A week and a half ago my grandma died. She was the last of my grandparents. So I flew back to Winnipeg for the funeral over the weekend. As far as funerals go, it seemed fine. There was coffee and food at the viewing (not in the exact same space as the viewing; in a separate room so as not to get any crumbs on grandma) and the minister read her obituary and mangled everyone’s names. He did better at the funeral proper.
I hadn’t seen a lot of grandma in the past year or so. Even when I lived in Winnipeg I didn’t go over to hang out without my mom or anything. Last time I’d seen her was June or maybe July, when she’d just moved out to Niverville. Even then she’d lost a lot of weight, so I wasn’t too astonished at how little she looked like my stocky good-for-plow grandma in the casket. Wax and bone and un-permed hair is what was left for us to bury.
My cousin represented the grandchildren in the funeral service, and she told stories about food and games, all the normal grandmother kinds of things. She also told a story about how grandma’d been praying to die since she was 10. I didn’t remember that story. I remembered Grandma being ready to die for years though. Mom hated when she talked like that. But in the last couple of years it started to make sense. (To me. None of this is me speaking for my mother here. If you find this disrespectful, it’s all me.)
The minister who did the service wasn’t too bad. Grandma picked him beforehand, saying “he may not look like much but he gives a good sermon.” And though he talked about a lot of crap I find ridiculous, it was the kind of crap that grandma believed so I’d be a bit of an asshole for debating it or shaking my head in too superior a fashion. But at the gravesite in among the rest of the going home kind of talk, he said “Trudie’s now in a better place than she was in the last years of her life.” I appreciated that. It acknowledged that she’d wanted to die for a long time, felt she was done, but also recognized that she’d had better years in this vale of tears, times that were better than some notional afterlife.
But snicker as I might at notions of afterlife, I still do love old-timey gospel songs about dying. Much better than hymns. If you ever ask me to arrange a funeral that’s all it’s going to be. Fair warning.afterlife aging banjo death family food funeral games gospel grandma mom niverville old-timey prayer songs theology vale of tears winnipeg