Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Funeral In a Small Town - Part I

It's been a year now. The event that sparked the writing frenzy has come and gone, and people have moved on. But the story isn't finished. And I need to finish it. I polished up an excerpt so I could submit it to a local writing contest, but that was just a quick fix.

So I'm going to be reposting it over the next few days for two reasons. First, because I've got too many things whirling around in my brain to blog anything new and interesting in a cohesive, coherent manner and second, because I hope, that seeing it, reading it, reliving it, will motivate me to get in there and end it.


Funeral In a Small Town - Part 1.


I have witnessed a life coming to a close.

Not the sudden violent parting of body and being, but the slow leave taking that occurs when a human being simply wears out. Like a candle that burns brightly until there is nothing left, flickers valiantly, then simply winks out; the smoky plume of it’s life force curling heavenward.

My husband's grandmother was 89 years old and lived a long, full life. She was born in 1916, and died on July 25th, 2006, in her sleep, with one of her beloved daughters snuggled against her, just the way they did when her children were small.
So many nights she stood vigil at one bedside or another; through fever, nightmares, heartache and hunger…this time they stood watch over her, even knowing they could not protect her as she protected them. Nine children; six boys and three girls, took turns waiting for the end, not wanting her to be alone when at last she was called home.

She was ready. Though her mind was still sharp and her blue eyes still twinkled with life, her body was ready to lie down for eternal rest. Though diminutive in stature, with all the substance of a sparrow, she was fiercely independent, capable and strong, even into her late eighties. Her dignity was affronted by the dependence and frailty that eventually confined her to her antique four poster bed; the one in which gave life, and the one in which she left it behind.

She was a woman of strong faith and she was one of the very few Christians I have known who lived as she believed. She was ready to go to Glory. She did not fear death, but welcomed it. For her it was not an end, but a beginning. As one who fears the finality of death and is stricken with terror at the thought of lying in a cold and lonely grave, her conviction was an awesome and beautiful thing.

As I stood at her bedside gazing at the diminutive form nearly obscured by bedclothes, I thought that I would give up my youth and my vitality for just a fraction of her faith; a tiny morsel of her peace.

I knew her for 14 years, but I did not get many opportunities to talk to her one on one. With 9 children, 22 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren, her time and attention were precious commodities. We usually only saw her at family gatherings, where numerous people clamored for her a seat next to her. I didn’t feel right about taking time away from anyone who loved her and so, I usually just sat back and listened. Mostly, she did the same, smiling and nodding as her family filled her in on the goings on in their lives.

There were rare occasions however when I was able to talk with her intimately. She saw a lot in her 89 years, and it was amazing to listen to her stories. She told me about her baby sister who died when she was 9 years old. Eighty years later it still brought tears to her eyes and a catch to her voice as she recalled it for me.

She said "I can still her crying. ‘Oh ma poor little hayed. It hurts fit to split Sissy’. Mama gave her some lixir but it didn’t help none. The next day she died, and we had to burry her right quick. It was the meningitis, but we didn’t know no better back then."

She also recalled the first time she wore pants, and how she worried over what Ennis (her husband) would think. She was married in a time when the man ruled over the household, so despite her independent nature, she deferred to him in all things. She fretted that Ennis would be angry, but all he said was "Just remember that attire ain’t fittin for church."

Ennis died before I met my husband, but their relationship was fascinating to me, because her submissiveness to him was so strikingly at odds with her strongly autonomous character. Once when asked why she had so many children, she replied "Why Lord a mighty child, a body just didn’t tell your Daddy no." But this was said with a funny little self-deprecating smile that led you to wonder just whose idea it really was.

She was the only one who never said anything critical about me nursing my children, or my views on childbirth. She told me how she birthed her first 6 babies at home in her own bed, attended by her own mother and aunts. She smiled as she described feeling safe and comfortable in her own bed with her baby at her side. But a grimace twisted her piquant little face as she described the first time she gave birth in a hospital. "It weren’t no kind of place to be havin’ a baby." she said with emphatic distaste.

