goodbye in two parts

Part One.

Being in the funeral home reminded the girl of elephants.

Like there was a giant elephant in the room, but everyone was trying desperately hard not to talk about elephants.

The Girl (who really wasn’t a girl still but a full-grown woman) had brought the Baby to the funeral home, partly from necessity (since she was nursing) and partly for something to hang on to. She had decided earlier that she would do her best not to cry, unless she really couldn’t help it.

People met the girl at the door, it seemed like in one big rush. “Prepare yourself,” said the Aunt, “She doesn’t look a thing like her.” The girl (who was really a woman, now) desperately want to not prepare herself and not go have a look to see what she (being the grandmother, who was dead) looked like.

Everybody stood around and talked about the Baby instead. The Baby tried, vainly it seems, to go see the Grandmother who was laying there sleeping at the other end of the room.

The girl-woman held up well. She managed to talk to visitors about the grandmother and especially about the baby. She almost didn’t manage when the Grandfather repeatedly burst into tears, but as the afternoon wore on, she got used to it and handed out hugs as necessary. The Grandfather would occasionally go over to the Grandmother (who was not sleeping, but was, in fact, very dead) and tell her (quite loudly, for she was a little deaf in life) who had just been in to visit.

At some point, the woman found herself quite close to that end of the room. She looked over at her Grandmother. The Aunt was right, she didn’t look like herself, especially her hands. Her hands looked like wax. The exact same wax look as the figures at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, where she had visited in London with the very same grandmother.

The Husband tried to urge the woman to step a little closer, when she was ready of course, but they were both foiled by the Father, who was trying desperately hard not to talk about elephants.

Everyone said how pleased they were that the Baby was there, for she was a nice distraction, and how yes, it was best that the woman’s remaining children were at the *other* grandmother’s house. The other grandmother (the one who was living) was also quite happily doing some of the woman’s laundry, since the woman’s well was at an awfully low level. (The other grandmother knew the woman would deeply appreciate her doing this, too, for Lord knows, all the things she does for the rest of her family gets overlooked while she works her fingers to the bone.)

The woman never did get a close look at the Grandmother, but that was okay for, as she said to the husband later, that was not her grandmother.

Part Two.

It was a lovely day for a funeral, but it was awfully hot to be wearing black.

The Woman was perfectly composed all morning, until she arrived at the church and saw her Cousin, who remarked that it had been far too long since they had seen each other last. He appeared to have grown at least a foot taller.

Since the woman had never been to a funeral before, she stood around with everyone else by the door, which was good because that was exactly what you were supposed to do. There were far too many people there who had seen the woman as a small child. She felt like a girl again, which was fine because she had suddenly felt old as well.

The woman thought the funeral director people were awfully slick (albeit financial vampires who would charge extra to fill the hole back in). He directed the family where to sit, but somehow the Husband was elsewhere since he had volunteered to help carry the Grandmother out. The woman was a little teary but otherwise fine throughout most fo the services. When the Aunt got up to read a passage, however, she did mention how she had read to the Grandmother (the woman’s grandmother and the aunts’ mother) while she was in the hospital. The woman wished she had been there to do that, especially when the aunt said she had read to the grandmother Winne the Pooh. The grandmother had read that over and over when the woman was a girl (a very small girl) in that very particular accent of hers. The girl (who was now a woman) couldn’t help herself so she cried. She sobbed on top of the baby’s head.

The baby didn’t mind too much and when she got bored, she wanted to be nursed. The woman thought that was very fitting, for it was world breast-feeding week, and also the grandmother had thought nursing in particular to be quite the precious wonderful miracle.

In the background, there was a constant sniffling which the woman realized was her oldest daughter. The woman’s middle daughter was perfectly fine until everyone started to leave, then she promptly burst into tears. The son was red-eyed and very subdued. The baby was hot and wanted out of her black velvet and houndstooth dress. She also needed a nap.

After a while, the service was mercifully over. There was a brief hunt for the Uncle who had gone missing. The woman thought it was most likely his legs that had bothered him to the point of leaving, for he had MS and a funeral such as this would surely exacerbate it.

Eventually, the funeral procession left the church. The children were momentarily saddened by the fact they couldn’t keep the cool purple flag on the front of the van. On the way, the woman was brought to tears over the people who had pulled their cars off to the side of the road, especially since they were no longer required to do so. Even worse, was the group of teenagers who jaywalked in front of the procession, and upon reaching the other side of the road, turned to notice it was a funeral, and removed their floppy hats from their brightly dyed heads. The woman was deeply touched at this show of respect for the Grandmother.

At the graveside, the woman was momentarily startled by the coffin-lowering-device when it creaked very loudly. She hoped it wouldn’t fall, which it didn’t. People laid flowers and said their goodbyes to the grandmother, and then it was over. The woman was a little worried afterwards about apearing like a thick-headed doofus to certain people for her distant past that she couldn’t quite remember at the time. At once point, the woman really did have a good cry, cradled on the Husband’s shoulder. The Father joined in too, which the woman thought was a Good Thing, for she was worried about the Father, who had been so busy keping a stiff upper lip that his face appeared ready to crack.

Over supper later, and also the next few days, the woman shared good happy memories of the Grandmother with everyone who asked. She was going to be Just Fine, for the Grandmother had, above all else, taught her to be strong.