Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Sunday, February 03, 2008

That Which Is Left Behind

We laid my grandmother to rest this Friday. After eighty-six years and thirteen days in this world, Nana Dot has gone home. We will miss her, but in a way we were lucky. We knew it was coming, so we were able to make her last days comfortable and to say to her what we wanted to say. She said she was ready to go, and that she had no regrets in her life. For those of us she leaves behind, it is ours to ponder now what to do without her.

My grandmother was one of those venerable old matriarches, the center of an enormous family of children, grandchildren, cousins, and close friends. We're a loud and crazy clan, so it did stand to reason that the one we revolved around was the quietest and calmest. Her little brick row house was a destination for many a holiday and family gathering. Christmas Eve festivities were almost always held at her house. We would descend on that tiny house, devour food, and tear open presents. Nana Dot's home - and her country cottage on the lake - were always fun places to be a kid. She was generous and patient with all of her grandchildren - and her great-grandchildren - never with a raised voice or unkind word. She was unique. One of a Kind. And as is often the case with such people, once she's gone we realize that there will never be another like her.

Life is irrevocably changed. There will be no more Christmas Eves, and the country cottage is long gone. There really is no new grand old matriarch to replace her, to keep us all coming back together every year (my mother doesn't want the job, nor should she have to take it if she doesn't want it; God knows we're a lot to take at once). On the one hand, maybe that is for the best. Perhaps we relied on her too much, and it's time for each of us to take the responsibility of keeping ourselves together upon ourselves. On the other hand, I doubt any of us would really be good at it. We're all crazy and have such different lives, getting us together is a risky proposition. Some of us are oil and vinegar, some of us are hard to live with, and some of us are just plain flaky. If nothing else, it's daunting on a logistical level for all of us to keep in touch. I don't know how Nana Dot did it, frankly.

So, as is often the case, we don't really mourn her passing, per se. She had accepted it and was not afraid to go, and she's at peace now. Although I don't mind telling you, my Uncle Billy managed to compound my own personal existential crisis by asking me, "as a philosopher," what purpose God would have for letting her linger on for a few weeks after she was ready to go. Of course, as a philosopher, I had no answer for him, and since all my friends are smug atheists who never ponder such things, I can't exactly seek a second opinion. In a sense, all that we CAN ponder in such a situation is what we can see - and for the moment, what we see is an empty space that was once filled. So we don't mourn her so much as we mourn the absence of her. And we ponder how we might fill that absence. Or even if we CAN.

But change is part of life, and emptiness is not all she leaves behind. The family she raised is still here, and we will continue in some form. She leaves that behind as her legacy. We will cherish her memory and her love, and from it we will draw the strength to go on. Because that's how she raised us to be.

Rest in Peace, Dorothy Keniston.


Blogger Portrait in Flesh said...

Wonderfully put. She'd be proud of you.

7:48 PM, February 07, 2008  
Blogger westwind16 said...

A very loving tribute. May she live on in your hearts.

7:10 PM, March 02, 2008  

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