This was said in support of my pursuit of doulaism, which might as well have been Satanism, so reviled and misunderstood was it by the women of that small rural town. She was letting me know that she understood and agreed that sometimes, the old ways are best. Her small, but potent expression of support stopped the comments and I never again had to defend my views or listen to imprecations about "titty-babies" or "hodang feminists".

Perhaps the most valuable to me where the stories she told about Husband growing up. She would laugh as she described his exceedingly mischievous ways, remembering how she had to whup him for this or that and how he would refuse to cry. He was the only one who was not contrite when she or Ennis had to discipline him. The other cousins would hang their heads in shame at having been naughty for Nanny and Papa, but not husband. He would glare at her with defiance in his eyes, little hands balled into fists at his sides.

She would gaze upon my son, my spirited child, as she spoke and then pat my hand in understanding. "That boy is Husband made over" she would say fondly, but with a note of sympathy in her voice. That comforted me more than she could ever know because I felt that she understood the struggles I faced with my stubborn, argumentative, determined child. She also said, "I reckon husband turned out alright." and that was her way of assuring me that one day the struggles would be over, and Diminutive one would eventually become a kind, well-adjusted and productive adult. I loved her for that.

When I think of all the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime, I am infinitely sad that I didn’t get to talk to her more. I should have made a point. I should have let the children run wild and the dishes soak in the sink and the floor remain unswept to spend more time talking to that amazing, intelligent, god-fearing and kind-hearted woman.

She lived through both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the War on Terror. She lived through the Great Depression. She saw all the Kennedys assassinated. She watched Nixon resign on live television. She watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon the month before I was born. She witnessed the death of Segregation and the birth of Women’s Lib. She watched her mother, crying with jubilation and pride, vote for the first time.

She watched her family grow from one to hundreds. The pride she must have felt when we gathered each December...to look out into a sea of hundreds of people and know that they are there because they love you. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying.

Her children and grandchildren are a diverse lot. There are preachers and teachers and policemen and nurses. There are alcoholics and thieves and wife beaters. After all, a person can't plant a garden that size without a few bad seeds turning up. But she loved them all without limit or condition. She didn’t expect perfection, she only prayed that one day, those who were lost would be found.

She had a heart attack two months ago. Everyone knew it was the beginning of the end. And though her death was expected, and folks sat on pins and needles for months waiting for the news, the shock wave that coursed through the family at her passing was powerful and destructive. The outpouring of grief was at once upsetting and awe inspiring. She was so very loved.

We visited only days before she died. Her beautiful white hair spilled across the pillow as luxuriant as ever, and her blue eyes twinkled just as brightly. But her body was painfully thin, and her will to fight was gone. She wanted to see her beloved Ennis. She wanted to at last look upon the face of the God she had worshipped for so long. She wanted to go home.

The last thing she said to me with a wan little smile was "You tell them boys to behave". She told husband "I love you, hawn." He clung to her, knowing it was probably the last time he would embrace her tiny little form.

The call came at 4:00 am Tuesday morning. I had to wake husband and tell him that she was gone. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in our time together, but it was nothing compared to what would come in the days ahead.

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20 Comments:

  • At 8:41 AM, Blogger jen said…

    what a beautiful achy story about an amazing woman. i wait with anticipation (trepidation?) for what comes next.

     
  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger Gwendolyn said…

    Oh, I am so excited to see this! I read it in your archives recently, and was deeply saddened that it was never finished. Yay! I'll be stalking your blog now. :o)

     
  • At 10:47 AM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    Wow. What a beautiful testimony to her, and a reminder to all of us to listen to the stories of our elders, before they can't tell them any more.

    I loved so much of it, but particularly this "with one of her beloved daughters snuggled against her, just the way they did when her children were small" What a lovely way to go.

