Read by Jennie L. Lamb at the Funeral Services for James Edward Lamb held on May 4, 2004 at 1:00 pm
Wilke-Clay-Fish Funeral Home Chapel, Austin, Texas
Written by Jennie L. Lamb, May 2-3, 2004.
Hello. My name is Jennie Lynne Lamb and I am Edward Lambs granddaughter. On behalf of Bernice, my father Charles, and all of my family, I want to take a moment to thank you for being here today, and to thank all of you who have helped us to make this celebration of my grandfathers life possible.
My father has always told me that funerals are for the living, and that is exactly why we are here today. I choose to see our purpose here as one of a celebration of a life, and not of grieving for a death.
That life, my grandfathers, was a full one. And, just as I was anxious about writing the eulogy that my friend Colly read for my grandmothers funeral four years ago, I was once again daunted by this task.
How do you capture 82 years of life in just four of five pages? Is it even possible?
I dont think so. So, once again, I turned back to what Daddy says about funerals being for the living. And I realized that there are just as many eulogies for Edward Lamb as there are people that knew him.
So, I stopped worrying about it and decided to just write my own. After all, people always tell me that I am just like my father, whos just like his father. So, hopefully, my eulogy for him is the best one to share with you today.
Anyway, I hope youll enjoy it and maybe learn something you didnt know about Edward Lamb.
Born on Christmas Day in 1921, my grandfather often told me that he was a "special present" that his father, with a little help from the stork, had wrapped up and waiting under the tree for his mother that year.
He was the third child of James Henry and Mamie Nancy Sexton Lamb of Marianna, Florida, which at that time was mainly a rural, farming community. He and his older sisters, Alice and Anna, were soon joined by two more sisters, Francis and Annie.
Granddaddy was from the Deep South. There, Marianna is pronounced, "MER-AN-ER," and, likewise, his sisters name was pronounced, "AN-ER."
Although his travels in the Army and the Air Force would take him around the world, and the moves he would make with his family would see him settled far from his childhood home, whenever he spoke of his birthplace and his family, that comforting southern inflection would always reappear.
Early on, his sisters started calling him "Buddy." The affectionate nickname stuck, and on the trips I was able to make with him to visit his family in Marianna, I remember that hed warn me that everyone would be calling him, "Uncle Buddy," with that certain southern inflection. And sure enough, they always did.
My grandfather shared with me that he worked hard as a boy, especially helping out around the home after the death of his mother, when he was only 8-years-old. He once told me that his only clear memory of her was that she had very long hair, so long that it would reach the floor. She would take it down only at night to brush it out, and he caught a glimpse of her doing that once. He also told me that two of his unmarried aunts moved into their home to help care for the children after her death.
Granddaddy lived through the Great Depression as a boy. During this time, several of FDRs "New Deal" initiatives, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Civil Conservation Corps, also known as the 3Cs, helped put people back to work.
As a teenager, he asked his father to take him to sign up for the 3Cs. He needed his fathers permission, since he wasnt 18 yet.
When the registrar asked him for his name, he said it was "James Edward Lamb." Apparently, his father looked at him oddly, but never said anything to him about what had just happened. My grandfather had just changed his name from "Jefferson Davis" to "James Edward."
Later, in life, the name change was made official. The Marianna Courthouse burned and with it his original birth certificate. When officials reconstructed a new one for him, all of his credentials listed his name as "James Edward Lamb," and so his new birth certificate did as well.
Some of you might remember my grandfather speaking of his cousin, Jenkins Lepford. Apparently he was quite a character.
According to Granddaddy, when one of his babies would start crying, hed say to his wife, "Aw, Effie, give the feller a little dip o snuff, thats what he wants." And so, shed pull some out of her mouth and give it to the baby and he would stop crying.
Granddaddy always said, "Well of course he stopped crying, the darn snuff took his breath away."
Jenkins Lepford was also a poet and Granddaddy told us more than once about one of the letters he sent home during the war. My grandfather always got a good laugh out of reciting it for us. It went something like this:
For my wife, Effie:
The sun is slowly sinking in the west,
and we are very far apart.
Come to think of it, my grandfather was quite the character himself. Another illustration of his unique, and sometimes a bit off-color, brand of humor was a song that I can remembering him singing since I was a very little girl. (Don't worry, I won't be singing it for you!) It went something like this:
Down in Atlanta,
On Decatur Street,
They got a new dance,
And it can be beat;
Its called the boogie-woogie.
My father always told me that there were more verses to that song, but that I wasnt allowed to hear them until I turned 18. (I do know them now, but I wont be repeating them here today.)
Grandaddy also told me that when he died, he was going to turn into a cube of sugar and a pretty, young blonde would come along and drop him into her coffee to sweeten it.
Like I said, he was quite a character himself.
My grandfather served his country as an Army private during World War II. When I was a teenager and women started fighting in military combat, I once asked him how he felt about it. He told me that he didnt want to see American women have to fight, because he had witnessed first hand the deaths of women soldiers of the German army, and it had deeply effected him.
When I was a little girl, my father, grandmother, and I made two trips to Europe. On each of those, we were able to visit some of the places that my grandfather had been stationed.
