Grammie knew how to go from gloom to bloom, occasionally with delicious, chocolate-y reinforcements.
Many latenight drafts and rereads of Grammie's writing (above) before this eulogy felt presentable
Phyliss and Jessica on one of many library trips.
written by Jessica on April 11th, 2019
& delivered at Grammie's memorial on April 12th, 2019
Many of us here today may remember hearing Grammie reflect on her experience writing and giving speeches for the Toastmistress’ group. Whether it was reciting a favorite verse from scripture or poetry, shouting a correct Jeopardy question, filling in a crossword puzzle, giving advice, or bantering with Grampa, Grammie’s love of wordplay has touched us all, likely in more ways than we can know.
One of my earliest memories is of Grammie reading to me, sharing her love of language and stories, and communicating the values she holds dearest: faith, adaptability, and courage.
When Grampa first brought home a Toastmistress brochure for Grammie, because he thought she might be interested, she read it and wondered how many people actually put to use the lifestyle-improving guidelines the organization recommends. Even before joining, Grammie recognized that courage-driven action was required to make changes within herself.
Despite being a gifted writer, Grammie found that the public speaking aspect of the Toastmistress process put her far out of her comfort zone. Those who witnessed her nervous practice runs asked why she tortured herself so -- why was it so important? In a perfectly true-to-form response, she said, “We’ll be assured of having more ideas and thoughts to exchange with others than we ever dreamed possible.”
As she deepened her attention to self-awareness, Grammie identified complex battles within herself. Instead of letting them eat away at her spirit, Grammie saw her inner conflicts as further fuel for growth. Addressing the areas within herself that she felt needed development was a path to a happier state of mind. Grammie recognized the Toastmistress group as one that, in her words, “had the possibilities of lifting me out of the gloom of everyday thinking and into the bloom of a whole new world.”
In the vulnerable opening to her first award-winning speech, Grammie wrote, “At this moment, I feel the same way I did before the birth of my first child -- scared to death and yet knowing that my fear, once it passed, would reap great rewards.”
One word Grammie ironically didn’t like is the word “nice.” She even designed a Toastmistress activity around it and told her audience, “I believe it would be a real challenge to this group, desirous of self-improvement in speech, to tickle their brains a little to try to come up with a descriptive adjective to use in place of “nice.”
To honor Grammie’s love of precise, thoughtful word choice, I invite everyone to take a few moments now, or when you feel ready, to reflect on one word you’d use to describe Phyliss McCarthy.
I’d like to close with a prayer Grammie wrote around this time of year.
“We are grateful, Father, for the privilege of being able to meet here as a group dedicated to helping each other. we pray for your mercy and your forgiveness where we have fallen short of your will for us. We ask for your divine guidance in all that we do. Grant, Father, that in this Easter season we may find a new patience, a new tolerance, and a new love for each other. We ask that you bless this time we spend together and be with us as we travel home. In Jesus’s name, AMEN.”
Phyliss J. McCarthy instilled in me and many others a passion for reading and writing. Grammie loved words almost as much as she loved her family. After she passed away, I found a library receipt she'd kept from the first time we went to the library together. That she'd kept this memento touched me deeply. I've created the Phyliss J. McCarthy Scholarship for Excellence in Writing to honor her and her lifelong passions: reading, writing, and helping others.
Thank you for honoring Phyliss's love for the written word.
~ Jessica Robinson
Phyliss's granddaughter and creator of learncurious.com