One Last Time
My grandmother would have been 98 today. Sadly, she passed away in September of ’04. She donated her body to science. I wrote the piece below last year when I found out the hospital were releasing her body for burial. I’m posting it here today in honor of her. (Feeling a little sentimental today – will get back to the funny tomorrow, I promise)
The day I found out my grandmother died, I think I literally felt my heart break.
My parents called me in the morning to tell me that Mud (the affectionate name we gave our grandma) was sick and they were going to Ireland to see her. She’d been sick before but something just felt different this time. After the phone call, I went out and walked around Manhattan all day. I had an awful feeling in my stomach and it wouldn’t go away. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to get that phone call. As much as I tried, I couldn’t convince myself that things would be alright again.
Sure enough, that night my parents called and told me she’d passed away before they got there. She was 94. She had a good innings. But there was so much I was yet to learn about her, so much more I wanted to know. In true Mud style, she donated her body to science, so we had a memorial for her with no casket, no ashes.
Three years have passed. Yesterday, I found out the hospital is releasing her body. She’s being cremated and my parents will go over to scatter her ashes somewhere Mud loved. Technically, her body has been preserved. I wish she could be brought back to life so I can have just one more day with her. I just want to listen to her talk, watch her put on her make up, feel how warm her hands were when they held mine.
This woman taught me my times tables, how to play cards and tell time. She was a true lady, always with her full face of make up on and not once did I see her in a pair of trousers. She was stuck up, opinionated, intelligent and hilarious.
The funny memories always come to mind first. Like the time we were having lunch in a busy pub and her friend was telling us of a young man who’d had a certain part of his anatomy pierced. My grandmother, who’s hearing difficulties produced countless embarrassing moments, verified what her friend said by shouting ‘What?! He had his PENIS pierced?’ You never heard a pub in Dublin go so quiet, so quickly. Or the time she had a bad fall outside her apartment and was being loaded into an ambulance. When her friend asked if she was OK, Mud grabbed her arm and said ‘go inside, get my make up bag and hide the whiskey’.
We lived in different countries so communicated through letters and a weekly phone call. She always used the same writing paper and these little blue envelopes. No matter where I lived; Canada, London, New York, I could always count on those blue envelopes coming every couple of weeks. To this day when I check my mail, I’m half hoping I’ll see her shaky handwriting somewhere.
So before she’s laid to rest once and for all, I want one more day, one more conversation, one more letter. I want us to play cards and for her to tell me I should eat more fruit and vegetables. I want one last argument with her about who loves who more. I want to tell her how sorry I am that I couldn’t be there when she passed. I want her to know how she has defined my life in so many ways, how one day I’ll tell my children and my children’s children all about her. And I want her to rest assured that I’ll always grab her make up and hide the whiskey.