On the Celebration of Life

It’s days like Saturday that make me realize that the human capacity for emotion is much deeper than we could possibly even realize. Necessities like food, water, and shelter are nothing without love.

Brian and I are standing by his golf clubs. I’m asking what the difference between a wood and an iron is. He tells me that woods are made out of wood. Then he pulls out a club. “So that’s an iron?” I ask. (The club is not made of wood.) No, he tells me, it’s a wood. We laugh. I understand the difference now. If you can imagine that it might be made of wood, it’s a wood, even if it’s made of metal. Irons are more like fireplace instruments. Heavier. Deadlier.

Brian is fiddling with the cover. “Grandpa never had the right covers for his clubs,” he says. And that’s when I feel it. His loss is so palpable in that moment. The fact that everything Brian knows and loves about golf, he got from Marshall. The fact that Marshall and Brian used to go golfing and then go get lunch. It was his childhood. He and his grandpa were inseparable, even at the end.

I don’t know how to say I’m sorry. I do know how to learn about something that they both loved, so I ask more golf questions.

“I’m only telling you this because I know you’ll appreciate it,” said Juanita, leaning into me. She introduces me as her adopted granddaughter. I am so happy in that moment. She didn’t want them to bring that picture, she says, but she’s glad they did because it’s one of her favorites. She tells me that on their wedding day 63 years ago, there’s a picture of him looking at her exactly the same way. My eyes were on her sweater, rhinestones at the wrists. I didn’t dare look up. My eyes were already full. She tells me that even though he was a quiet man, he always reminded her that he loved her. “And he really did love me,” she says. I smile. I mean, I really smile. My heart is full of love and a little bit of hurt – the pull of the sadness of a great loss.

(I couldn’t get a picture of the picture without the glare! I’m sorry for the poor quality!)

The speeches are beautiful. There is nothing better than honest memories. Laughter fills the space. When one of my cousins gets up to say something, I feel my eyes start to fill up again. Even though this is sort of the worst part of life, the saying goodbye, it’s also the best. It reminds you how much love you have surrounding you. It reminds you how much every single person can mean to you, how much they can impact you.

My adopted grandparents. My other grandparents. My spare grandparents. My not grandparents. We never could figure out just what to call them. So we threw terms out and tried them on. They mean just as much to me as my actual grandparents. And I mean just as much to them as their grandchildren. Mom tells me that when I was little, we were leaving Grandma Mary’s house and I asked her, “Who are those people?” They’ve been a part of my life since I was little, since before I could figure out how they fit into the scheme of things.

And I’m so grateful for that.

Marshall was a wonderful father, a wonderful husband, and a wonderful grandfather. I am so happy that I got to be a part of it. And I promise to help take good care of Juanita.


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