Monday, September 20, 2010

The Last Day

This is the eighth post in this series.  Please see The Preface for further explanation.

The funeral had been long, but that wasn't too surprising.  Julia deSaix had been a wonderful person inside and out; there were many kind things to say about her.

Though I traveled from venue to venue with my aunts and uncle, I sat with my husband and children at the church.  I spent most of the funeral looking at the coffin and promising myself to live life better.

The short service at the grave site had been painful.  I heard none of the words the pastor spoke, but concentrated on the flowers surrounding the coffin. I found consolation in a bouquet of delicate white roses that had been tucked in a larger spray. I clutched Antonio's arm the entire time.  After the last prayer, I led him out of the pavilion and to a gravestone yards away, where I wept bitterly in a surge of emotion that stopped as suddenly as it started.

I had gone back to the hotel room before my family, and this proved to be a wise thing.  When my husband and children arrived, I was ready to put aside grieving and revel in cuddling with my kids, listening closely as they told me what they thought of the last few days.

I was still exhausted and not "all-together," but I was eager to move on and to live fully.  We had dinner that night at Chuck E. Cheese with our friends from Austin.  Life slowly slipped back into normal.

As Antonio and I whispered in the night, it was decided it was time to go home the next morning rather than stay another day. I finally slept soundly.

Over breakfast, my friend Amy insisted that no one leave the hotel until my brother and I had a chance to visit alone together.  So, I called; Glenn came to the hotel; and we said all the things we had been wanting to say to each other all week but couldn't because of the hustle and bustle and mishaps.  We exchanged the stories, and we wept together in healing sobs.

The family packed up the minivan and made the rounds of farewells:  My dad, Antonio's dad, followed by Antonio's mom. We went to visit my mom last.

A person looking on from a distance probably thought it was comical:  Our family kneeling by a plot of earth, quite sullen in expression, then jumping to our feet with horror as we realized it was not the right grave!  We walked around some until the flowers from the funeral gave my mother's resting place away.  The white roses were unmistakable to me; I had memorized their every petal.

I clipped some of the roses to take home, and each of my children chose a flower stem for themselves.  Then Paulo, just four years old, began scratching at the dirt with a determined look on his face.

"Paulo?"  I made a guess at what he was doing,  "Paulo?  Are you trying to get Mémé?" 

He nodded his little blonde head, then stopped.  His blue eyes burned with his fiery will, "On the Last Day, when Jesus comes back, the trumpets will sound.  And Jesus will blow all the dirt off Mémé, and Mémé will be alive again!"

I was astonished.

"The kids and I have been talking about the Last Day a lot this week," Antonio explained to me. Then he turned to the kids to say that Jesus would come again when the Father said it was time and not before.

Paulo  meekly tried once more to scratch at the dirt covering his beloved grandmother's grave, then stopped with a sigh.  The resignation was difficult, but he accepted that Jesus would not be rushed.

"I wish the Last Day could be today."  Seven year old Pietro looked longingly at the mound covered with wilting flowers as he said this.

The whole family agreed. Nine year old Sofia cried; Pietro was thoughtful; Paulo was sad with a touch of annoyance that he'd have to wait so long to see Mémé again.  Giovanni knew something was amiss, and he quietly laid his head on Antonio's shoulder.  We all said a prayer and trudged back to the minivan.

As we drove on well-worn I-35, the family talked about the Last Day and about Mémé's life.  The kids laughed as I told them stories from Mémé's childhood, then from my own childhood.  The kids were overwhelmed with glee as they saw the billboard of their favorite restaurant, and so the family stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner which was ready for the holidays and  full of Christmas cheer.

At last their journey turned off the massive freeway.  The children exlcaimed names of familiar landmarks all along the road to their neighborhood.  Then finally, it was there before them all:  Home. 

© 2009-2015 Emily Woodham

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