Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Funerals and a Crockpot

That pretty much sums up my Sunday.

I had my choice of funeral; my cousins' grandmother or my best friend's grandfather.

This was a tough call:

This was Cyn's last remaining grandfather. He had been a preacher, a solid man of God. By the time I had met him, he already had the beginning stages of Alzheimer's and was a man of few words. But he always had a smile on his face and obviously, a hymn in his heart. Cyn was going to sing a song written by her uncle, who had "gone on in" a few years ago. I had really wanted to be there in support.

Mrs. D, the maternal grandmother of my cousins, was also special to me. I had nearly as many memories of her as I did my own grandparents. She was warm and witty. She was the kind of grandma that was always trying to feed you and she made some kickin' chicken and biscuits. She was as much family to me as my family.

I was really torn.

My grandmother pretty much made the call on which funeral to go to. I've kinda become her "date" to family functions. Not bad, but not great either. I spend most of my time fetching things for her, while she tells people about how skinny I used to be. She also has this knack for complimenting me in one breath and cutting me down with the next. One Easter she gushed over how beautiful I looked, and before I could say "thank you," there in front of all her friends, she asked what kind of girdle I was wearing.

She usually makes me drive her Cadillac. Since I drive a mid-size car, it's kinda like driving a tank, pulling a trailer. I'm not sure what makes me more nervous about it; the intimidating size of the vehicle, or my grandmother's back seat driving. I've been driving nearly 30 years now, and I've only had ONE accident (and it wasn't my fault) so I think I know how to do it. It was kinda like being fifteen with a permit all over again. Nervously concentrating on the road while adults shrieked a me. The last time I agreed to start from her house and drive us somewhere, I was a nervous wreck. Apparently I sped all the way ( even though we never made it up to the posted speed limit) and though our nerves might not have, our bodies made it all in one piece. This time, we each drove ourselves, which was fine with me.

Since I wasn't sure how long I would be gone, I decided to put a roast in the crockpot. I might not feel like eating when I got back, but at least my family would be fed.

The service was beautiful, preached by Brother Blair and Mrs. D's son-in-law, my cousin Mark.
I sat with Grandmother and my Aunt Margaret, Mark's mother. I kept waiting for her to ask me what kind of girdle I was wearing, but she only commented on my shoes. She liked them, but added that they really made my feet look small, which believe it or not, is a compliment. ( I wear an's okay...I own it. Wonder who I inherited them from ;P )

While we waited for the service to open, we discussed what my grandmother was to be buried in, right down to the panty hose. Apparently, there is a law that the deceased had to be buried in a complete set of undergarments and either hose or socks. But no provision for shoes. How weird is that? "No shoes, Never shoes!" my grandmother had exclaimed. Who knew?

The service opened with "In The Garden," which is not only my grandmother's favorite hymn, it was also my Grandma Clara's favorite. Even after dementia had set in, she would hum it. I can not hear it that I don't think of her. And regardless of the setting, it always makes me cry. By the chorus, I was staring at the ceiling and blinking furiously, but the tears still came.

Brother Blair did a nice job, having been Mrs. D's pastor for sixteen years. As my cousin Mark took the pulpit, carrying Mrs. D's Bible, complete with green, quilted Bible cover, trimed in eyelet and bows. He talked about the things he had found when he first opened it on Friday: the old bulletins, the copies of inspirational poetry, the notes in the margins, the passages that were highlighted and underlined. The parts of the Word that spoke to Mrs. D. over a lifetime of believing. Words of faith and hope. From these words came her eulogy, and though Mark spoke the words, it had been written by Mrs. D. herself, all in the margins of her well-worn Bible.

Our faith teaches us that when we take our last breath here on earth, we take our next in Heaven. He had said though we were down here saying "she's gone," the saints in Heaven were saying "She's Here!" That made me think of my grandfather, his siblings and all our other departed loved ones, greeting Mrs. D as she entered Heaven.

After the service, we followed the casket out of the church. It was loaded into the hearse, and as it drove up the drive that wound behind the church into the cemetary, the congregants began climbing the hill to the grave site. I could not imagine having to make that climb myself, in heels, much less supporting my elderly grandmother, also in heels. I was relieved when Margaret suggested that I drive us up to the grave site. The driveway was very narrow to begin with, but the enormous Cadillac made it seem much more narrow. My grandmother kept asking if I knew where I was going.

We stood on the paved driveway, above the grave site, close enough to hear, but still on firm, flat ground. My grandmother clung to my arm for support. She was hunched over, and her weight on my arm made me hunch over too. She had linked arms with Margaret in the other side. I wondered what we must look like, hunched over, linked arm in arm.

I could feel my grandmother's pulse, thruming through the ports in her arm, where the dialysis needles go. My grandfather had been on dialysis the last few years of his life. Though it had extended his life, it limited it all the same. Now my grandmother faced the same limitations.

She is 86. Two years older than Mrs. D. She had told me on my birthday in June that I was now the same age she was when I was born, 43. I wondered how much more time she might have. Or how much more time I would have with her. I felt guilty for being so pesimistic and dwelling on the negatives. There is still time for good memories.

As I drove myself home, I thought about what I'd want for my own funeral. What songs and who would sing them, what I'd be buried in (I think I'm going to ask for socks...can you imagine and eternity in pantyhose?) what would be found in the margins of my Bible.

The smell of roast greeted me as I walked in and it smelled wonderful. I could only imagine how torturous it had been for everyone else during the time I'd been out. I heard my son exclaim "Yeah! She's Here!"

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