Earlier this summer, when we first thought Grandma was dying, Nicholas took the news very hard. So on Tuesday, I wasn’t sure the right way to tell him his great-grandma had passed away while he was at school. I gave him the remains of Michael’s box of popcorn chicken while I debated, and at last said, carefully, “Nicholas, Great Grandma went home to Jesus this morning.”
“Oh, she did?” he said nonchalantly. He chomped for a minute, and then added, “This is really good popcorn chicken.”
(Mommy throws hands in the air.)
On the other hand…
Labor Day weekend we brought home corsages from a wedding we’d played. Nicholas found a bud vase and filled it with water. By midweek the corsages were toast, so I threw them away. But the glass got overlooked. Until, ahem, Wednesday night when Michael got thirsty. Nicholas caught him drinking the dregs of the corsage water (no flower preservative, thankfully!) and fell to pieces. “What happened to the FLOWERS, Mommy?” I had to explain to him that flowers die after you cut them, and that’s okay, we just enjoy them while they last. He flung himself around my legs and fell apart.
(Reprise: Mommy throws hands in the air.)
Wednesday, of course, was 9/11. Alex’s third grade class spent time talking about it, so we shared memories at dinnertime, trying to impress upon him the drama and tragedy of that day. Nicholas (what, you thought this was going to be about Alex?) said, in the reverent tone of voice he saves for the fire department’s bucket truck, “The buildings fell down????” (It feels insensitive, possibly even sacrilegious, to share funny stories that are in any way, shape or form related to 9/11. But you know that when you’re in the deepest tragedy those moments of humor are all the more important.)
While I was making dinner on Wednesday, we somehow got onto the topic of great grandparents and godparents. “Uncle J. & Aunt L. are your godparents,” I said.
“Who are your godparents?”
“My Uncle L. and Aunt C. You saw her a couple weeks ago when we went to her mom’s funeral. Remember her?”
“She’s Miss Chrissy’s mom.”
“Miss Chrissy’s mom died?”
“No, Miss Chrissy’s grandma.”
“MISS CHRISSY DIED?”
Face palm. “Just forget it, Nicholas. Finish setting the table.”
On Thursday morning I was downstairs with Michael, practicing my flute, when I heard a sharp THUMP somewhere in the house. But I couldn’t localize it. Until I came upstairs and found the bread machine lying sideways on the floor beside the counter in three pieces (and a lot of sharp black plastic shards!). Being focused on the subject of death, I naturally composed an elegy for it. But I’m not sharing it here because a couple hours later it occurred to me I could probably revise it and sell it as a poem or a flash piece.
After all the week’s emotion, a friend I hadn’t talked to in quite a while called to chat–about flute, life, and death. As we got off the phone, she said, “I know you believe this anyway, but you’ll find that your relationship with your grandma isn’t over.” I was surprised by her words, and perhaps that’s why they stayed with me the rest of the day.
Later that night as I lay sleepless, turning over the events of the week in my mind, I realized I already understood what she meant. I’ve had family members and people I knew or respected pass away before, but this is the first time there is someone on the other side who I already know how to talk to. Someone I genuinely had conversations with, with whom I have a relationship. On the heels of that revelation I found myself whispering, “Grandma, it’s wonderful to have you up there. You must understand so much more now than you did when we talked here, and I don’t have to try to edit what I’m thinking anymore, because you can probably see it all anyway. So I’m going to be asking you to pray for me a lot, Grandma. Just like you did when you were here, only more perfectly.” And I realized I finally, finally understand the communion of saints.
Let’s change the subject for the last one. Julianna has added church and church school to the list of places she loves to ask to go: wee lah-ee (swimming lessons), Cock e Keez (Chuck E Cheese), keh-ah-shell (carousel), etc. But on Tuesday I had to tell her she wasn’t going to church school tonight, that church school was tomorrow night. She burst into a tears, dropped her head and flung her arms open wide as she yelled, “I wah hug!”
It’s hard to write that so it’s as adorable as it was in the moment. Ah, well. It’s enough for me to remember it.
Have a great weekend!