For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn
This morning, I sat on the edge of the bed, having dressed and readied myself for the day. But I was unprepared. Unprepared for news that would reach me in the way we get news these days. I sat staring at my phone on the dresser’s edge. I had just read, via Facebook of all things, that my grandmother had traveled on in the night. I sat still, and calm, and unworried because, though I didn’t know my grandmother well (which I will get to), I did know her well enough to know that her faith enabled her to reach new life and celebrate that newness with her husband once again. And, regardless of where you sit on that fence, the great divide that is religion, faith and the hereafter, you know whereof the faith that I speak and you know its power. I know that is what helped her throughout her life in times of trial and sadness.
As I said, I didn’t know my grandmother well. We didn’t have the typical grandparent/grandchild relationship for a variety of reasons which were never any one’s fault, the situation just worked out that way. The few memories that I do have of her involve the small farmhouse where she lived and the accompanying garden and field and they are fond memories. A small white farmhouse with a wide cool front porch that sat across the road from a cemetery, engaged in an endless staring contest with the grayish stones that stood silently in the field. Oddly, the same cemetery in which she’ll be buried. A massive sloping field that bordered a pond where we would catch sunfish and bluegill and you could race clouds through the tall grass where cows had grazed until you reached the lonely sycamore at the back of the lot. A small efficient garden that provided nourishment to a family of six, and continued to provide once that family grew beyond that house.
I remember her slightly raspy voice telling stories of relatives and acquaintances I hardly knew while we, my sister and I, sat on the floor and examined the most curious of items, a small empty jug with a corncob stopper. It was a curiosity, but that and the fact that there was always a bowl of nuts with a handy cracker nearby are vivid memories. I remember her descending into her root cellar, mostly because I didn’t know anyone else who had a root cellar, and when she opened the door in the floor (another thing I enjoyed immensely) the waft of earth and cool that breached the edge of the door was like opening the gateway to the mines of Moria. I also remember a few afternoon meals with tea brewed in the sun and rhubarb pie.
My grandmother was, in my eyes, a complex person with simple needs and desires. I very rarely saw her smile, but I remember her laugh. In both her wedding photos and mine, there’s hardly a hint of smile…but her laugh would fill the small spaces of her home. She lived all her married life in the same house with the same garden to tend. I don’t imagine that she ever dreamed of some place else because it was what she needed. Up until the illness made it impossible, she drove herself to church, volunteered at the hospital, and made the bingo rounds at the Knights of Columbus hall. And true to people who’ve lived through the Great Depression, she’d save her pennies and each grandchild and great grandchild would received rolled coins in their Christmas gift each year; a gift that if it were handmade, which it often was, would smell “like Mamaw’s house.”
It is difficult, always, to say goodbye to one who is loved, but I am grateful that she did not suffer too much. I have seen the ravages of lung cancer and I am thankful that she was spared most of those difficulties. Though she’s gone, she won’t be far from her earthly home and I will always have the memories.
Doris Alma (Wiseman) Vowels 1926-2011