Friday, October 28, 2011
Letters For GiGi
"How do you wite pum-kin?"
Liam has found me folding funeral clothes into the suitcase. His fingers are tattooed blue.
"Tause I dwew a pum-kin on Gwampa's card and I want to wite pum-kin so he knows it's awmost Hawoween."
I snap the price tag from his new pin-stripped vest and use his blue marker to spell out pumpkin on the back side of the tag.
"Thanks, mom!" And he runs back to where they are all bent over their secrets, spelling out their love for Grandpa in shapes and colour.
"I drawd a wainbow, mommy, look it!" Noa waves her page like a flag - mad dashed splashes of her vibrant spirit across a page spilled with her gift.
"Well, I dwew Batman and Wobin and the Joker." Which, in Liam language, means you are eternally special to me.
Zander doesn't want to show me his letter. I tell him that's okay. He's not saying much but there is a sadness that hangs on the edge of his smile as he praises Noa for her passionate scribbles.
When they see him - the him that doesn't look like him - the him that is left behind - cold and stern and stiff in a black suit - they aren't sure what to do because we all know this isn't really Grandpa GiGi lying so still and unbeing. We settle the sunshine of their offering in the seam of his resting - this grandpa goodbye - their final embrace enveloped in their farewell creation - and it's like dressing darkness with hope.
Liam peers over the edge - not afraid to touch the wood that touches death. "Did they cut off Gwandpa's wegs?"
"No, honey, they're just covered by the bottom half of the lid."
"Oh. It wooks wike they cut them off." And he rides his finger skate-board along the rails of the coffin because he's five years old and what else could amazing rails like that be for? And really...it's not like Grandpa would mind.
Zander's tears are shinny. They settle there at the rim of his eyes, pools of grief, until one blink spills them among his freckles. This is the last time he will see his Grandpa. But he's not looking at the stillness - he's looking across at the living - at the Grandma who is weeping for the husband she has lost - at the Grandma he never knew could cry - and this breaks something inside him. He squeezes my hand and wipes his nose on his brand new blue shirt. He doesn't let go of me until he settles beside his cousins after the family parade up the aisle. His softness moves me.
They get lost on the way to the cemetery. The pastor has said her piece and ashes to ashes and dust to dust and the funeral director spills a cross of sand upon the casket. The crowd moves away slowly and we are whispering thanks that God stilled the rain for this one day. My sister, flustered and all apology (that I wave away - it doesn't matter), wields curious children through the iron gate. We have this moment as our own. Leaves crunch as we guide them to the grave where he hangs suspended on green cables. Dirt mounds to the left, hidden beneath fake sod and I find it offensive and crass. A bearded man in brown coveralls stands beside the hearse, arms loosely crossed and waiting, face of practiced patience. We don't have to hurry.
"We'll be able to come any time we want," I tell them. "There will be a stone with Grandpa's name on it."
They peer over the lip, at the darkness at the bottom, at the box that holds a piece of their heart.
"Does Gwampa still have our letters?" Liam asks.
"They'll always be with him."
And he's found his peace, safe with Batman and Jesus.