Last night was the big night…we had a memorial service for my grandmother. We tried to say goodbye. Wakes, funerals, memorials – they are supposed to bring closure to the family and friends of a passed love one. I do not feel that I have gained closure. You can’t simply wrap up all of your emotions in a tidy package and leave them next to the floral arrangements and walk away suddenly feeling “all better”. Grieving is a long, slow, aching process. I think that last night was only the beginning of my mourning. Last night was the first night that it felt real to me.
I saw some of my grandmother’s friends that I haven’t seen since I was a child. I met my grandmother’s foster sister and her son and daughter – I grew up hearing so many stories about her sister that I felt I already knew her. It was an honor and privilege to finally meet her. I saw all of my uncle’s old girlfriends. I saw neighbors, a waitress that my grandmother loved, an old friend from high school that knows my mom, sisters and grandma, an enormous group of my uncle’s coworkers – even his store manager – old church friends, etc. The list goes on and on.
My grandmother touched lives. She touched hearts. Everyone loved my grandmother. One of my grandmother’s lifelong friends came to the house when she heard the news and I’ll never forget her wailing, “What are we going to do now without Judy?” When I had parties, my grandmother always came. She danced, she talked up my friends – they would always say to me afterwards, “you grandmother is so cool! She’s such an interesting woman!” She made people laugh, she entertained with her stories, with her antics, with her happy, sweet, silly nature. She was a treasure.
As I read a poem written by my aunt, I had a hard time looking out at the crowd. I was choking inside. I was fighting back a sea of tears. As I walked back to my seat, the thought suddenly occurred to me that the family I love so much, the family that are my entire life, they are all there because of Grandma Judy. My sisters, my nieces and nephews, my uncles, my cousins, my cousin’s children – we are all here because of grandma.
There is a reason my family is so close. My parents wanted to live close to their parents. When I was around ten years old, my parents purchased their first home. It was one block away from my mother’s mother – Grandma Judy – and five blocks away from my father’s parents. I grew up with family all around me. At every birthday party, holiday dinner, Christmas morning. It was no big deal to walk to grandma’s after school to say hi and watch soap operas. It was never a surprise to come home from school and find Grandma Judy playing chess with mom at the kitchen table. I was blessed that my mother and father’s parents got along well and spent a lot of time together. There were no arguments over whose side of the family we would celebrate with – because we were all just one big family.
Growing up that way, I fell into the same mindset. I purchased my grandparent’s old home. I now live five blocks away. I can not see how my husband lives so far from his own family – I would never survive. The biggest reason he left the Marines after we got married was because I couldn’t bear the thought of moving away from my family.
Grandma Judy passed down a legacy. After leaving her family in Cuba, after losing her mother and eventually her father, she ensured a strong sense of family was instilled in her children. My mother and father instilled the same values in me. .
Now that she is gone, this strong sense of family is what will guide us through these difficult days ahead.