Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June Gloom

My grandmother passed away last Tuesday. Although she was ninety years old, it was still sudden. Mostly because hours earlier I had gotten an email from my mom saying she was doing better with each passing day and we should book our flight for Father's Day weekend. I still had the tabs up comparing various flight times when my dad called to say she had died.

Dave and I ended up driving with the boys to Ohio, doing two separate legs on the inbound and outbound trips. We stayed in Syracuse on the way there (spiritual homeland of my dear friend Lisa) and Buffalo on the way back for a total of 24 driving/rest stop hours and only 48 in Ohio. And this is the part that blows my mind (or the part of that still thinks I'm 22 and childless): I think it was easier than flying. No need to keep kids entertained in ever-winding security lines, no potential for late or cancelled flights, no battling traffic to get to Logan, no removing and reinstalling car seats on either end. When Finny sobbed and yelled "Up!" in his carseat, I wasn't worried about anyone else thinking we were awful parents or he was an awful baby--I just leaned over and reassured him (to no avail, of course) that we would be there soon, and slipped him some Motrin for his aching teeth--his final two are emerging, a lower incisor and a molar, and they're clearly knocking back on his heels.

Anyway, the funeral service was beautiful. The Episcopal minister knew my grandmother well, so it was personal and moving and delicately done. She read this poem by Mary Oliver to us as a fitting illustration of how my "Mom-Mom" looked at life:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

I adore that poem--not only for how lovingly it describes my grandmother, but also for how it reminds me about the importance of taking risks, trusting myself, living with purpose.

We didn't go in the pool; the water was too cold. We did many of the usual things we do at Grandma Bobbie's house, only sometimes taking sharp breaths when we remembered she wasn't there. I could feel my mind attempting to puzzle out the situation. We were there, but she was not. It didn't make any sense. She lived there for something like 57 years, raising five children, entertaining nine grandchildren and then six great-grandchildren. She lived by herself for thirty years: my entire lifetime. She beat pancreatic cancer in 1990, after her doctors said she had minimal chance of living five more years. She had no nurses or home health aides or live-in help. That's why it felt sudden; it seemed like she could just keep on going forever, at least to me.

This is her obituary. The picture of her is one from our wedding, which makes me love it all the more.

And I'll be back to blog some much lighter fare in a few days, most notably the pictures that accidentally make my boys look like castmembers from The Outsiders.

1 comment:

The Welsien Family said...

J, that is a beautiful, beautiful poem and the picture of your grandmother from your wedding is also a beautiful tribute to her! I am glad you were able to be with your extended family and that the trip was as "easy" as any travel with little ones can be. Thinking of you.