it. Be willing to give anything you have to someone who needs it.
14. When the music to a familiar hymn plays, always sing to the Lord. Even when you’re in your 90s.
15. Zip-loc bags and aluminum foil can be washed and reused multiple times. Even when we’re not in a recession.
16. Being a homemaker is a dignified and noble work. Not for the faint of heart.
17. A little mischief never hurt anybody.
18. Making a meal for someone isn’t about the perfect ingredients or cooking style. It’s about taking advantage of a moment when someone is in your home to love them.
19. It’s possible to leave a legacy of greatness as a quiet person who loves well and doesn’t seek praise.
I will leave you with a Bible verse Momaw always encouraged me with. Romans 8:31-39 (abbreviated)
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … For I am sure that neither death nor life … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”