November 29, 2008

Blanche Emily Curry Loyd

The sermon I preached at my grandmother's memorial service on Saturday, November 29th, 2008.

We gather today to celebrate the life of Blanche Emily Curry Loyd. She will be remembered as a mother, grandmother great-grandmother, wife, friend and devoted companion. She was married to Howard for 36 years, and lived with him and their daughters Marilyn & Suzanne in a pile of places around the world. After my grandfather died in 1980, she met Carl, and Carl has been in her life and our lives ever since. Carl was by her side through thick and thin over the past 27 years and was a grandfather figure to all four of her grandchildren.

As Blanche lived all over the United States and abroad, she made sure that her daughters experienced the culture of where they were stationed at the time, living off-base so that Marilyn & Suzanne could be part of the larger community. She made especially sure while they were living in England in 1952 that Marilyn, at age 4, was well aware of the significance of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second, which happened not too far from where they were living. Suzanne was born just a few weeks after the coronation, and Marilyn still wonders why she couldn't go to the palace to play with Charles. They are the same age after all!

When they were living in North Dakota, Blanche & Suzanne got to spend a lot of quality time together while Marilyn was in school in Philadelphia and Howard was working in Biloxi, Mississippi. Every Saturday night, the two of them would polka to the music on the Lawrence Welk Show. And you know it had to be some authentic polka dancing since Blanche grew up in and around first generation European Americans whose native dance was the polka. That same, cold, North Dakota winter, Suzanne and Blanche got flu shots. The shots must have worked like a charm since they both got the flu and were laid up in bed for several days.

She was the Girl Scout cookie chair when her girls were active in the Scouts. Marilyn & Suzanne both remember the house being wall-to-wall cookies ever year. Blanche wasn't ashamed to call her self the "great scrounger" for things that the Girl Scouts needed. She knew someone would be willing to donate whatever they needed as opposed to having to spend the money on it. She was a supportive mother who always wanted to give her girls more, but was almost always home when they back from school.

Blanche was a smart woman, and she had high aspirations for her daughters. There was never any question that both of her girls would go to college. They not only graduated from college, but have earned advanced degrees. She took great pride in her children and her grandchildren, and she must have done a good job, seeing how well both daughters turned out, and in turn, how well all four grandchildren turned out. :) The success of her grandchildren, of course, would not have been possible had she not personally picked out her sons-in-law.

She took the Civil Service exam at age 20, and scored high enough that she was offered a job with the State Department in Washington, DC. The offer came in the mail only a couple of days before her brother Wilbur tragically died in a coal mining accident. Her father didn't tell her she couldn't go to Washington, but he asked her to stay in such a way that she couldn't say no.

She was also known for being able to throw a feast which could not be out-done. We had to have two kinds of Ba-tatoes, at least two kinds of meat (one of which was ham), at least three things from a casserole dish, the marinated mushrooms & onions, and a dish of black olives for Patrick & I. That was just for starters. Then there was dessert...

She and her favorite granddaughter, Emily, spoke the common language of earrings, always bringing each other earrings or compare their latest bounty.

One of the qualities of Mama B that I will always remember is that she was not afraid to tell you what she thought. She was rarely a warm & fuzzy character, and might have been one of the most blunt people I've ever known. Moment of truth: Raise your hand if you were ever on the receiving end of one of Blanche's opinions. To borrow a line from the late Jerry Garcia, she wasn't often right, but she was never wrong. I've told this story on more than one occasion, and my wife knows I'm going to tell this story even though she's back in Washington with our son. At our wedding, we were waiting around for pictures and while my wife was in pictures with her parents and grandparents, I went to say hello to my grandparents. My dad's dad shook my hand offered his congratulations, and my dad's mom gave me a big hug and said it was a really beautiful service. Mama B gave me a kiss on the cheek and a huge grin and said, are you ready for it, "I'm sure as hell glad you didn't marry that other girl you were engaged to." I wasn't quite sure what to say. Her timing was awful, but I couldn't disagree with her: I was glad I didn't marry that other girl, either.

The other memory I have of Mama B is of her determined spirit. Apparently, when she was a young girl, her mother wanted her to wear a particular dress for some occasion, and little Blanche did not want to wear that dress. So she put her hands on her hips and declared, “I’m six years old, and I can do whatever I want.” And the tone was set for the next 82 years. The “I can do it” attitude carried her through her Rosie the Riveter Days in World War Two and through the many moves while Howard was in the Air Force. I remember one Thanksgiving weekend about six or seven years ago in Knoxville, she watched from the front window as my dad and sister and I tossed a football around in the front yard. Next thing we know, she’s out there with us, telling us how she used to beat the boys in football games in her neighborhood. And wouldn’t you know it, she punted the football right there in the front yard. All because she said she could.

It would be easy to think of her death as the end; the end of these stories of her life and how she has impacted everyone in this room. However, we are a people of Resurrection. We know that death is not the end; it is merely the beginning of new ways to be a blessed and beloved child of God.

Blanche Emily Curry was washed in the indissoluble waters of Baptism, welcomed and marked as one of Christ's own nearly 88 years ago at Zion Lutheran Church in Frackville, PA. That promise of God's presence was with her in Pennsylvania, the Philippines, Guam, Kansas, Louisiana, England, North Dakota and right here in Macon. It is a promise that Jesus made to his disciples and that the Apostle Paul echoed in today's readings. And the promise of a close and abiding relationship with God is that our hope is not in this life, but in the life to come. Just as Blanche is no longer with us in person, we can be reminded of her presence and impact in our lives. We can see a little bit of her reflected in all of us who are gathered here. And we can give continual thanks to God for all that she taught us and all that we will continue to learn from her.

May we remember not only Blanche, Mother, Mama B, but also the gifts God has bestowed upon each of us, and may we continue to be the light of Christ that the world so desperately needs to see.


1 comment:

LawLibLady said...

Thank you, Paul, for such a meaningful homily. Several of my friends have commented on how personal the funeral service was, and how wonderful your homily was. Posting it here helps me appreciate it even more.

With love,
Your Auntie Suzannie