Rest in Peace Grandma...
I remember how deeply the sight of the hearse bothered me when my dad died. It's like the sight of that large, black car sitting by the door symbolized the finality of it all. Today as I pulled up to the funeral home, I took some deep breaths and braced for the same impact of seeing the hearse that would carry my Grandma to her final resting place...but there was no impact. It wasn't the same at all.
Once inside the funeral home, the air is always tense in the first handful of moments. Emotions are fresh and we are all feeling fragile. I kept reminding myself that if I just hang on, the rawness of the moment will fade. Inevitably, someone will say something funny or someone else will ask a question. Before you know it, the heightened energy settles into a normalcy of comfortable conversation.
Last night at the wake, little did I know going in, but I was to be the unplanned breaker of the ice. I had brought a heart-shaped stone that has on it something about families lasting forever. I planned to slip it down beside my Grandma in the casket to keep with her forever (I have a matching one that I will keep).
Well, how was I supposed to know that she wasn't on some cushy mattress? How was I supposed to know that she is only on a platform and that all around and underneath her is empty? I thought I was dropping this down onto the mattress next to her, but instead it fell to the bottom of the casket with a loud "CLANG!" (think dropping a large rock into a metal bucket). At first I gasped, but then all I could do was laugh. My mom came up and stuck her arm down into the casket feeling for it. It was actually kind of funny and I felt better after that.
There were ten Grandsons and so they all lined up to be pall bearers. Then those of us in the immediate family followed behind the casket and down to the hearse. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by grief, I felt such a sense of pride and love. I had a peace that things were exactly as they should be. As Julian of Norwich said best, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." I felt like we were taking care of the woman we loved and she was being honored beautifully.
As we made our way slowly toward the cemetery where she would once again sleep next to my Grandpa, I started to lose it a little bit. When emotion comes, it's better to let it come and not to judge it. Just let it pass through.
I decided to name one-by-one all of the ways that I am grateful that she is my Grandmother. "I'm grateful that you're my Grandma because you taught me how to cry and be vulnerable, then stand back up and keep moving forward. I am grateful you are my Grandma because you showed me the importance of taking time to pamper yourself whether you feel you can afford it or not (my Grandma used to swear by getting her hair done and she loved to go out to eat). I'm grateful that you're my grandma because you taught me the importance of being creative." On and on until I felt peace wash over me.
I always taught my kids, "Never be afraid to be the asshole taking pictures. Eventually, people who judged you will be the ones asking for copies." Well, today I was afraid to be the asshole and I'm grateful that my daughter listened to what I taught her. She took some beautiful photos and I then came asking her for copies. Life is for living. It is about appreciating the moment that you're in and all of the beauty that can be found, even if it is wrapped in a sad moment. Celebrate the relationships you are given and appreciate the moments the Lord has given you. Love and be grateful. Pictures capture the moments of our lives. They capture the little moments of magic and rawness that would easily be forgotten if not for photographs. Never be afraid to take the picture.
As I stood at the graveside listening to the priest say lovely things of comfort, I looked up and saw a dragonfly right in front of me on my cousin's shoulder. I smiled and thanked God for it (because I always associate dragonflies with spirit) and it came and sat right on my hand for several seconds. I took that as a direct sign of love and comfort. That was one of my favorite parts of the day.
After the service, we all hung out and ate and just loved on each other for a few hours. It was a bittersweet time. There are some that are afraid that we will all lose touch now that Grandma has passed, but I firmly believe that will never happen. Our family is too tight. Even if we can only see each other once or twice a year, I believe we will always have that.
(Me, Emma, Courtney, Mom and step-Dad)
This life truly is all about perspective, isn't it? I realized that the words "unfinished business" could sum up everything about my relationship with my dad. Whereas with my Grandma, there was nothing left unfinished in her life or between us. No, as I crawled down the road behind the hearse, instead of it looming heavy and sad, the sight of it seemed regal to me. It was a beautiful and powerful vehicle befitting the honor being shown to the beloved matriarch of our family.