We lost my wonderful mother this past week and had her funeral on Saturday. My nephew, Eric Campbell, was amazing in giving the Eulogy during the service. We were all proud and I know my Mom was smiling in heaven as Eric spoke with great power, passion, and emotion. Here it is:
Psalm 13:6 reads
“I will sing unto the Lord because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
My Grandmother, Caroline Campbell, embodied this statement. She sang with passion, she sang with spirit, her song a beautiful reflection of her gratitude to the Lord for the blessings He bestowed upon her.
It has been said that “singing is praying twice,” and anyone who has heard my grandmother sing knows this to be true. When you heard her sing it was such a powerful form of prayer, you could feel her gratefulness, you could feel the joy the blessings in her life brought her.
Growing up and going to Mass at the Cathedral, one of my fondest memories is looking up to the choir and seeing my grandmother there singing. Her back strait, music sheet in hand – although, they she didn’t need it, she had always diligently rehearsed.
As her voice reaches out over the Sunday worshipers and the Processional Hymn begins, her eyes are forward attentively watching the conductor. Down below, in the pews, stands a group of men with their eyes locked on her. There they stood, five adoring sons, a proud husband, in awe of her beauty. It was if she, an angel, was singing directly to them.
But her song was to the Lord. And if you were to ask her she’d tell you, she didn’t sing for herself /she didn’t sing for anyone / she sang for the Lord. Each song, a prayer of thankfulness to the Lord for giving her the love of those eyes who looked upon her from the pews below as she sang. Five adoring sons, a proud husband.
As we think about that, moments where my Grandmother’s voice seemed to stop time. I think it is natural to feel a sense of sadness. We begin to think about how her voice is now a cherished treasure kept locked within our memories. Replayed as we think of her. We grieve because we think her song has now ended. Her passing having taken the needle off the record.
But that is not the case.
My Grandmother’s song continues to play. We just have to listen to hear it.
She has made profound impact on all of our lives and it is now through us her song plays.
This week I had the opportunity to speak with my family, and hear how my Grandmother’s song lives on in them.
As I listened to their stories, I began to realize how much they reminded me of my Grandmother. She had a unique approach to storytelling. For her, storytelling was a way for her to bring you into her life as a whole, not just a part of it. She wanted you to know the type of person she was. She wanted you to know her values, her priorities, her passions. Without hesitation, I can say that her greatest passion, her best stories, were her family.
I, unfortunately, cannot tell all of the stories here today, but the beauty of my position is I don’t have to. Those are your stories. Every time you tell them, her song plays on. Sixty years of marriage, five boys, nine grandchildren, there are volumes of stories to be told. As a result, my initial concern in preparing for today was that I would go on too long, and then I heard a voice from above screaming, “Take your time Eric, I’ve earned it.” So to appease her as well as you, I will share just a small piece of the incredible Life of Caroline Campbell.
TO HER GRANDCHILDREN, she showed us to live life to fullest and embrace who we are.
Pope Paul VI once said, “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
If you were to ask the Grandchildren, we’d all tell you that for us, Grandma was that somebody.
I believe most of us can agree that in order to truly know Caroline Campbell, you would have had have to spent a Fourth of July with us at Uncle Steve’s.
Annually, my Uncle Steve and his wife, Carla, hold a Fourth of July party. When we were younger, Fourth of July festivities would entail a water gun fight. Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, the Campbell’s can be a little competitive. I remember the grandchildren spent much of the afternoon battling back and forth when suddenly Grandma came rushing out onto the lawn like Rambo carrying a Super Soaker which required the user to wear a strap. When we approached her to negotiate, we were met with a barrage of water. Needless to say, Grandmama won that day. As we sat there drenched from battle, Grandmama made sure that each of us knew she loved us, but to watch our backs next year.
As Papa would say, Grandmama became a child again that day.
For us Grandmama was larger than life.
When I asked Celia and Ryan, her youngest grandchildren, to share what they think of when they think of Grandma, they said “devotion” and “persistence.” They said that Grandmama illustrated to them that belief in the Lord is intertwined with belief in yourself. That if you place your faith in God and believe in yourself, the possibilities are limitless. She believed in all of her Grandchildren, and she was immensely proud of all us.
