I didn’t think I would cry at the funeral, but I did. Part of it was seeing others cry, especially my dad. But a greater part of it was tears of gratitude that came from the realization of how lucky I am to have had the grandmothers I had even if I didn’t spend that much time with them. My grandmothers were strong women of faith and examples to their kids: my family’s version of Lois and Eunice. My grandfathers, while interesting to me, were not, as far as I know, men of faith. My grandmothers bear the credit for my mom and dad growing up with biblical instruction. That legacy was passed down to me from my parents. Coming from a family of mutts, faith is the only heritage I have to speak of. But faith is the only inheritance of any worth.
As I sat listening to the stories of my grandmother’s life, a wave of pride came over me: pride at having descended from her, a woman of spirit and strength who was active in the church not just in typically “feminine” ways like baking cookies for the children’s ministry, but as a board member too. I wasn’t super close to either of my grandmas to be honest. But I can see their influence in my life. Both of them were proof that femininity doesn’t have to equal frailty. They both played sports when they were young, in the 1920s and ‘30s. They both endured painful circumstances in their lives that would have crushed the spirits of weaker individuals. They both embodied hospitality in their own way. And, again, they both raised great children who became great parents. I aspire to be as strong and faithful as they were.
Grandma Mead was my last remaining grandparent. With her death comes the reality that in all likelihood the next death I face will be that of my parents. That is the thing that made her passing most difficult. I’m very close to my parents, closer than my brothers are, I think, because my brothers are married and have their own families. As a single person, my parents are my family. My parents are the first people I called after my breakup. They are the first people I called when Jeopardy contacted me, and I wrangled them in to going out to California with me for the taping (blog post coming).
I have a cousin, Jenny, with whom I am close. Almost a decade ago we had a conversation in which we agreed that we hoped we’d get married before our dads died. (We assumed our dads would go first). It wasn’t so much a wish to have our dads walk us up the aisle at our weddings as much as it was the realization that we wanted the emotional support of a husband to help us through the grieving process upon our fathers’ death. She got her wish. Her father performed her wedding, in fact, before he left us. I am still single. And while I certainly hope that my parents have two or three decades of life to go, I will confess that my biggest fear in life is that one or both of them won’t see me wed. I fear this because my parents are awesome, and I want whoever I marry to know them, and I want any children I have to know them. But I also fear it because I don’t know if I can handle the grief alone. I have some amazing friends who are incredibly supportive. But I don’t imagine it’s the same as having someone who is in bed next to you when you wake up sobbing at 2 am and who can hold you until you cry yourself to sleep.
In some ways I feel silly because no one can predict the future. My parents might outlive me for all I know. And you can’t add an hour to your life by worrying, etc. I know that ultimately death holds no power over us. I know whom I have believed, and I can ask, ‘death, where is thy sting,’ knowing that we will all reunite in heaven. And yet I still dread losing them on earth. But it is good because it speaks volumes about the relationship I have with them, and how incredibly lucky I am to have the forebears of faith that I have.