In the most basic of physical essence she is gone. Her voice. Her hands. Her body.
I could see that she was gone. I watched them close the casket.
I was at the cemetery, but that does little to convince me. A body, without the spirit is a startling reality. You see just how much of ourselves is made up of spirit, emotions and essence. It seems almost impossible for her to be truly gone.
I lost my grandmother and it is truly a heartbreaking loss. I miss her. The memories draw deep from the well of sweet nostalgia and the past seems so good it hurts.
But really I am lucky. I am thirty-one years old. For thirty-one years I had the love and support of my grandmother. She was a straight-shooter, no frills, laugh-out-loud kind of lady. She was better than great.
I’ve never spent a Christmas without her. Or a First Communion, graduation or any every-day celebration. She was there in the room when Solshine was born.
There’s this memory I have of her at my wedding. Stone and I were dancing to Etta James’ At Last and I looked over and saw my Grandfather and Grandmother come onto the dance floor and begin to slow dance. I started to weep, tumbling into the present moment of generation building upon generation. We slow danced our way over and hugged, the four us, while I cried and I remember she kept saying, “I understand.”
She understood. I was crying because time doesn’t stop and there we were–living out the moments of our lives. There would be photo albums to look back on, but in that moment we were alive and awake and together in our fancy dresses and shiny shoes. And it was pure bliss.
I loved that moment.
After I got the phone call I sat in my car and cried and it was all about me and my little girl life and feelings; memories of Easter egg hunts, summer cook-outs and a no bull-shit pep talk as I headed off to college.
Thirty-six hours later my family arrived at my parents house and everything changed, because yes, I lost my grandmother, but my mother……
My mother lost her mother.
(Pause out of respect.)
This thing we call Mother. This enormous tidal wave of life and experience tied up in emotions that run to the deepest of our core: Mother. My mother. Your mother. My children’s Mother. The Eternal Mother. She is vast; integral to our existence and wrapped up in home, religion, politics and more importantly–matters of the heart.
And the little girl in me, sobbing for my grandmother, grew up very quickly watching my own mother mourn for her mother. Her mother: the person who grew her, birthed her, bathed her, and cared for her. She lost the ever present foundation of love and support in her life.
It was suddenly not about me. I mourned with my husband, his family (who knew and loved her) and my cousins, but I couldn’t even begin to touch what my mother was experiencing. She didn’t want me to. In some ways, it was impossible. For almost a week, I lost my mother. She reverted to sometime in her youth before I knew her. She retreated to her seven siblings in a way I had never witnessed.
Our usual cadence disappeared and she became a stranger to me. I was left stunned. I wished I could have been inside that mourning with her; that maybe that would mean we were close; that it was me she wanted to cry and talk to.
It was within this process that I realized that my mother is more than just my mother. She had been a child. She was a person. And I can’t even begin to know the depth of her being because I am blinded to her person by my love for my mother.
And I thought about how one day I will lose her. And my children will lose me. And in the same way that I celebrate the lineage of my baby girl being born with the very eggs that may one day be my grandchildren; that the very egg that was to be me lived in my mother while she lived in her mother; in the same way that I am humbled by the way life unfolds and moves: I mourn in somber celebration of a life lived full circle.
A few days after the funeral I took my family up to Camp for a few days and when I returned, I, unlike my mom, got my mother back. Mom, I am terribly sorry for your loss. There is no one in the whole wide world who can take the place of Mother. And these words seem to pale in the face of your loss.