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The Straw that Stirs the Drink

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the victory’s won,
Even death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
-He Leadeth Me (Hymn)

Our three voices melted together in the southern style that Grandma loved so dearly. These two talented women on either side of me had known her for twenty years and generously gave of their talents to the joyous gospel tune that would have thrilled her heart.

"When I die, I want them to sing at my funeral," Grandma had declared countless times after a rousing performance by the mother-daughter duo in a Sunday service.

"Ok, Grandma," I would always respond, knowing full well that death could never claim a woman so strong and vivacious.

I never thought two falls and a bruised brain would be enough to steal her from me. And yet, less than a month after my engagement, I found myself in a church full to bursting with those who had been touched by the vibrant woman I called Grandma. I was in awe of the impact of one life on so many and wondered who else would be in the room if she had remained on this Earth for as long as we had all hoped? Surely an extra 15 years would have allowed her to share her broad smile and biting wit with new friends. My teenage children might have been sitting on the first row, hands entangled with those of their older cousins, hearts broken at the loss of their vivacious great-grandmother.

I realized with a sudden sense of irony that there never would have been a right time for her to die. I would miss her fried chicken, tightly curled silver hair, and bell-like laugh whether she had left me last week or 15 years from now. As transient as my life had been, Grandma was the solid bridge that kept me connected to home.

As I reclaimed my seat on the stage, my mercifully dry eyes fell on my sweet mother who stood to deliver a tribute to the woman who had given her life. Their relationship had been troubled at times, but grief remembers no conflict and the loss of a parent creates a chasm that swallows harsh words. She spoke of a bond forged later in life by a shared faith and commitment to a family that struggled to keep its head above water.

It didn't take long for us all to drown.

Death unmasks the monsters long dormant in those who cannot face it. They emerge, angry and hungry, tearing family ties with their claws of bitterness and greed. Two of the three men that called my mother "sister" betrayed us with their words, accusing her of treachery and forever destroying the tenuous peace that had existed for so long. It didn't matter that she was the one who had moved in with Grandma, feeding her meals and dealing with the doctors while they retreated to safer places. Their rage at the universe for stealing their mother was satisfied by punishing my mother and fleeing with the material possessions left in the wreckage. The guilt and shame they try to hide has left our family fractured, the empty chairs at holiday meals reminding us that we have lost more than one piece of our puzzle.

I don't believe in closure anymore. By definition, that term conjures up the image of closing a door and moving forward as you were before. Loss is not like that. Grief is the process of letting a new reality absorb into your soul. As time goes on, the pain lessens, but the change is permanent. As much as I would like to forever leave them all behind me and travel on without regard for their existence, I don't believe that is possible. These turbulent times have shaped my understanding of family and how to maintain the foundation no matter the circumstance. Freedom has come from realizing that we all viewed Grandma as the glue rather than laboring to maintain relationships independent of her. This lesson has stirred within my heart a sense of urgency to protect the family I do have from the ravages of these eventual tragedies. Leaving the door open to look back and remember without bitterness is what will bring true healing and help me to grow my family with care. I am learning to wish the same for them.

I think Grandma would be proud.

**My intersection parter for this week is the lovely and talented


( 19 Tattoos — Write a Song )
Apr. 3rd, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
I think your grandma would be proud, too.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 02:48 am (UTC)
A loving tribute, well done.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 03:27 am (UTC)
There is more than a little of your Grandma in you, you have the power to carry it on! Well done.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 06:02 am (UTC)
My Nanna died 'before her time' as well. How lovely that you could sing at her funeral.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 07:03 am (UTC)
Some really good lines here. I like "grief remembers no conflict and the loss of a parent creates a chasm that swallows harsh words" and "Death unmasks the monsters long dormant." They are terrible truths, but you express them well. And while I do believe in closure -- I don't think it means going on just as you were before, but coming to terms with the new reality -- I recognize phenomena like "Grief is the process of letting a new reality absorb into your soul" because that's been so true in my own life too.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Touching tribute to your grandma.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
What a well done, loving tribute. My condolences on your loss.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written.

And I've seen how the death of a treasured grandparent can tear a family apart. In my case, it was my grandpa. When he passed, everyone fought. It was terribly sad. I'm sorry you went through something like that.
Apr. 4th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
A very moving and sweet tribute. Very nicely done.
Apr. 4th, 2012 12:28 am (UTC)
I agree with the line about there "never being a right time" for someone to die. When my father-in-law was dying..we kept hoping.."I hope he makes it to their anniversary. I hope he lives long enough to see his first great-grandchild" etc etc. No matter what, there was always something else, some other reason..there is just never a good time.

I'm very sorry you lost your grandma. I will lose my last grandma soon and I really want to keep her..in a way. I mean, maybe its time but she is such an important person in my life. I do think your grandma would be proud of you!
Apr. 4th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
So moving and beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute to your grandmother.

This line: "grief remembers no conflict and the loss of a parent creates a chasm that swallows harsh words." in particular resonates with me.
Apr. 4th, 2012 06:37 am (UTC)
I remember you posting before about the troubles within your family regarding your grandmother's estate. My own family has its own issues... but when things get tough, my siblings and I work together to solve them, rather than tear each other apart. I am sorry your mother's brothers were unable to do the same.

A movie piece; thanks for sharing.
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
What a beautiful entry <3
Apr. 4th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Lovely sentiment for your Grandma and your story shows how important those family ties can be. It sounds like you have gained a lot of understanding and are appying it well.
Apr. 5th, 2012 06:26 am (UTC)
This is such a lovely, well-written, evocative portrait you draw. Well done.
Apr. 5th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Apr. 5th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
The turn in this story is so compelling - I think this is one of your strongest pieces! I like how you describe the negative behavior of the other family members in such spare detail - it lets us be outraged on your behalf without you writing any "poor me."

One thing that stuck out for me - "their mother was satisfied by punishing my mother" - I wonder if there's another wording for one of the mothers? This sentence took two reads for me to follow and broke the flow a little. A small thing, but the piece is so strong it stuck out!
Apr. 6th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
I love when I get constructive feedback like this. I don't like that sentence either. It does stick out. I will ponder how to fix it if I use it again. Thanks so much for your commenting. :)
( 19 Tattoos — Write a Song )

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