On My Grandmother’s Death and Funeral

Last Saturday morning, July 23rd, my grandmother passed away.

It was not a surprise. Her health, especially mentally but in recent months physically as well, had been in decline for years, and in the spring I knew her end would arrive soon.

She was unaware of things at the end. She went in peace.

The morticians did a wonderful job. At the end she no longer looked human. It may sound disrespectful, but even Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies looked more human than she did. Though my mother planned for a closed casket service and no viewing, the morticians made her look almost normal.

The funeral service was Wednesday morning.

It was a nice service, and the minister had a lovely singing voice.

I was asked on Monday to say a few words at the service, and I wrestled with what to say. If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts on my grandmother, you may know that I had some complicated feelings on the subject; this post from April 2009 is a prime example. My grandmother was a difficult person to love. She could be emotionally cruel. But she was also someone who engendered loyalty and friendship in those who knew her, and she had relationships that stood for decades. People are complicated. My grandmother was a complicated person. I struggled with what to say; honesty about my grandmother and her personality would not have been the right thing to say.

I had a breakthrough, though. A realization. I wrote it down, I thought it was clever, I thought it was interesting, and, most important, I thought it was meaningful. It was honest. And, more important, it was optimistic.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how emotionally freighted it was. As I went to deliver my remarks Wednesday morning, I had a total meltdown. I hadn’t realized that writing a thing was a different thing than speaking the same thing. Something that I could type merrily away was so emotionally close that trying to say it was devastating.

My sister wanted to rescue me from the podium as I was having a meltdown. I got through it, and as I kept going, it became easier.

I even got to deliver a joke line — “My grandmother makes a very persuasive case for the marmelade and toast diet.”

The internment was nice as well.

The turnout was low. Partly, it’s due to the fact that my grandmother outlived almost everyone. Friends and relatives would die, and she would go on, she would endure.

It’s been a hectic week.

In some ways, it feels like my grandmother passed away just yesterday. At times in the past seven days, I’ve found myself looking in on her room to see how she is.

In other ways, it feels like she’s been gone a very long time.

She’s at rest now. She no longer suffers from the ravages of dementia and old age. I can’t see that as a bad thing.

Ninety years, six months, twenty-nine days is a good run.

One thought on “On My Grandmother’s Death and Funeral

  1. Allyn, please accept my sincerest condolences. Having read your blog for some time I was aware of the complex and difficult relationship you had with your grandmother. At the same time, I understand that the difficulty a person brings to our life in no way diminishes our love for them; indeed, it is often because we love them that we permit them to complicate our existence in ways that would otherwise be intolerable.

    You’ve borne a great weight for many years, sir. I know of few people whose love and loyalty have ever survived such tests. So, along with my sympathies, know that you also have my respect and admiration.

    All the best,
    Dave

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