Saying Goodbye to My Grandmother

My Grandmother with my daughter

Life has been busy these last few weeks, and as a result I have not had much time to write. I feel like all of my feelings and emotions are swirling inside of me in a storm of confusion with no outlet.I have finally found a moment to write, so here it goes!

When we found out my grandmother had passed I felt overwhelming sadness and anxiety. It was a Monday and I wanted to be able to attend the funeral and say a proper goodbye to one of my greatest heroes in my life. We learned from my relatives down south that the funeral was taking place Thursday. I became panicked!! My husband and I both work and we did not know if we could get the time off.

I wasted no time and asked my manager if I could take Friday off. I had just learned about her passing that morning and I was trying so hard to pretend that everything was OK. In the middle of explaining the reason that I needed the day off I broke down and started to cry in the middle of my office full of my coworkers. It was like I could not hold it back any longer. Saying the words that my Grandmother had died, made it so much more real. It all started flooding out of me!

The family free my sister and I made in the car ride to Los Angles

Photos of her beautiful life

My Manager was amazing and made everything work out for me. My husband called his boss and was also given the time off with no real need to argue or beg for it. My sister up in Washington, who is in the Navy was granted bereavement time and flew down the next day. My Grandma passed on Monday, my sister flew in on Tuesday night and we picked her up at the airport. We ran around that night printing out photos for a memorial photo collage and picture family tree. My husband and I both had to work on Wednesday. We finished work and raced home and left straight for Los Angles.

We drove the eight hours straight. I was a bucket of nerves. I had not slept well for the last three days. On the drive my sister and I had to put together our collage and family tree, which was not an easy feat in the car! We got to my older brothers families house at midnight. We put some finishing touches on our collage and went to sleep. The house was full of people. My brother, his wife, his ten year old, twin three year olds, me, my husband, my daughter, my sister, my mom, my step dad, and my cousin. There were air mattresses everywhere. It was tight but it was great to be near family!

The next morning I woke up early. I had been working on my eulogy since I learned of my grandmothers passing, but I had to finish typing it . I also had to finish the collage and get myself and my daughter ready for the funeral. I was agitated and stressed and had a few break downs. Finally everyone and everything was ready. We drove to the funeral home. I was so concentrated on getting everything ready that I was not prepared for the grief I would feel at the funeral. When I walked into the lobby I saw everyone from the family. I greeted everyone but beyond them I saw it! There in the lobby I saw the casket and the body of my grandmother. It was as if someone punched me in the stomach. All of the air was sucked out of me and I felt overcome with such grief! My throat burned and tears came to my eyes and I could not control myself.

I hated seeing my grandmother in that casket! That lively wonderful women that I knew was so cold and so still! I can still see her in my mind. It haunts me. I had to turn away and face my husband because I could not take the feeling any longer. One of the funeral attendants announced that we must say our final goodbye and many people came up to the casket. I could not! It was too much and I wanted to remember her in life and not death! I turned back to her and saw that they started lifting up the cloth around my grandmother’s head as they prepared to close the lid! I felt another flood of grief and sorrow overcome me, I could not watch them shut the lid on my grandmother. It hurt too much!

We all sat down in the chapel, except my mom and her brothers. They closed the casket and laid a white cloth over it. My mom and her brothers and pole-bearers walked the casket to the front. I could not take my eyes off of it, I was imaging my grandmother in there and I wanted to open it so badly. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was an empty shell and that her soul was else where. That she was peaceful and happy.

To be honest I was extremely disappointed with the funeral. It was a catholic mass with all the kneeling and standing and prayers. The priest knew very little about my grandmother. All he knew or at least commented on was her love of flowers and the fact that she ran a flower shop. Nothing else about her wonderful 93 years of life! I became so frustrated and angry! this was my grandmothers life! Where was her tribute??  I wanted to interrupt the funeral and remind them of how beautiful and funny and smart my grandmother was! I was tired of the ritual of mass! It was so impersonal!

After the mass we followed the car to the grave site. I felt that stab of pain again watching her casket placed on the location of her burial site. My grandpa had been buried in the same location about seven years ago. They would be buried one casket on top of the other. My Grandmother always took comfort in the fact that once she passed she would be buried with her husband of 60+ years. Even the grave stone was prepared for both of them. Two circles for their names and dates of life, linked to together by the date of the marriage. It made me uncomfortable seeing that blank spot for my grandmother but she always took comfort in the fact that there was a place for her when she was ready to pass. The family chose not to watch my grandmother being lowered into the ground. For that I was thankful.

During the reception there was food and members of the family walked around talking to each other. The photos my cousin made as well as the ones I made were displayed. It was nice to see family but I was upset about how impersonal my grandmothers funeral and reception were. When my Grandfather passed away many people came and eulogized him. Not a single person got up to say anything about my grandmother. As I saw people start to get up I told my mom that I should do the eulogy that I had prepared now! I could not let this day finish without something said about her as a person! Not about God! or anything else, but her!  My mom introduced me and I did my speech about my grandmothers life, her love, her dedication to family and how I felt about her! I felt good to remember her life and the person that she was to me !

I shared a story that truly embodies my grandmothers personality, and I will share it with you.

My grandmother and grandpa were married at the end of the depression and during World War Two. My grandfather was sent to school to become a draftsman engineer in the military and my grandmother had to spend her first Christmas alone without him. At the time there was no money for gifts or decorations. My grandmother wanted to make this holiday special because it was the first Christmas of her marriage. So instead of weeping at not being able to afford all that she desired, she thought long and hard. She went and got a bag of walnuts. She sat down and painstakingly opened up each walnut on its seam so that the shell was not damaged. She emptied out all the nut and made Christmas walnut cookies and gave them as gifts to friends and family. She then glued the walnuts back together with a string attached and painted them and made ornaments for her Christmas Tree. This story fills me with such awe and admiration for my grandmother. She as if by magic turned very little into a beautiful thing.

At the funeral, So glad he was there to support me

When I finished my eulogy I felt a since of relief. Not because it was over but because I finally felt like this day was truly about my Grandmother! I sympathized for her because she was a mom and it is a thankless job! She supported her husband and was soft spoken. She was strong and modest. she loved her children and grandchildren strongly. I hated the idea of her not getting the recognition she deserved! She did not change the world like my grandfather had while working for NASA but she made a small part of the world a better place. She brought joy and love to the lives of her family and friends! She was a beautiful person and will always be my hero!

A beautiful sympathy card my co-workers gave me when I got back from the funeral, it filled my heart with such love!

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