As we reflect on Veterans Day this year, I can not help but think of my Grandmother. All four of her sons served our country, my dad and his three brothers, in Vietnam, Korea and during the Paris Peace Accord.
I was asked to give her eulogy by her boys, after she recently passed, two weeks shy of her 108th birthday. That is no small ask, and the task felt enormous, to honor her and her sons, our family, with 12 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren.
So this Veteran Days, to honor her, a mother, and the countless mothers who have shared their children with our military, whose sons and daughters have served our country, here is her eulogy, as the grace with which she lived her life was extraordinary.
This Veterans Day, I can not help but reflect on the mothers who have children defending our country, the mothers with children in the Naval Academy, at West Point, those in ROTC, like my dad and his brothers were. So this is a thank you, not only to our Veterans, but also to the families that share them, that so generously offer their children in service to our country.
We knew her as Mary, Mother, Grandmother, Bunny and G. She gave us almost 108 years of life, love and adventure.
Please know that these words are from all of us: her four sons, her daughters in law, her 12 grandchildren, and her 3-dozen great grandchildren.
After reading decades of her diaries, passages from her Bible, speaking with her sons, our incredible family, it is clear that her life was a love story.
It is the story of how her love for God, her family, and her passion to live life to its fullest was her guiding compass.
My grandmother lived with a remarkable grace. She knew no stranger. She called you to a higher ground.
On any given day, you could find her reading the Wall Street Journal, tutoring a child from Kosovo, playing tennis or Gin Rummy, fundraising, swimming laps around Two Bear island or happily fishing in a boat or canoe. If you walked the halls (or ran them, as we did as kids) in her home on Cross Lake, pictures of her boys were everywhere and Mardi Gras beads were tucked into one closet and dress up gowns for her granddaughters in another. And when you speak with her sons today, the stories of their mother are pioneering, driving cross country with her to Canada, out on the lake, fishing, long portages through Turtle Lake to Whitefish Bay with just her, as little kids, or how at 92, she “landed the lunker of a lifetime.”
And while the last 50 years are the adventures that her grandchildren share, the earlier years contain countless stories of a fearless young woman who took a freighter by herself to Central America at 19 before graduating college in Minnesota in1934. Of marrying our grandfather, Charles Thomas “Scotty” McCord, Jr., and honeymooning on a ship to South America, of holding three jobs during World War II, never wasting a piece of bread, and stories of her deep faith, as her sons served our country in Vietnam, Korea and during the Paris Peace Accords.
If you had the chance, sometime in the last almost 108 years, to ask her which birthday she was celebrating, she would say with a laugh, “Why 39, of course!” because her life was not measured in years, but in faith, love, adventure, family and of course, chocolate! Whether it was hosting Taco Night for her grandchildren, adventures on the lake, attending church on an island or in a cathedral, a musical or a tennis match, cooking brownies, raising funds for the symphony or the Southfield School’s library which honored her just last week, with a tribute to her love of learning. She was known for who she was and not just what she did.
She challenged her own intellectual and physical capacities; she never stopped working on both. She could command any room she entered, and it didn’t matter if she was wearing an elegant ball gown at her beloved symphony or her favorite fishing gear at her beloved Two Bear.
She had an energy that was contagious. And thankfully, it can be found in so many places.A lot of people will tell you that they got the very best of Mrs. Mary. She certainly made you feel that way.
But as her son Rick wrote before he passed, “Her grandchildren will tell you that she called you to a higher ground and served as a beautiful role model, she faced life unafraid and with grace and charm.” She did.
She lived her life with an extraordinary Grace and a strength that came from above, not because life was always easy, but because it could be hard. She recognized the harmonies in that and the beautiful melodies not only in music, but also in God’s creations.
If she were here, I think she would remind us to see what she saw, to give thanks for it, the blessings and the lessons learned in the challenges every day. She would ask us to see His grace in all things, both bright and beautiful – in the roots of a Cypress tree strengthening the banks of a river, in the morning sunrise, as it brightens the sky, in the laughter of a child or the elegance of a blade of grass. To see His Grace in the symphony she loved the most, the sounds of the trees and birds, the rippling of the water.
We will remember her in the beauty of a lake at sunset or violins in harmony or the flickering colors of a fish or the sweetness of a ripe raspberry. She would say, “Stop, don’t miss it. Give thanks for this glory!”
So today and always, we will stop to celebrate and give thanks for the glory of her life and for her legacy, with the promise to go forward, as she did, recognizing His Amazing love and His unconditional grace.