Thursday, June 24, 2004

Tonight is the service for my grandmother.

I think that in the last two days, it's sunk in that she's gone and I'm not going to see her again. I have no grandparents left of my mother's side, and now she doesn't have any parents. I was driving near the assisted living home where grandmother lived, and a sense of comfort washed over me knowing that she was there with all her little funny idiosyncrasies and her room decorated with pictures. It was immediately replaced by emptiness in realizing that was not the case, and that in her room the grandmother I remember, not the one that replaced her for the last few weeks of her life, was not there. In fact, she wasn't anywhere.

As I stepped out of the house this morning, trying to remember where I parked, I ran into Jim the landlord. We chatted, then I saw a woman walking her two German shepherds. She said, "I guess I'll see you tonight," and at first I didn't know what she meant, then recognized her. It was Martha, the rector of the church who will be performing the ceremony. I pet the dogs and talked to her, saying that I didn't recognize her out of frock. The church is located one block over from me, walking distance, so there will be no driving. I'm leaving work early today at 3:00, to help out beforehand. I'm going to try to fit in a nap between times, as I am in great need of one. Afterward, we all meet at my mom's house, then she and her brother will fly the ashes to Newport, Arkansas to be buried or scattered alongside my grandfather. I'm not sure which.

This is the same cemetery that is right next door to my grandmother's old house in Newport. Across the street from her and the cemetery was a vast cornfield. When I would visit, I used to play in that graveyard. We'd walk around, counting the lambs on the tombstones. Lambs meant that the deceased had been a child, a concept that was completely foreign to me. I remember saying that I wanted a lamb, not understanding the full context of what that meant. Not only would we count the lambs, but I'd have to touch each one. We'd search for the oldest person, or the person who had lived the longest ago. Reading the epitaphs on them. So many things to see, as people were as varied in their deaths as they were their lives. The largest tombstone, which was really a mausoleum-like structure that I would climb on top of was always a favorite stop. On a lot of the headstones, I'd trace my fingers inside the names carved in stone and clear dirt, cobwebs, or grass out of them. Willow trees loomed around us, their hanging branches sweeping the grassy lawn as wind, or spirits moved through them. It was a peaceful land of adventure for a child. When my grandmother didn't come with me, I'd say, "I'm going to the cemetery," and off I'd go, running around the stones and trying to find something new. Fresh graves, flower displays, new headstones or ones that I hadn't noticed. Darting in and out of stones that dwarfed me, jumping over the ones that I could. Seeing if my arms could fit all the way around the pylons. Sometimes I'd put my face on them to see if they were still warm from the sun, even though it was dusk. Laying on big slabs of marble, facing the sky as birds or crop dusters flew overhead, smelling freshly cut grass. I was lost in the world of those who had departed, but very much alive among them.

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