Monday, March 7, 2016


The day after I posted the year in the review, my grandma died.
It was way harder for me than I thought.
It wasn't that I didn't expect it,
Or even that I didn't wish it for her.
But my mind was already sad,
And her heaven-going was the small breath
That pushed me over. Made me inhale slowly but sharply.

It was cold when we went to see her. Dark, too.
Her place was the same as I had left it last Tuesday.
Her clutter was still there, but less dusty.
Boxes of Christmas stuff sat patiently at her feet.
It didn't need to be sorted anymore.
"She won't need that where she's gone," I thought.
So many things she won't need there.

I was glad she had wrapped blankets around herself.
The night was cold, after all.
I know it's just a shell she left behind, but shells get cold too.
I felt warmer knowing she was warm.
We all crowded into her small place until it was so warm
We opened a window and let in the night.
The night air knew just what we needed.

Church was going on while we were there.
My throat ached, knowing my friends were probably praying
Just then for our aching hearts.
When one member of the body hurts, the others are there to help.
They provide the strength that is temporarily unavailable.
We were loved that night.
I suppose we all experienced heaven a little.

So I sat there and couldn't stop looking at her.
Oddly, it didn't bother me to be staring at death.
She had been in such pain that heaven was mercy.
(Oh to experience the joys of that place!)
Those eyes were transformed and were now beholding glory
As of yet unimagined by our doubting, timid hearts.
She was home.

They took her and I realized I couldn't sit there forever.
For a fleeting moment, I wished I hadn't been so close to her.
One less game of Yahtzee, perhaps, might've made
This parting easier. One less conversation or one less laugh
Might take four inches off the crack growing in my heart.
Why did she have to love me so hard?
Didn't she know how difficult it would make this night?

Those next few days were a kind of controlled chaos.
So much sorting. So many tears.
I found pictures and certificates and hospital bills and candy wrappers.
A life does not fit easily into so many boxes.
How to decide which items to display to represent a person?
Seventy-six years of poetry reduced to a single line.
Life is not fair, I know. Decisions must be made.

Funeral day.
I have the usual quandary of whether to wear bright colors in celebration,
Or to wear black because it's 'what you do.'
I wear black and white to compromise.
Peter is dressed in what makes him happy.
She would've wanted that, at the very least.
We are ready.

I play violin with my sister and I am a wreck inside.
"Just get to the end of the hymn, the service, the day," I think.
We know she is in heaven. We will see her again.
But the beauty of funerals is God lets us cry.
He bottles up our tears. He remembers them.
I hadn't wanted to cry in front of my friends, my family.
But I needed to, and I did, and I'm glad.

So many dear ones came.
They didn't just bring themselves; they brought stories and hugs, too.
We put candy in the casket, because death requires some silliness, no?
There was a lot of food, but I saw the love and time behind it all.
I felt closure and it felt good.
"She would've been very happy," I kept saying.
I was so thankful for the joy everyone brought with them.

I didn't want to be there when they put her in the ground.
Like I said, it was just a shell.
But she would've wanted me there, so I made myself go.
We trudged through thick snow in our church shoes and shivered from
More than just the cold.
Dad said some words and we nodded and cried, and it was time.
It was my turn to say something.

I walked up to the casket and almost tripped.
I couldn't see.
I stared at the pattern and wondered why I picked such a stupid color for the shell box.
"It didn't look this color in the book," I thought.
"Goodbye, Gram" was all that I managed to get out.
Sometimes, words are not as necessary as they are polite.
Thank God she knew this.

We went home and began the process of healing.
Wounds are individual, you know.
Each one heals differently, uniquely. On its own schedule.
For tiny moments, I'll feel like mine is gone.
But memories are ghosts and they are not afraid of daylight.
My ghosts are many.
I cannot wish them away.

I am not sad for her; I am sad for me.
Selfish, I know.
I was lonely before, and then she left and I am aching. Truly.
She was not just a grandmother but a friend.
(I believe that cliche to be appropriate.)
There is so much I will miss.
I will always long for just one more Tuesday at her house.

Gram, words were our chocolate. :)
Thanks for listening to everything I had to say.
It is because of you -- it is all because of you.
Two-Person Solitaire just got a whole lot more difficult to play.
Eva Cassidy is singing "Over the Rainbow" and we've stopped rolling dice
Because the beauty of it hit us at the same exact time.
We smile and keep playing.

I will work hard as I'm headed closer to you.
Peter will hear every story; see every picture.
Our family tree will continue to be filled in
Just like you wanted.
I will sing and play and read and love.
You always wanted another poem. Well, Gram,
This one's for you.

- with all my heart, Rachael