She led by example, and above all else, she showed us that the only thing above Family is God.
But it was not just us that she help guide through life, she had five boys of her own to look after.
Papa shared with me that while Grandmama was in the Hospital my Uncle Ralph’s Children called to talk to her. He told me that each of the Boys, Rob, Matt, and Scott, said the same two things to Grandmama, “Grandma, We love you” and “Thank you for Dad.”
Without question, for the Grandchildren the greatest gift Grandma ever gave to us, were our fathers and our Uncles.
All five of you along with your father were all that she could ask for. It was so interesting to hear her talk about her sons. Each of them unique from the others, each of them holding their own space in her heart.
From the stories she told me, you would think Grandma spent most of her time keeping ya’ll out of trouble. However, my Grandfather recently shared with me an article, which truly illustrated his wife’s, my Grandmother’s, determination to pour herself into every endeavor she embarked on.
While I have bookshelves full of stories portraying the awe-inspiring love between my Grandmother and Grandfather, I instead would like to share with you the article Papa shared with me.
As I read the article I began to truly realize that my Grandmother refused to allow herself to be defined by any one thing, she wanted to excel at all she did, a wife, a mother, a believer, a singer; accordingly, the Article is aptly titled: Soloist’s Career is Varied.
Mrs. Michael F. Campbell of 8 Savage Street will be the featured soloist in the Charleston Pilot Club’s new musical, “Funny Side Up.”
Caroline Hoppmann Campbell studied voice under Vernon Weston and sang with the Charleston Choral Society under his direction on several occasions. For ten years, she was the leading soprano soloist with the choir of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Although she has been identified closely with choir work, musical comedy is nothing new to Mrs. Campbell. She sang leading parts in “Porterevue,” “High Time to Smile” and “The Big Show,” all of which were produced by Traynor Ferillo who is directing “Funny Side Up.”
HER APPEARANCE in the Pilot Club Musical will be her first major solo work on the stage since 1957. In the last ten years, her duties as house-wife and mother of five boys, ranging 7 months to 10 years of age, left very little time for the long periods of rehearsal which a stage show demands.
It took some planning, though, and some re-arranging here and there. Household chores, church activities, supervising the children’s lessons, singing at weddings and before civic organizations – all of these things had to be considered.
Caroline Campbell has several reasons for taking part in “Funny Side Up.” She loves music and working with people. She enjoys the fun that comes from being a member of the cast. Aside from that, she is deeply interested in the charitable causes for which the Pilot Club musical is being staged.
PROCEEDS WILL go towards financing work for mentally handicapped children and providing dental care for indigent children.
Oh yes, there’s another reason for her taking part in the show and it is certainly not the least of those already mentioned. Her boys are thrilled about the whole thing. They’ve never seen their mother perform on the stage and they wouldn’t miss opening night for anything!
On January 23rd, 24th and 25th of that year, Caroline Campbell, house-wife, mother of five of boys, ranging 7 months to 10 years of age, and lead soloist, sang before an audience at the American Theatre.
my Grandmother was a remarkable woman.
There will probably not be a statue in some community park erected for my grandmother, she won’t have a federal or state holiday declared for her, she probably won’t have a building dedicated in her name, and you won’t find her story printed in the pages of a history book. But that’s the way she would have it. Because what she leaves behind is far more beautiful, far more precious.
We are the monument to her Life. We live as a testament to her love.
Her song is now ours. Now that she has gone to join our Father, it is now our turn. We must allow her song to live on in our lives. She has prepared us for the next Act. The lessons learned. The memories lived. The moments shared. It is now our turn to continue her song. We must perform the encore.
I would like to leave you with a poem.
I heard you singing
Harry Rodney Bennett
I heard you singing when the dawn was grey
And silver dew on ev’ry blossom lay;
Though the rising sun too soon drank up the dew,
I thought I heard you singing all the long day through.
I heard you singing in the silent hour
When evening came with sleep for bird and flow’r;
A song like happy murmuring of woodland streams,
I thought I heard you singing down the vale of dreams.
Beloved, when the last call echoes clear,
And I must part from all that is so dear,
I shall not fear the valley that before me lies,
If I may hear you singing as I close my eyes.
Her song echoes throughout our lives, we just need listen to hear it.