I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I felt I didn’t really have the right, in a way. I never really got the chance to have a close relationship with her as my cousins did. My siblings and I lived states away and weren’t able to visit often. I suppose I worried that crying could be mistaken for me being fake or an attention seeker. I’m not entirely sure why I felt that, I have never been given any reason to believe that my family would think anything negative of me, but that irrational thought plagued me throughout the ceremony. So I didn’t. Cry, that is.
I almost did — multiple times. She was my grandma, after all. Instead, I held back the tears that threatened to spill, and silently mourned.
I mourned for the relationship we should have had. I mourned for the relationship we did have. I mourned for my grandpa, who despite his best efforts, was unable to prevent his sorrow from leaking out of his eyes. I mourned for my aunts and my dad, who lost their mommy. I mourned for my cousins who did get to have a close relationship with her. I mourned for the wonderful woman my grandma was, and all the great things she’d done in her life. I mourned, but I did not cry.
We stood in a semi circle, her grave closing the gap between the rabbi and my sister, who each stood at one end of the group. My cousins, siblings, and I were asked to do the ‘unveiling’ part of the ceremony — to remove the cover from atop her final resting place, and reveal the grave marker that will honor her memory long after we are all dead and gone. We pulled off the sack and sort of stood there as we looked at the headstone.
It was beautiful — Our family name engraved at the top, and my grandma’s name on the bottom right. Above her name was a picture of hands creating pottery, a symbol of her love of all things crafty, and her special talent for pottery. We sort of shuffled back to our places, waiting for the rabbi to lead us on in the memorial.
The rabbi read with us some prayers in a beautiful language that I did not speak nor understand, but somehow felt the significance of the words. My cousins once removed followed along with the prayers, speaking in time with the rabbi. I wish that I could have also spoken the prayers, and may in the future go out and learn some of the language.
After the prayers, the rabbi (I wish I knew his name, but in the commotion of family, friends, and emotions, I forgot to ask) asked us to share a memory of Grandma, and something that we learned from her. Among those who spoke, I noticed a common theme in the memories. In each, Grandma had gone out of her way to do something for the person, whether it be make them feel better, be there for them in difficult times, or whatnot. She did such things without asking for, expecting, or even considering getting something in return. She did it because that’s the kind of person she was.
As it slowed down and started to look like everyone was finished sharing memories, I mustered up the courage to speak up and share mine.
I was 15 or 16 years old, and suicidal. I’d been admitted to a psych hospital as I was having a really hard time dealing with my anxiety and depression. The hospital was hell. I don’t remember much about it, thankfully. However, one thing that stands out to me was on my second or third day at the hospital. I remember sitting at my desk writing in my journal, when a nurse came in and handed me an envelope. It was addressed to me, from my grandparents. I opened it and read what was written. I think I cried. I don’t remember, anymore, what exactly the letter said, but it made me feel so loved. I was so touched that my grandma, who I hadn’t talked to or seen in probably a year or more, wanted to write such honest, hopeful things to me when she heard that I was in the hospital.
Of course, I didn’t say all that in front of the family I didn’t really know. I spoke about being in the hospital and receiving a letter from Grandma and Papa, and how much that helped. I said that that is the kind of person Grandma was. She was a selflessly kind person who gave love and expected nothing in return. She gave because she loved, and that is the most precious thing a person can do.
Grandma has shared so much love and strength with all of us in her life and in death. Her words and actions, her memory, will stay with everyone whose lives she touched for as long as we all live, for which I am forever grateful.
Sometimes, I feel like I know her better now than I ever did before. I do hope that she’s watching over us. I hope she’s doing well, wherever she is.
We love you Grandma.