Last week I was my brother's best man.
Today I carried my grandmothers casket.
Tomorrow my niece will be baptized.
Last night during the wake my cousin from Wyoming said something like "I didn't know wakes could be so much fun." I suspect he's not been to many Irish wakes, because the true surprise should have been our sobriety!
My grandmother was a devout Catholic, one of those women who can be called a saint without exaggeration, though also without official Papal recognition. She was a perfectly selfless woman, kind, stubborn, serious and humorous, and intelligent, one of those women who would have been given awards and scholarships and grants if she'd been born a little bit later. Alas, hers was not a generation in which women went to college. Nor was my mother's, but my grandmother made sure that all her daughters and her son went to college.
I've not been to many funerals, due to young age and the sort of family which isn't prone to dying too early of stupid causes. So I was amused by the cemetery ceremony ending, and then the funeral director calmly explaining the traffic and best route to the restaurant. Then some workers came by and lowered the casket. That felt strange, but I didn't mind the apparent lack of reverence at that point. I knew my grandmother wasn't in the casket; that was just a corpse and she was somewhere else.
Throughout the ceremonies and mass and prayers people would offer condolences. I didn't quite understand why. My grandmother had already been dying and I had plenty of time to accept that, so her physical death was not sad for me. All the sad parts had happened weeks before. All it meant that she was no longer in any pain, and if anything she believed was true, was in a glorious, deserved place. So in a strange sort of way it was a happy occasion. I will admit it was still a somewhat confusing occasion, but today as I watched my niece look around in bewilderment I remembered that confusion is part of life and learning, that a perfectly understandable world is boring!
As the priest said during the Mass, she was the only person to ever be kicked out of hospice for doing too well. So she went back to her condo and my oldest brother and I were glad that she would have a change to appreciate our excellent repairing and repainting. I know it sounds silly, but we'd had a lot of regret when she was in hospice that she'd have only seen pictures.
My grandmother died without a ton of money, but so what? She had six of her children with her, many grandchildren, and even a great-grandchild. No amount of medical care or money can give the form of immortality that comes from a loving family.
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