Grandma died two Fridays ago. Last week we had the wake and the funeral. And now we are back to ordinary life. Without her.
Aging and dying–is there anything more cruel, in this world? Grandma had 93 years on earth, almost 94. But it’s still not enough. I haven’t gotten married yet, and she would have liked to be there for that. I haven’t published my book yet, and that would have made her so proud. I haven’t had kids yet, and now they will have to come into a world without her.
People generally sugarcoat during eulogies, but everything we said about Grandma was true. She loved to read. She was a great storyteller. She loved us. She lived for us. We didn’t visit often enough. Or call often enough. And now we have to live with that.
The wake and funeral were not too bad. Then again, they never are. Flowers and old photographs and wine and endless amounts of pasta (at Italian funerals, anyway). There are hugs and smiles from people and relatives you don’t always get to see. Everyone who knew her and loved her, coming together. One last time.
The worst part is when the afterglow fades. It’s going on with life, without Grandma in it. It takes getting used to, mostly because we don’t want to get used to it.
The flowers are wilting, the lasagna is eaten, friends and family have all gone home. And I go back to normal, mostly. Soon I will stop waking up in the morning only to be hit with it, just as I’m regaining consciousness. Soon it will be just another loss to live with. Soon my eyes will stop prickling with tears when it really gets through to me, that I won’t get to talk to her again, at least not for a very long time.
They read this poem, at the funeral, by Henry Scott Holland. I hope it’s true.
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Above: me, my sister, and Grandma, circa 1987.