Monday, June 17, 2013

Memorial service

Tomorrow night is the memorial service for my grandmother. She passed away in May, but we have been unable to do the service until this week. It will be good to have that closure and to honor her and her impact in our lives. I have been in contact with the Priest performing the liturgy in order to provide him with some extra details about her life. I have also been working with my mom to choose the excerpts and readings that will be used in her service.

It has been hard.

As far as the memories go, which ones to choose. Which ones are too personal and too private? Which ones would seem odd from the outside without context and the full picture? Which ones wouldn't make sense without a lot of background? How do you pick what to remember a person by? And how do you reconcile that no matter what memories are said about her or preserved about her, it will never replace the loss of the sounds, smells, and feelings you had. I spent numerous weekends with her over my childhood, usually picked up in her car, windows down because she rarely had a/c, a hard plastic cup filled with tang or some other fruit "juice" wedged between a seat or between her legs as she drove us back to her side of town. We usually stopped for dinner, oftentimes at Ryan's where she would get every pennies worth of her meal (paired with cookies wrapped in a napkin and smuggled in her purse) or at Luby's. More recently for visits it was always Mexican food where she would get the largest plate so she could try everything and she would often polish it off. We would then go back to her house to watch a video or, more likely when it was just her and I, to read, curled up in our respective parts of the house, hearing the window units turn on and off, occassionly creaking the wood floors as we moved about, and hearing the tick-tock of the old clock in her living room. As I got older, we would trade books back and forth. I soon learned not to lend her a book that I particularly cared for as it would be returned to me in a less than pristine condition. I keep my books in very good condition and was horrified to receive books back with the binding broken, pages dog-eared, and (shrudder) filled with underlining and writing. I laugh at myself now and sort of wished I had a few of those books back, if only to see what was compelling to her at the time. She had a thirst for knowledge and devoured reading material. Being very much a private person, I suppose that she may have wanted to escape into her books, but I am not sure.

If I was there for two nights, Saturday would usually be some outing that she viewed as a treat, sometimes it was interesting things like movies (still not sure what compelled her to take us to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) or things like the Bazaar at her church or a Chili cookoff. We also frequented parks, museums, and took strolls around her block, dropping in on her friends. Very often as a child I would park myself in front of her record player and listen to her vast collection of children's tales on record and when I could convince her that I needed to listen to it one more time, the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Until I got old enough to shower on my own, I would take a bath in the bathtub and then lay on the bathroom counter with my head in the sink so she could wash my hair. This was very uncomfortable and not my favorite part of visiting her, but she always had lotion for us to use which we didn't really have much of in our house so I guess that made up for it!

Mawmaw would try to have treats of some sort for us, either cookies she had baked (I loved her oatmeal cookies and her sand tarts), candy she had picked up for us, or some little trinket she had found that made her think of us. This continued on for all of her life and even if we weren't sure what to do with the multitudes of plastic placemats or strange stuffed animals, it was always nice to be thought of.

Sunday mornings were usually filled by mass. Which brings me to picking out the verses for her liturgy tomorrow. While I am not Catholic today, I tell people that I grew up Catholic because it is the main religion I knew as a child. I was taught the customs and traditions of the Catholic church and my grandmother was very patient and reverent in her teachings to me. She would talk about the importance of the colors in the church, guide me through the "Catholic Calisthenics", and would sing her heart out at each service I attended with her. She was not a good singer, she would admit the same, but she sang each note with purpose which I very much admire. I think she was recharged and energized by the steadiness that mass provided her, it was stable and comforting. It felt the same way to me as I was working through the worship guide that I prepared for tomorrow.

I will miss her. It is very hard though because the grandmother I remember was gone long before May. We had been unable to see her as frequently as her health worsened and as grown up lives set it. Matt, my mom, and I had spent the better part of a year calling on a monthly basis to try and get together with her. Each time she would cancel just before we headed over there or as we were already on our way. We would ask her if she was sure and she would confirm that it would have to be some other time. I talked to her on the phone when I could, but even that was challenging as conversations began to repeat themselves and it became harder for her to remember if I was her granddaughter or my mother. I know I assured her she was loved in each of those calls and in that last visit before she died. I am fairly sure she recognized me and was happy to see me. I am thankful that I mustered up the decency to go see her even though I was very scared.

I am glad she got to know MacKenzie some and Keegan a little. I am thankful for the pictures we have of them with her. I hope those photographs will be able to trigger some good stories to tell when they ask about her later in life. Memories of her love of the color lavender and the debacle that came with trying to get a cake frosted in lavender for her big birthday party, her love of raspberries and how she would get several containers of Blue Bell's sherbet when it would be out as a seasonal flavor, her funny way of correcting Matt on how exactly to pronounce MawMaw and her insistency that we spell it MaMa (I cannot tell you how many envelopes we had to rewrite over the years), and her love of gardening and the many afternoons and evenings JJ and I spent laying on a blanket in the backyard as she worked away.

I hope to preserve these memories and to honor her.

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