Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grandma Mai


My Grandma Mai went home last night (her own words) at age 90. I am so thankful to have known her, to be a part of her family. I can't write much now, but wanted to post a few pictures from last month's service for her eldest daughter Marilyn. Just before she went to the hospital, she told a nurse that she was ready to go home to be with Marilyn.

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote about Marilyn's funeral:

The pastor began the brief ceremony. After reading from the Bible, he explained a tradition the family had, for those family members buried here as well. They would let go a flock of white doves to symbolize the spirit’s release. Gently, the pastor placed one quivering bird in Grandma’s cupped hands. She petted and cooed to the dove, smiling up at the pastor. Upon his nod, Grandma opened her hands, palms spread open to the sky, and the dove stretched its wings and flew high. She was soon joined by her family, released from a cage. We craned our necks to follow their flight.

An audible gasp soon followed, as we watched a large, dark bird swoop into the doves’ trail. It flew directly overhead, seeming to cast a shadow from the sun that had been falling gently on us. The doves circled to the left, and the ominous bird exited to the right, accompanied by a collective sigh.

As I let out my breath, I looked at my cousin face, mirroring my shock and horror. We agreed, everyone had thought it was a hawk, about to snatch one of the beautiful, symbolic doves out of the air, mid-flight. Uh uh, my dad said. That was a vulture. Though I’m not superstitious, the symbolism sent a chill down my spine. Doves and vultures, spirit and death circling each other.

The near-miss over, we started laughing. I was glad to be with family who could see the dark comedy of a predator bird snatching the beauty out of the moment. Just not at Marilyn’s service. When my time comes, however, I expect the gods of comedy to be out in full-force.

We talked and moved from the somber moments to the daily needs of life – could we stop at a Starbucks on the way to the dinner? I glanced toward the casket. A couple of women sat in the folding chairs, holding a pink prayer rose, staring at the coffin in silence. I looked at my grandmother, playing peek-a-boo with a great-great-grandbaby. Remembering the doves flying free, free of their cage, free from the predatory bird, I knew with assurance that Marilyn was not in that coffin. It was all right to walk away.

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