Monday, March 8, 2010

ON FAMILY ~ A Very Special Sunset...



When I looked out the little plastic window on our plane ride to North Carolina, I saw the sun setting from a different perspective and wondered if that was the way my grandmother would watch sunsets from now on.

My grandmother died a few weeks ago at the age of 87. She lived a long life, surrounded by friends and family. But her quality of life the last several years was a burden to her spirit. I know that her strong faith prepared her for death and that she welcomed the peace. I believe that she spent her recent years preparing everyone else for that. But we would remind her of what she loved in life and though our intent was to make her happy to be here, I think sometimes it made her sad that she couldn't be a full part of it.

The dialysis that she took several times a week allowed her to feel pretty decent once or twice a week. The rest of the time, not so much. I got to see her back in the fall on a vacation designed specifically to see her. Oh sure, we made the rounds visiting relatives on both sides of the family - doing all kinds of fun things. But in my heart, the reason for the trip was to see a grandmother who always took the time to send me chocolate oatmeal cookies - a grandmother I hadn't taken the time to visit in 7 years.

I found a lady who was tired but happy to hug and share details about all of her children and grandchildren's lives. She had friends stopping by to drop off delicious food that fit her dietary restrictions. She had a son teasing her to make her smile while he cared for her health. And she had her same spot in the armchair with the afghan she crocheted, her prized bible and address book on the table next to her, and a clear path to her kitchen - where she did her good works.

She lamented that she could no longer write letters - that she always found the time to send me growing up far away from her. But that she still loved to receive them (hint, hint). She was her feisty self a few days later when all the family nearby gathered in her home to say hello for our visit and to celebrate my cousin's birthday. She teased, told jokes, clever stories and shared favorite memories. That was a good day. The last time I saw her.

So when she died and caught us all a bit off guard several weeks ago, I did not arrive in time to attend the wake. We gathered in her home with everyone after visiting hours instead. This was fine with me because viewings disturb me. I do not like to have my last visual memory of a loved one be replaced by death in a casket. Deceased people in caskets do not look peaceful or beautiful to me. They look dead and cold and alone.

Therefore, I don't go to wakes. And although I find funeral services comforting, I don't take part in any up close viewing before the service. But that doesn't mean my grief isn't personal. I like to remember my grandmother in her chair, the way I left her in the fall. And I liked having her entire family gathered under her roof in her honor, with the spot in her chair filled with her daughter and great-granddaughter when I first saw it without her. And I like that she shared that different perspective of the sunset from above with me while we were flying to her funeral, while everyone else was looking at her casket. She always did understand that we all have our own way of handling things. Thanks Grandma.

15 comments:

Matty said...

I think this is a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. And while it was always customary and also expected that we view the deceased, I don't disagree with your reasoning either. It sounds to me like she was very special.

The Book Chook said...

Grandmas are special and she sounds a pearl. It's lovely to think that you will have sunsets connecting you to her from now on.

Susan said...

Molly, this is such a wonderful tribute to your grandma. It's too bad she won't be able to read it. Your post came very close to my heart as my beloved aunt is in intensive care right now, battling pneumonia, is on a ventilator and her kidneys aren't functioning well. I'm going to see her tomorrow. I hope I make it in time.

XOXO

Mary said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I feel the same way about wakes. It sounds like you have wonderful memories of your grandmother - and that's a gift.

McGillicutty said...

What a beautiful tribute, I know she feels at peace now and was grateful for your visit in the fall.
I am going to see my mother soon and she's also in bad health, I fear for what I might find but am hopeful that my being there will cheer her up at least for a while.
Hugs x

hmsgofita said...

Beautiful thoughts and tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like a wonderful lady who loved her children and grandchildren dearly.

My own grandmother will probably not last too much longer. Life is so fragile and beautiful at the same time. Thanks for your wonderful post today.

LJ Ducharme said...

My condolences to your loss.

I think wakes / viewings are cultural geographically. Back in Ontario - going to a viewing a day or two before the service is just the way its done. Here on the west coast you'll rarely find the deceased person at their own service, let alone any kind of viewing.

I grew up going to funerals with open caskets. It became a normal way for me to say goodbye.

When my dad died 10 years ago, I had not spoken to either of my parents for 7 years, but I went back home to support my mom. She insisted on an immediate-family viewing before my father was cremated. We went to the funeral home, and they quite literally rolled him out from the fridge in his birthday suite and a cloth layed over him. This was my first sighting after 7 years, and my last. I still have mixed emotions about it.

My mom, however, died quite unexpectedly but peacefully in her sleep (she was 84), and the opportunity to say a final goodbye never happened.

What I'm trying to say, that we all have different needs in the ways we say our final goodbyes. What a sweet entry to write about your Grandmother.

I can only hope that one day someone will write and feel something this lovely about me.

stacybuckeye said...

Beautiful tribute, Molly. She sounds like a wonderful lady and I'm sure her faith is being rewarded.
My grandmother is 87 too and I can only hope that when the time comes I can write something at least half as lovely as this.

Janet said...

What a beautiful tribute :-) I'm glad she was surrounded by love.

And I don't like wakes either...for the same reason as you.

Kathleen said...

This one brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother and what a wonderful perspective you have on her life and death.

kaye said...

*sniff, sniff* and ((((hugs))) to you. This was such a tender and beautiful post. I'm glad you have such wonderful memories of your grandmother. Thanks for sharing.

Penny said...

Beautiful picture. Sorry for your loss darlings. :(

ds said...

Beautiful. What a wonderful lady. And every time the sun sets, you will know that she is smiling...

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

Molly, you touched my heart with this beautiful tribute to you grandmother. I'm sure she is in a better place now. Even though you miss her, her spirit and memory will be with you forever. Those are the things that are important, not some of those archaic practices.

Abplanalp said...

This was beautifully written Mols. Grandmas tug at my heartstrings.