Below is the tribute I read to her at her Celebration of Life. Notice I didn't say "for her" I read it "to her" because I know she was there listening and dancing along with us. Truly. She was there and she felt loved and she was happy. We didn't have a traditional funeral for her because she would have absolutely hated that, but we did send her out in style! We threw a legitimate luau complete with catered luau food, hawaiian dancers, ukulele players, and kazoos. Brittany, Karen, mom and I all wore her vintage dresses and sported red lipstick to pay her tribute. My mom sang the song she wrote for her called If Only The Best Birds Sang and it was, by far, the most perfect thing ever. How she got through those few minutes I'll never know, but she did it with such strength and grace. The entire event was the absolute perfect way to celebrate Nammy.
Hi. I’m Corisha. Lori’s daughter, and Nammy’s first born grandchild. I’m excited to share some of my thoughts while simultaneously dreading every second on this.
My nammy was quirky as all getout. The very first thing I picture when I think of her is her singing and humming. Everywhere we went. ALL THE TIME. In fact, she would sing regardless of the situation. I remember a few days after my grandpa, Popeye, passed away I was sobbing and she came in and gave me a hug and smacked my back (she didn’t have the most gentle pat) and she sang a silly song she taught me when I was younger. It seems fitting for this situation so to honor her - here it goes “if you see a frowny face. Do not let it stay! Quickly turn it upside down and smile that frown away. No one likes a frowny face, change it to a smile. Make the world a better place while smiling all the while.”
My nammy made my world a better place and I hope to smile as much as possible today because that’s what she would have wanted. Truth be told, my gram didn’t love sappy drama. She used to hum and sing and play games anytime there was an ounce of sadness or depression. She was really good at kind of glossing over the day-to-day things that would bum someone out or cause pain. Growing up I would see her play games or smile and sing instead of dealing with confrontation, anger, frustration or drama. And sometimes I would think it was ignorant. That she was just ignoring the problem and not facing it head on. That she was emotionless because she didn’t seem to let things bother her. But the older I got, I realized that she had an amazing gift. She understood that she couldn’t control other people. And most of the time she couldn’t change what was hurtful or bothersome. So, instead of spending too many minutes dwelling on negativity she would sing a song, hum some notes, play an instrument, or start playing a game. She wasn’t ignoring the problem. She was taking control of her emotions. She was making a conscious choice to spend each moment in as much joy as she could. She was turning her frown upside down and choosing to be happy.
So, in her honor, we are going to play a little game that will also help lighten my mood and help me get through this talk. If you would kindly get your kazoo ready we are going to play a little game. Everytime you hear me say the word _________, play your kazoo one time. Let’s try… oh man, She would LOVE this. As I was looking online for ideas for her service today one site said never use a kazoo at a funeral because it is irreverent and creates the wrong emotional environment – when I read that I knew Nammy would want them.
These past few months have been hard. As many of you can identify with, watching someone you love suffer is tortourous. I watched my Nammy go downhill physically due to cancer and I watched my mom as she lost her mama. It has been extremely draining, but interestingly enough it has also been a time of peaceful reflection. The Lord has whispered memories of Nammy in my ear and those distant memories that He reminds me of have brought me numerous smiles.
I remember when she taught me to read. She would place letters on different pieces of paper and tape them all over her house. Each time we walked by one we would make the sound of that letter. And now over 30 years later, thanks to Nammy, I am using that same method to each my children to read.
I remember when she taught me piano. I hated it. I mean I truly loathed it. So she started paying me. I didn’t hate it as much. We started with the classics like chopsticks and I loved the duet we’d play to that song. She bought me my first keyboard and I am pleased to say that I can still muddle my way through some pretty decent piano pieces. And thanks to Nammy, I am now teaching my children to play.
One of my earliest memories is of making a butterfly costume for Halloween with my mom and Nammy. She got one of those bouncy balls from Woolworths, cut it in half and made me a wicked cool cap to wear with antennas and everything. Thanks to Nammy, I find joy each Halloween making costumes with my girls.
Some may say that Nammy was cheap. But honestly, that’s the understatement of the millennium. There’s frugal, penny-pinching, tightwad, cheapskate, and then Nammy. I never saw her buy anything new. Ever. Lucky for her she looked smashing in vintage style clothing and she ended up wearing a beautiful pantsuit to my moms wedding in 1977. She wore it again to my wedding in 2003 and recently to my brothers wedding this past September. That was the last time I saw her and she looked beautiful. This shows a few things. First, that she never threw anything away. Second, that fashions always come back around. And third, that she was the same size for over 35 years.
Nammy instilled in me a love of thrift stores & garage sales. Some grandma’s bake. Some knit. My Nammy thrifted. Some of my favorite memories was going to garage sales early Saturday mornings after sleeping over at her house. Or going to thrift stores where I’d find my homecoming dress. Thanks to Nammy, my kids LOVE going thrift store shopping and have an amazing wardrobe filled to the brim with cute clothes that often times have cost me a quarter.
Nammy taught me how to sew. I became obsessed with the vintage fabric she saved and would sew my own pants and skirts in junior high. I thought I was so flippin awesome. I looked ridiculous, but Nammy taught me to not care what others thought about my clothes or my personal style. I remember her telling me that fashion is just a bunch of people trying to fit in even if they all look ridiculous together. She would tell me to wear what made me happy and not care about others. I may have taken that a bit too far when I found myself wearing her lime green and white polka dot 3-piece polyester pant suits from the 50’s to junior high school. But nevertheless, I fell in love with all things vintage. I found my own personal style and to this day don’t give a single iota what others think about what I wear. And to this day I drool over vintage clothes, costume jewelry, and patent leather slip on shoes. And thanks to Nammy, I am teaching my girls to sew and to find their own personal sense of style.
