Her open casket stood in the same place my grandfather’s stood almost 10 years earlier. The memorial service was in the auditorium of my grandmother’s church. Long pews faced a huge wooden cross hanging from the high celling.

I walked over to my grandmother’s casket and look down at her. I had seen several dead bodies but always after a mortician had prepared them. At first glance, she looked healthy. But as I looked closely I could see the make-up that unnaturally smoothed her wrinkles.

I told myself that she was gone.

There were pictures of her at the front of the auditorium beside clusters of flowers. Some of them showed her in her twenties. They surprised me.

My dad saw me looking at the pictures.

“She was very pretty when she was younger,” my dad said. His eyes were red. I remember he always called her “mom” even though Grandma was my mom’s mother.

I realized I had a very limited view of my grandmother. I remember Grandma as crinkled like old leather and fragile, especially at the very end of her life. She had been bent over like she was carrying a heavy yoke.

My family knew she was going to die soon — Old Man Death had been standing with her for a long time. Her funeral was also easier for me because I had already experienced the loss in the death of my grandfathers.

During the service, one of the church ladies stood up before us.

“Margaret prayed for her grandkids all the time,” she said. “We were always hearing about what you were doing, where you were going to school.”

This woman I didn’t know looked at me and said, “I want you to know that your grandmother loved you very much.”

I realized Grandma thought about me much more than I thought about her. And I felt guilty. My grandparents had moved to Columbus after the birth of their first grandchild, my brother James.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she sold her house and moved into a nursing home. It seemed sacrilegious to sell that house filled with memories — the little single-story home seemed to belong to my grandparents even after it was signed away.

I will carry those memories with me. I remember how the candy tin on the cabinet squeaked when you opened it. The colorful McDonalds plates that Grandma served pancakes on. The painting in the guest bedroom of the praying child, eyes closed peacefully.

My grandma was long gone by the time of the service, and her body would soon be buried in the ground like a seed. She didn’t leave much behind — no land or house. Most of what she left was the blood and DNA sitting in the front pews of her memorial service.

Leave a comment


  1. What do you think?

  2. Anonymous

     /  November 27, 2011

    Awesome story…sad but good memories!



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