For the past two days we have been busy celebrating the life of my husband's beautiful grandmother and saying goodbye to her. I am sitting here struggling for the words to adequately describe the emotions I have been feeling. My heart aches for my husband and his loss. I also have my own grief for a woman who was so accepting and loving towards me from the moment I met her. And I am sad that my girls will not have the chance to grow up knowing their great-grandmother. But sorrow and grief do not fully describe my feelings. Yes, I absolutely feel sad. But at the same time, I feel kind of, strangely, uplifted by the past two days. The fact is, it is awe inspiring to reflect on the life of someone so accomplished, graceful, and kind. It is, yes, amazing to see how much this one woman was loved by her family, friends, and community. There was much reminiscing. There were moments of laughter. There was singing that was simultaneously sorrowful and joyous. There were beautiful moments. Bittersweet moments. Tender moments. There were a few moments that I, as a mother, will never forget.
Like when Miss happened to notice the open casket at the visitation last night. She walked right up to it with such innocent curiosity. Naturally she had many questions. We had a conversation that went something like this:
Miss: "Mama, why is she lying on that pillow?"
Me: "Because she died..."
Me: "She was very old and had lived a very long life, and sometimes when people get very very old like that, their body doesn't work as well and they die."
Miss: "She can't breathe anymore, right?"
Miss: "That's just like Tessa." (our dog who died about a year ago)
Me: "That's right Honey."
Miss: "Mama, why is she in that box?"
Me: "So that her family and friends could have a chance to tell her how much they loved her and say goodbye. Would you like to tell her you loved her and say goodbye to her?"
And she did.
A little while later Miss returned to look at her great-grandma some more. Lass came over as well, and so did my husband. He picked up Lass and asked her if she wanted to say goodbye to her great-grandma. She waved and said, "Buh-bye Gamma." He asked her if she wanted to tell her great-grandma "I love you." She said, "I yuh you Gamma." It was a truly precious moment.
My husband's grandmother used to call her grandchildren her "Little Lambs." I've heard her use this term of endearment with my girls. I couldn't help but think of this when I saw my girls' pure innocence while trying to understand her death. Amidst all the grief and sadness, there was beauty and life. My husband's grandmother lives on through my girls and the rest of her family. I think that everyone who was a part of the tribute paid to her in the past two days will at some point have to stop and think, "How can I be more like her?" She was that inspiring. This one woman accomplished so much in her lifetime, including starting and keeping together this family:
80 people directly descended from her or married to someone who is. She held her family together across many years and miles. She was small, yet mighty. She was so much to so many. She was loved. She will be missed.