I’ve been thinking about how my grandmother influenced my life since we buried her a little less than two weeks ago. Saying goodbye to someone is hard. When that someone is 84 and has lived a long and fruitful life it’s less hard, but it’s still hard in unexpected ways. It’s also beautiful and important.
The first thing that struck me was her legacy. I was struck when I read her obituary. “…survived by 17 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren….” That line struck me pretty hard. What a legacy. I was the first of those 17 grandchildren and I had the privilege of having grandma all to myself for a very short time. Almost all of my cousins were at the funeral. We were only missing one who could not come because he’s in the Navy. It was truly amazing to look around and see my past and my family and all that she had been instrumental in creating.
Ceremony and ritual also struck me. There is much ceremony when Catholics say goodbye. My grandmother was Catholic and so is my entire family on my mother’s side. I don’t happen to be anymore, but I grew up with all of it and at a time like this, I really appreciated the ritual. There was ritual in each of the events, the wake, funeral and burial.
On the first day we had the wake. We all gathered and spent time together remembering.
The simple act of talking with all of my family and remembering was another beautiful component to saying goodbye.
We all brought the things she made us to remember her. One thing my grandma spent time on was making afghans. She made all kinds of them that still keep most of her family warm to this day. She really loved to add colors. The picture below only depicts about half of the family afghans there are many many more spread throughout the land. 🙂
My aunts gathered up her kerchiefs and passed around a box of them for all the grandchildren to have a remembrance of her.
At the funeral we all participated in secret Catholic rituals that I won’t go into here, but there was a comfort in the familiarity of the process.
At the burial, it was the coldest, windiest, greyest day. It was there that we left her with my grandpa and said a final goodbye.
Then there was coffee at the church.
And a rose from her final bouquet.
And it was all these events in addition to my Grandmother’s entire life that helped me understand with clarity 2 things I had never quite gotten.
1) The place I came from gave me strength that I have rarely recognized with this much understanding.
2) Something that seemed unlike me has been a very important force in giving me strength to be myself in full force.
I thank my Grandma for all the gifts she has given me, the ones I knew about and the hidden ones I am still discovering. There is no way to predict how anything will end. Until it’s over. But if you can recognize amazing discoveries along the way, you can influence all of it.
I had the same sense of thankfulness for ritual and a deeper sense of the role is plays in our lives when I was at my grandfather’s funeral a few years ago. It was also a Catholic mass, and there was something comforting in knowing the next step in the ritual, knowing what came next, at a time when I didn’t feel like I knew what to do.
*hug* Those afgans are beautiful. What a wonderful token to be able to remember her by.
Ritual is an important part of life and as you experienced partly to help those left behind move through their grieving process. The other thing I find interesting about ritual is that understanding the need for them and embracing them in our experiences can actually help inform our design work. I am sorry for your loss.