Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ah, it's Sunday evening and I am home, taking it easy on the couch. It feels good to relax for a while.

I just can't say how much I appreciate all the people who I know were praying for me and for my family the past few days. I could almost tangibly feel the support. My trip went very smoothly, coming and going, and I had two precious days with my family while we celebrated the life that Grandma lived.

My dad had gone to the ER on Wednesday morning, not long after he and Mom arrived in Missouri, because he'd been experiencing chest pain. That was stressful for him, of course, but also for my mom, my brother and me as we traveled to them, and my sister who was in Ohio and wanting so much to be with us.

By the time Jeremy and I got there on Thursday afternoon, Dad had been through a whole battery of tests, and was released from the hospital. His heart is absolutely fine--there was no heart attack, no coronary disease at all. It was such a relief. He was still not feeling great, but at least we knew that his heart was fine.

My mom's current theory is that Dad's gall bladder is what's causing the pain, and he will certainly have to get to the bottom of whatever's going on, but for now he is doing well, and feeling better, too.

The calling hours for Grandma were Thursday evening. I had been dreading going into the room at the funeral home and seeing her in her coffin. She was such a tremendously alive person, I just didn't think I could bear to see her dead.

But I ended up having the same reaction that I did when I saw Grandpa in his coffin a few months ago--"That's not Grandma. She is gone." There was no vestige of her in that coffin.

I had brought along one of my favorite books to re-read on the trip, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, and that night in bed at the hotel, I read a scene where the main character has to identify his son's body. This captured what I'd been feeling perfectly: "Odd how clearly it suddenly became, once a person had died, that the body was the very least of him. This was simply an untenanted shell, although it bore a distant resemblance to Ethan."

That was it exactly. The real Mary Clark re-appeared with all the people who came: her nieces and nephews and cousins, her co-workers, and people who'd been her friends and neighbors for years, who told all of us in the family about things she'd done for them, things she'd said to them, and how privileged they felt to have known her. It was so precious to hear those things.

The next day we had a short funeral for her, a brief service at the graveside, and then a meal in the church basement. While we were eating lunch, she was lowered into the ground and buried. After the meal, I stepped back outside behind the church and went to the mound of dirt over her grave with the spray of flowers on top. I hadn't lingered by her coffin at the funeral home except for a quick look, and I hadn't gone in to pay my last respects before the funeral started. There were too many people around, and as I said, that wasn't Grandma in the coffin anyway.

But alone, standing by her grave, feeling the wind and the light rain and looking at the beautiful fall trees around the church, I could feel her presence and I could say good-bye the way I wanted to. I said "thank you" to her for being my grandma and told her I would love her and remember her forever. Then I was able to go back inside and talk to more people about her. It was good.

Here is the link to Grandma's obituary.