I wrote this 2 years ago, it’s not a true elegy – more like a mix. The original was quite long, I edited it a bit.
My Grandmother’s Passing
We land, gather our belongings and walk to the rental car,
laughing and taking comfort in merriment.
Roads I have not seen in years, as familiar as my own face,
I think they are forever bound to my soul. It strikes me funny,
since I left years before I could drive…
…yet I remember
corners and stores and childhood as if it were last week
and these perfect, slightly dilapidated houses that dot the road.
Some with electric candles in the windows,
a light in the darkness welcoming any who need shelter.
We check-in at the hotel, murmur at its niceness, how close it is to the church…
or would be, if the bridge was not torn down.
We will have to drive a longer route, but I don’t mind –
it brings me glimpses of my parent’s youth and I file these peeks away
for the day I must walk the same path my father is in the next two days.
ii. (Viewing Day)
I wake early, having forgot to close my curtains.
The morning sun illuminates my room in a golden dust. I grasp the window,
pull it open for a kiss of morning air and hear the carillon ring the hour out,
as it will do each hour of every day;
such consistency with Time boggles my mind.
I lose an hour,
staring at greenery and the river mere feet from my room,
until I am brought back to self by the simplest of things; hunger.
So we gather for breakfast,
and I can see my father’s anxiety over the coming day.
We spend time easily, softly, and in a way to distract him as best we can.
The three of us work a crossword,
being silly over making up words, slyly peeking at the clock
until suddenly it is time to go to the funeral home and prepare to be hosts,
a process I find distasteful.
We have instructions to arrive an hour before “showing”
so we may be guided through the layout
and approve picture and flower placement.
We enter and out of the corner of my eye, I see the casket,
bedecked in sprays and open, supposedly displaying my grandmother.
To my eye it is a mannequin, and not for anyone’s lack of skill
but simply because my heart knows she is not there.
I never go closer.
People begin to arrive, mostly my uncle’s friends and family I barely know,
having met them once at ages younger than 10.
Then a woman races through and nearly tackles my mother;
they laugh, cry and drink each other in.
It is the mother of a girl I’ve known since I was 2,
although from age 10 till now (38), I had not seen her.
I reconignize her instantly regardless.
A half hour after the mother leaves,
my childhood friend enters and I am transported back in time,
with pigtails and buck teeth at the moment
she smiles and laughs as she runs to hug me.
She still looks exactly the same to me,
though I know she is not.
I see her curly blonde hair and us giggling
as we play dress shop at my grandmother’s house.
I see her carrying a pink and blue blanket she went nowhere without,
I see so many memories all at once it’s like I am drowning without water.
I hug her fiercely and wish for….I don’t know, I just wish. A lot.
iii. (Funeral Day)
We wake early, for a breakfast full of silence from my father.
My mother, an emotional beast most of the time,
is as steel for this day, for my father.
We dress in somber colors, except my mother has red shoes,
which I love.
She says she is celebrating a life well-lived;
my grandmother passed in her sleep, with loved ones at her side,
two hours after she turned 98.
She spent time in hospitals only twice in her life;
to birth my father and uncle.
That is something I aspire to;
who would not wish such a peaceful passing?
My mother’s red shoes are a focus for me throughout the day.
At Holy Angels,
it is stand, sit, sing, pray, kneel,
over and over again.
There are several readings, songs, incense and wafers.
It is long and over-dramatic and I stare at the angels
done in stained glass. They are beautiful.
We head to the cemetery,
where more pretty words are said before all is done.
At the end, several people take a rose from the spray.
I do not.
I am asked if I want one and refuse gently.
I choose to remember my grandmother through memories
that won’t wilt and two items she gave me years ago.
A rememberance party follows,
at my grandmother’s favorite beer and pizza joint (Marion’s again)
and this is more to my taste; it is lighter and more celebratory
Eventually even this ends
and I feel no shame in admitting relief.
It is an exhausting few days.
We once again fall apart,
each family heading back to “real life”
and I am glad to be home, in my space, with my friends.
I am also glad I went, though I did not go to say good-bye.
She will be with me always, so there is no reason for farewell.
(C) jp 4-26-12