     
  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    Oh, this is beautiful, and reminds me to pay more attention to my grandmother, who turned 100 in February. Imagine it. I can't, not really.

    Thank you for the nudge.

     
  • At 11:22 AM, Blogger flutter said…

    This is such a breathtaking beginning of the tale. She sounds like an immensely amazing lady.

    Your writing is just profound.

     
  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger Phoenix said…

    Beautiful story. Just..yeah.

     
  • At 1:27 PM, Anonymous mel from freak parade said…

    So beautifully written. I can't wait to read the rest.
    Such a touching tribute to an obviously very special lady.

     
  • At 2:49 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    That was such a lovely tribute to her... Very well written. I hope you find a way out of your grief - or at least to a place where you are able to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death.

     
  • At 5:10 PM, Blogger JaniceNW said…

    Wonderfully rich writing. I can hear her speaking and tellong you her stories. What she lived through! Amazing.

     
  • At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    I'm glad you have brought this out again and are continuing to develop it. It's very good. I'm anxious to see where you take it.

     
  • At 5:47 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    What a wondrous woman she was. It is always amazing to me to see how short lived memory can be without someone like your grandmother reminding people how things used to be.

    What next, what next?!

     
  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Amazing. I so wish I hadn't lost my grandmother when I was young and foolish and didn't know that someday I'd want to know more about her life, her stories.

     
  • At 9:18 PM, Blogger Cindy said…

    Came over Antique Mommy- loving it! Can't wait to read the next installment.

     
  • At 10:00 PM, Blogger SM said…

    What a beautifully written tale.
    The husbands grandmother was so similar, a strong, submissively autonomous lady who was so ahead of her times and yet didn't want to invoke the fury of the Gods by taking her last breath in her son-in-law's house (Hindu superstition related to the ascent to heaven). Although she suffered a great deal prior to her death, never once did she complain or question her destiny.
    I often wonder if my grandchildren will be able to talk about me in a similar fashion when I pass on? I think not. There was something about that generation which made them stonger individuals.
    Again, wondrous writing! Looking forward to more.

     
  • At 3:41 AM, Blogger Fiddledeedee (It Coulda' Been Worse) said…

    Absolutely beautiful. I'll be back.

     
  • At 7:58 AM, Blogger RealEstateGirl said…

    Came by way of Antique Mommy and am so glad I did. Can hardly see to type through the tears. Having recently lost my Dad, a great man of the faith, this is all too fresh.

    Your words and eloquent writing are beautiful. I'm going to read part II now.

     
  • At 8:03 AM, Anonymous WeevilMaw said…

    Well I suddenly have the urge to call my 87 yr old Grammur and tell her how much I love her. I haven't been to see her much because her children have decided it's time to sell her house; the thought of not having Grammurs house as a refuge anymore is really hard for me to deal with, but I should get over it and fast. I lived with Grammur and G.G. for a few years and they have always been my favorite people in the world, just the level of comfort and peace and unconditional love and support they afforded me is hard to describe. I think I will take the kids and go see her this weekend. Such a beautifully expressed story. You've got me, I'll be back for more. Thanks.

     
  • At 10:02 AM, Blogger Beck said…

    Oh. Just simply beautiful.
    I'm here from Antique Mommy's and I'm glad I came.

     
  • At 12:43 PM, Anonymous slackermommy said…

    I'm a nurse and have eased many people out of this world. Most of the older folks that I took care of in their dying hour were such an inspiration. They were not afraid and I loved the stories they would share with me. What saddened me were the ones who only had the nurses at their bedside because for whatever reason their family was not present. I've had people tell me how lucky those patients were to have us nurses there but really we were the lucky ones.

    It's so wonderful that you had that time before her death to hear her stories and have your last words. She sounds like a very special woman.

     
  • At 12:59 PM, Blogger Jen said…

    What a precious tribute you are doing. I cant wait to read more. I came by way of Antique Mommy and will be back. What a sweet sweet women. My husband has one like yours.

     

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