A Monumental Act
May 28, 2013
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a welcome stretch of time, that show, after all morning and much of the afternoon in the car. The short while in between was spent in a cemetery in a small Wisconsin town where we placed gently into the ground -- next to her husband and near her son and her parents -- the ashes of my grandmother, Virginia.
It had been one of those mornings when you hear the forecast and think, "Oh, crap, it's going to rain all day" and second-guess what you're wearing and look madly for the one umbrella that isn't broken and know it's gonna be a bad hair day. But it didn't rain. Not a drop. It was cloudy, with a peek from the sun now and then, and windy in a lovely way, and there were lilacs and crabapple trees in bloom and a thousand colored bouquets in the cemetery, ribbons fluttering. It was like a spring parade of flowers and wind and light.
The pastor gave a lovely and brief reading and spoke about ashes and dust. We all stood around looking down at the blue-green urn with etched butterflies in which Grandma's ashes were sealed -- my mother and brothers and other family members closer, and a small, pleasant group of Methodist church members and friends of my grandmother from near and far flanking us. They all looked as if they might have a giant tree somewhere where they bake bread and cookies, sweet silver-haired people who knew and loved this woman who loved them back with her friendship, and with organ music with flourishes on Sundays over the years.
I looked up at the sky when I spoke. "Grandma," I called out. "Without you, I wouldn't know as much about the importance of tenderness." I said something about her life, how she was wise and kind and how she helped me become the woman I am, how I am glad she is with Grandpa now after decades of being apart. I don't recall much; I was trying hard not to cry. But I did cry. I remember saying how she loved pie, and "I love you, Grandma," and that was all.
To say goodbye to a life is a monumental act. Daily goodbyes and temporary partings seem a whole different thing altogether. It's healthy, I know, to let go. But it is painful, oh, my. I helped the sexton bury her, watching him shovel soft brown earth -- as the children threw dandelions and little purple flowers in with it -- making sure there were no pockets of air, helping him press the small circle of sod on top of all that dirt and seal it with extra soil in the crack.
I felt as if we were tucking her in. Same feeling I had long ago when the children were little and I pulled the quilts up to their chins and kissed their foreheads and whispered goodnight, and turned out the light. "Sleep well. See ya in the morning." Yes. That's it. Sleep well, Grandma. See ya in the Morning. The Glory Morning.
Virginia had a sweet tooth, and an affinity for bread, and so do I. Here's a recipe satisfying both, just in time for rhubarb ripe for the pulling. Simple.
Rhubarb Bread Pudding
4 slices of bread
¾ tsp cinnamon
3 T butter
3 cups rhubarb cut into 1" pieces
½ cup sugar
Spread each slice of bread with 1 tsp butter, and cut buttered bread into ½" cubes. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Arrange half of rhubarb in bottom of greased 8" baking dish. Top with half of bread cubes and half of sugar mixture. Repeat. Dot with remaining butter. Cover and bake in 375 oven for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or till lightly browned. Serve with fresh whipped cream.