It was the day of my grandmother’s funeral.
We decided months ago, at the beginning of her death journey, that we would rather see her alive than go to her funeral. So we made the hike across the countryside with six week old Beth and our dear Starry.
Spent some days with Gran, soft and quiet. She was as beautiful as ever, all done up in green flashing eyeshadow and a gash of pink lipstick. Even with an oxygen tube in her nose, she was fancier dressed than I. She held Beth, cooed over Ostara. Ostara is usually our shy girl, hanging by the edge (or under) her mama’s skirts. This time, she sensed something else. She dove into Gran’s arms and kissed her. She must remember her days as a toddler when we’d go to visit her to garden and eat and sit on the porch and marvel at Gran’s green thumb that I sadly did not inherit.
“Gran, how do you keep your pot plants alive so well?”
“I don’t know dear. Just water them when they are half dead. And talk to them, of course. They always like that. I talk to them everyday, pet.”
There are photographs of her with the girls, with me. Her with her youngest great-grandchild. At nearly 97, she had many. But at least Beth has that. She was held by her eldest matriarch. At least she can carry that forward into her life with her.
So that was the last time we saw Gran. Not as a photo on her casket. Not as a eulogy. Just her, as she was. Her as she still is.
And the truth is, I couldn’t bear to go to the funeral. I haven’t spoken much of this because it is so deeply personal & is not just my own story, but the family I was born into ruptured some years ago. Ruptured, imploded, became amiss with so many hard edges. The only thing we could do for our own peace, sanctity, sanity, was leave. Find our own place in the world that ruminated with stillness, kindness, ease – those very soul qualities we so carefully create together. And of course, we hoped upon hope that all the souls in my family would find their own peace, place and pace that would bring them home to themselves too. No more divorce, control, crisis, cataclysm. Hoping upon hope that hard edges would soften, that boundaries would be respected, that we could eventually recreate relationships that were respectful and right.
It is still in that process.
And I felt grief and sadness and pain that my gran left the world when the family was still on this path of learning. That is my human side, of course. My soul knows that she chose this, just as we all do. And that her soul knows and understands that all is right. That she knows that love surrounds her now – and always has.
So on the day of her funeral, I carried all these feelings with me. I wasn’t sure how to celebrate her. How to bear witness & ceremony to the path her spirit was taking back into the ethers. How to honour that vital, strong, hot-legged body that had carried her through life, and recognise as its job as vessel had ended. A new beginning was opening for it. Soon, the hottest legs in Proserpine will become part of that rich loam that feeds the sugar cane fields. She will become part eagle, part ladybird, part volcanic mountain. But that is just her body of course. Her spirit is here, there and everywhere. It is home with the light.
How on earth to speak to this? To honour this?
I can only trust that the day will bring forth what is needed.
I trudged my girls up the long stoned path up to the top of our acreage. It’s a sharp slope. To push a pram up it requires a heaving, huffing body at 45 degree angle. And I did, we did, triumphant. And on our soft, sliding journey back down to home, there we passed the mandarin tree. There was one mandarin there, perfectly ripe, radiant, scented.
“Mama!” Ostara shrieks. “MANDARINNNNNNNNNNN! Can we plleeeeeeease eat it RIGHT NOW? And throw the peel on the ground?”
She is filled with the ripe, florid, vibrant essence of four, when everything is a wonder and a wild excitement.
She is the perfect guide, the incandescence of life and beginning.
She will teach me how to say goodbye.
So that is what we do.
We break open that fragrant peel, large dewdrops of it frisking into the air. Pungently citrus. And suddenly I remember all the times on the farm my Gran would disappear, and we’d find her, bucket in tow, cutting gallons of cumquats to make into jam. There is something about her that is so perfectly fruity, juicy, tart. Citrus. Perfect.
And so we eat that mandarin. And I gaze at that turquoise sky.
“This is for you, Gran. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. Blessings on your journey.”
And I see her dance across the sky. Joy glitters in the sunlight.
And I know all is well in the world.
And that, my dears, is the story of my grandmother, and her great, luminous leap back into spirit.
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