In the past 8 years I watched her become a great-grandma to my 3 girls and it was amazing to see her with them because it was like reliving my childhood. I watched her take them to feed the ducks at the park, go on bike rides, swing on the swings, toot the kazoo, play the ukulele, and sing one-eyed one horned flying purple people eater. I will always cherish the time my 4 year old was dressed up singing in a microphone and rocking out to johnny cash. I thought she was pretending to be a rock star, but she told me she was pretending to be Nammy. I wish all little girls had a 85 year old great-grandma whose a backup singer in a rockabilly band. She was so awesome.
Nammy was very, very, very far from your typical grandma. She didn’t talk about family drama, tv shows, neighbors, or the weather. I grew up listening to Nammy talk about how she was researching underground organizations to try to discover what their overall plans and goals were so that she could try to educate people on the dangers of such groups. She was always so worried about the regular guy or girl being brainwashed and not realize what they were getting into so she would go to all sorts of club and meetings to gather material and information. I remember her going to all sorts of weird places to see what “they” were up to. In fact, one of my favorite memories is when I called her on the phone to ask her a question. This was probably 15 or 20 years ago. I asked her what she was doing that day and she said, “well, I’ll be in downtown long beach for a lesbian vampires meeting at 7, but I’m free until then.” My favorite part of that conversation…is that it didn’t seem at all abnormal for my grandma to say that.
Nammy enrolled in college in her 50’s. Not so much for the education or degree, but to spy on the professors whose names were popping up here and there in “suspicious” publications.
I remember that Nammy took me to my first concert. It was Ozzy Ozborne. I was 4. We were there to go backstage and investigate the effects of the rock-and-roll movement in conjunction with mind control. Typical grandma/granddaughter activity.
Nammy taught me about civics and patriotism. She took me to my first rally – I have an awesome picture of me at that protest. I’m holding a sign that says “Stop the Equal Rights Amendment.” I’m 2.
Nammy taught me to question everything. What a beautiful gift to leave me with. A never ending thirst for truth and knowledge. I love to read and know that my desire for reading and learning comes directly from her.
One of my all time favorite books is by CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. I love picturing the children walking through the wardrobe into the forest or Narnia where there’s unexplainable mysteries and everything they find leads to more questions. For me, the back end of Nammy’s house was like that. She had a long dark wood hallway and a back room with a door that was always shut. As a child, I remember feeling some sort of air of mystery surrounding that part of the house. I’d walk back there, often on my tip toes, to go peek into the large back room and when I’d open the door I’d be transported to another place. I’d have to literally push back vintage clothes, hand-dyed purses and pumps, wigs (this was the 80’s, but her hair never left the 60’s) and then I’d enter my Narnia. But unlike CS Lewis’s version which was covered with snow or green earth, this was covered wall-to-wall with books on the conspiracy.
Imagine it. Imagine a girl of 9 or 10 walking into a secret room filled to the brim with books titled things like “They” who really control the world.” And “1999 – we’re all gonna die” what “THEY” don’t want you to know.” Or “rock music and teens – the road to ending our civilization.” Each book held different explanations for who really controlled the world and how just about everyone were communisits – little C or Big c – there’s a difference.”
My Nam was hellbent on educating as many people as she could on groups and/or organizations that had a secret agenda to control the world. They were the ones who planned and started wars, they were the ones who formed the womens lib movement and try to destroy the family unit, the hippies that try to teach us to expand our minds thus abandoning our values and faith system, the musicians who put secret lyrics in their devil-laden beats, the yoga instructor who is part of a greater organization brainwashing you to hate America. I make light of it here and will always kinda chuckle at how truly crazy she seemed at times, but the older I get and the more educated I become the more I realize how much truth was in what she was saying. Living in DC and having a husband who advises the Secretary of Energy has afforded me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who are more “in the know” than your average citizen and what I have learned at that super low level government has proven Nammy right time and time again. I can only imagine how right she would be proven if I knew people higher up in the escelons of power. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the moment she saw the Lord she folded her arms and said “well, let’s have it. I was right, wasn’t I.” and if I had to guess, I’d say his reply was “yup.”
When I was 16, I got my drivers license and like most teenage girls I would fight with my mom and want to get away. But instead of driving to the mall or to a friends house, I would go to Nammy’s. She was always there to listen and then without ever muttering a negative word about my mom or me or the crazy teenage drama that I was going through, she’d start a game of go-fish or spoons and we’d end the day laughing and eating nieman marcus bars.
Nammy taught me to read. She tought me to sew. To play piano. To wear red lipstick. To question everything. To love music. To turn my frown upside down. To smile when I feel like crying. My nammy taught me to be feminine. She helped teach me how to be a woman and how to love. She helped teach me how to be a mother. She made my mom who she is and that is the greatest gift Nammy left me. She truly left a legacy of love.
Look, I wrote 5 different versions of this talk today and I’m not even sure that this one was the best one to share, but it was the one I thought I could manage to get through without falling apart. Most of my special memories are so precious and sacred that they’re going to stay mine and mine alone. Words couldn’t put enough beauty to some of the memories I have of my Nammy so I won’t even try. Some say that “losing a loved one is like losing an appendage.” That’s how I feel. I feel like part of me just fell off. I’m not whole any more. Like without her I’m not me. Obviously this is because so much of who I am is because of her. To me, she was strong, she was stubborn, she was smart, she was beautiful, she was love.
CS Lewis wrote that there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. So enjoy those things Nammy and I’ll see ya again. I can’t wait to sing 5foot2 eyes of blue and hear all the truth behind every conspiracy theory known to man. I fully expect you to greet me at the gates of heaven wearing your bright red lipstick, vintage eye glasses, and holding warm red licorice.
Que sera, sera Nammy. God be with you till meet again.