I flew down to South Carolina for my grandmother's funeral on Sunday. The viewing at the funeral home was also that day so I had to first pick a flight that would get me down there in time to be picked up, change (if needed), and head to the viewing.
It was a little weird going into a situation like that as pretty much all of the family members who were there had been present at the hospital and for the previous twenty-four to forty-eight hours been living and, I guess, grieving as well. When I arrived, I was already dressed to go directly to the funeral home for the viewing and was updated on the latest family dramas so I would be aware of what I was getting myself into before meeting the family full on.
When we got to the funeral home, my mother, sister, and myself made our way down to the casket first. They were there to check out how my grandmother looked (and I must say she did look very good) while I was there reeling just a little bit. For the days prior I was trying to remember my grandmother as she was when I last saw her so part of me wasn't prepared to see her. I did get to have one private moment with her when no one was around where we "discussed" things and I told her how much I loved her and was going to miss her. At the end of the viewing, my aunt requested that one ring be retrieved from the body as it was something she had given to my grandmother and was to be passed down to her daughter. In its place went my silver ring which she wore when she was interred the following day.
But what can I tell you about my grandmother...
The pastor at her church called her mischievous. That, of course, was more accurate than he realized. The running joke in the family over the past few days (pretty much so we can keep things light) was that my grandmother was an exhibitionist. The last two times she was taken to the hospital via ambulance she wasn't wearing underwear.
What I really learned over the course of the last few days is what a real friend my grandmother was to so many people. While receiving visitors at the funeral home, we were repeatedly told what a wonderful friend she was by so many people. Over and over throughout the evening people would come up and regale us with stories of my grandmother and one of her adventures out on the town. One woman whose name escapes me called my grandmother the best friend she has ever had. I spent some time talking with her as the visiting session was closing down and we were just drawn to give each other hugs as if we were letting each other know that it was okay to be sad, cry, or do whatever we felt necessary to get through this time.
Tomorrow I turn 30. As I never really knew where I was going to be celebrating my birthday, I took to calling my grandmothers in the afternoon the day of my birthday to speak with them then. Tomorrow, I'm not going to be able to do that with her and it's going to feel odd. I was allowed to bring a few of my grandmother's possessions back with me -- namely a few knick-knacks from her kitchen to go into my bedroom (I don't have enough space to put anything major) and all with their own 40s and 50s style flair to them. So, in a way, I have a bit of my grandmother with me. Lord knows, I already share the same political beliefs with her so that's not going to change.
When I arrived in New York, I reached for my cell phone to call my mother (who is still in South Carolina) to let her know that I had made it back to the city safely. In scrolling through the phone book feature, I passed my grandmother's name and paused there for a second. I couldn't bring myself to delete her number just yet so I scrolled down to my mother's cell phone number.
One day I'm going to have to delete that number but for now...it's fine as it is...