My grandfather was an Air Force sergeant in Korea. He was stationed at Goosebay Labrador and then on the island of Okinawa.
Some of the things he shared with me about the time he spent in Okinawa were that he learned to count to seven and to say "thank you" and "youre welcome" in Japanese.
The Noritake china set that sits in my china cabinet today, is the one that he bought on the base in Okinawa and sent home to my grandmother. When I used it for Christmas dinner a couple of years ago, he laughed and told us how it had cost him more for the postage to send it home, than it did to buy the dishes themselves.
But he had a very good eye, when it came to dishware. The set is called "Mystery Pattern Number 58," and is extremely rare. And because of the "Made in Occupied Japan" seal on the back of each piece, the set is now worth much more than he ever paid for it, or the postage to send it home.
Perhaps he had such a good eye for dishware because he had started working in the mess halls while stationed in Okinawa. He told me once that he just sort of fell into cooking when one of the commanding officers had asked if anyone could cook and he volunteered.
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that would serve him well, as food service became his career. He finished his 20 years of service and retired from the Air Force, after working as a chef at the Officers Club, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Apparently he was well liked by some of the top brass there, so he was made head catering chef for special functions.
He also once told Fran and I that the Air Force was the only branch of the military that made eggs "to order" for breakfast. (All of the other branches just made scrambled eggs.) He said that made the breakfast shift the hardest one of the day. When we asked him how he managed it he said "you had to just hubba-hubba!"
After he retired from the Air Force he went on to hold several jobs, usually two at a time, and mostly in the food service industry, in Maryland, Georgia, and Texas.
Grandmama always noted that he had a good work ethic. She said that he once had several teeth pulled at the dentist at lunchtime and went back to work for the rest of the afternoon. That was when they were both working at a chicken processing plant in Georgia.
Other jobs he held included driving a bread delivery truck and working as a cook for a school for wayward boys. Here in Austin, he worked at several restaurants, most of which are, sadly, no longer standing: The Stallion, up on North Lamar, The Big Wheel, out in Oak Hill, and The Chariot Inn. He retired for the final time in 1978, after having his first heart attack.
My grandfather was a member of the Elks, the American Legion, and the VFW. I remember going to the VFW hall and playing bingo with him as a little girl.
Granddaddy and Grandmama were divorced in 1981. A few years later, he moved to San Antonio and married his second wife Dovie. After their divorce, he returned to Austin and met Bernice, and they were married on November 10, 1990. Her nephew Keith and I were both in attendance.
In 1998, they moved to College Station so that they would be closer to Daddy and Fran. Once there, they became members of the local Senior Friends organization.
He also had fun playing with my little rat terrier, Rex, whom he referred to as "his great-grandson," whenever he had the chance to stop by and see us.
Until the end, my grandfather always stayed informed of current events. I am proud to say that he was a staunch Democrat and he made sure that he voted in every election.
Granddaddy also enjoyed playing golf with my father. In fact, on Friday morning, they got in 9 holes, as was their weekly routine.
Early on Saturday morning, he died in his sleep.
After all of the medical woes that had plagued him in his later years, we should all be extremely happy that he was able to leave this world so peacefully and after having done something that he enjoyed as much as he did as playing a round of golf.
My grandfather was a member of the "Greatest Generation," those American men and women who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. In recent years, I gave him two of Tom Brokaws books about the sacrifices that he and his peers had made to make our country what it is today. I know he took great pride in reading and enjoying them.
It is extremely gratifying to see that the World War II Veterans Memorial has now been opened in Washington, D.C. I am sure that my grandfather was very proud to know about it, as well as the Korean Veterans Memorial.
Both my father and I are very proud of the legacy of his military history.
In closing, Id like to share with you the advice Ive received over the years from my father and his parents. Each of them has given me something practical to hold onto. I really do try to put these bits of wisdom to use in my everyday life.
My grandmother always told me that "Life was too short to not to pass and repass with one another." And, my father and I are grateful that Granddaddy and Grandmama were able to do just that for 20 years after their divorce.
My father still tells me to this day: "You cant change peoples actions, only your reactions to their actions." And, I have to admit, that piece of advice sometimes came in extremely handy when it came to interacting with my grandparents.
And finally, my grandfather once told me: "Never keep a car in reverse, longer than you have to."
Now granted, this was when I was 16-years-old, and I was learning to drive a car.
But, now that I'm 30, and I stand here today with you as we celebrate his life, I can tell you that that piece of advice was not nearly as superficial, compared to the other two, as it sounds.
Ive learned that it's never good to keep going backwards, because even though the future may be scary, it's where we have to keep heading. And, it's better to go ahead and go, than to stay shackled in the past.
Im currently reading a book written by the Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh, called "No Death, No Fear." And from it, I know that my grandfathers death is not something to be afraid of. Quite simply, what happened is that the conditions for his body to manifest itself are no longer favorable.
But that is certainly not the case for his soul and his spirit. Nothing is ever created or destroyed, it merely changes in form.
My grandfather is still with us, and always will be. The best that we can do to continue to celebrate his life, is to keep moving forward, and never stay in reverse for too long.
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