Friday, August 27, 2004

"She looks like she's sleeping" 

There is no dumber phrase ever uttered in a funeral home

Before they left for Scranton, mom went through grandma's closets to find something to bury her in. Grandma had closets and closets of clothes, all of which she paid no more than a quarter for. No dresses. Nothing my mom deemed "appropriate." So she went to buy a dress for grandma.

"make sure it's on sale," dad said. "or she'll come BACK!"

Mom bought a dress that grandma never would have bought herself.

As we got ready to leave for the funeral home, mom said "they say this is supposed to make you feel better, but I can't see how." I agreed

My feeling is, once you are dead, you are gone. What you leave behind is a shell. What was waiting for us at the funeral home was no longer my grandma, but her shell. And instead of having my last memory of her being alive, I will have a memory of what her empty shell looks like.

It didn't look like grandma. We all stood around the casket. She was wearing a beautiful purple dress with beading. Mom was right, grandma would NEVER wear something like that. They painted her nails. Mom: "I don't think I have ever seen Mom with painted nails in my life!"

Mom was worried they would have done her hair up too fancy or put too much makeup on, thank god they didn't. But her face still looked strange, alien. Like there was too much skin. We stood there, and though tears were in my eyes, I was holding it together...until

"there's a picture of Aaron in there!" Mom had given them a picture of my brother to put in the casket. It was of him at their high school graduation party, about 4 months before he got sick. I lost it. I cried and cried on my mom's shoulder. We both cried. Because then it had really hit home for me at that moment. There was my brother, and there was my grandma, and I would never see them here on earth again. And I just hoped they were together in heaven now (I am crying so hard right now, as I'm typing this). No matter what that jerk priest said about purgatory.

And I had to sit there later and listen to several people say the asinine yet obligatory "oh, she looks just like she's sleeping!" and I wanted to SCREAM at them because THAT'S NOT WHAT GRANDMA LOOKS LIKE WHEN SHE'S SLEEPING!!!! When I saw her sleeping she'd be sitting on the couch, with the paper in her lap, head tilted back, mouth hanging open, snoring like hell, and letting out the occasional old woman tooty fart, because THAT'S what old people do when they're sleeping! They don't do their hair and makeup and wear fancy dresses and fold their hands together around a rosary! That was not my grandma. She was gone.

Monday morning we went back to the funeral home and waited for all those who would attend the funeral. The funeral director called their names so each person could come forward and pay their last respects. He mangled a lot of the polish names, which we thought was weird because the home was in a big polish neighborhood. We were last, then we went out to the limo. The pall bearers that Dad had recruited the day before loaded her casket into the hearse, and the long line of cars drove to the church.

The church was her sister's church, Aunt Dorothy. It was named after an unpronounceable Polish saint, which I learned later was just St. Peter, that's just how you say it in Polish. The steps leading up to the church were very steep, which made me nervous, since the pall bearers unloaded the casket and took it up into the church! That was new one. I thought "they better have secured her good in there!"

They did a full mass, with communion and everything. I did a reading from the book of Romans, and I have to say that I did a better job of it than my cousin (of some sort, 4th cousins and such), who was a theater major. Then the priest did the whole incense ball thing and waved it around the casket. Smelled awful but it cleared my sinuses.

Then the casket was taken back DOWN the steep steps (ARG!) and loaded back into the hearse and we drove to the cemetery, where AGAIN they took out the casket and took it into a little sanctuary. The priest said a few more prayers and that was it. We didn't go to the grave. Mom had been worried about the weather, and also that the plot was on a hill, and didn't want the older relatives trying to walk up to it.

And grandma is gone. I just talked to my mom today to wish her a happy birthday. She's been with grandpa all week, and he is being difficult.

"dad, do you know how to use the microwave?"
"I'll do what I need to do"
"do you want me to show you?"

she said yesterday she brought up the subject of where he wants to live. He told her to go to hell. (still think he's cute and cuddly? Grandpa has a stubborn streak a mile wide...said the pot to the kettle...)

This is not going to be easy.