Once, when my mother was just a girl, my Grandma was walking around calling for her. There continued to be no answer and Grandma was calling and calling, searching around everywhere to find her. Finally, she found mom sitting on the ground. When Grandma asked her sternly, “Debbie, didn’t you hear me calling for you?” she calmly looked up and said, “yes, but you didn’t say come here.”
When all her kids got together, Grandma was most in her element. Inevitably, one of the kids would tell a story that she hadn’t heard before, and she’d be left round-eyed and laughing, shaking her head at them before leaning over conspiratorially to us grandkids to tell us that our parents were naughty children. Grandma could tell more stories of smeared lipstick and poofed diaper powder and disassembled somethings than a person could put in a book. She loved to tell the stories.
There’s never anything perfect to say when a person dies. The weight of our human disparities is ridiculously hard to hold. Truths intersect like a maze of highways, thoughts careening over and under bypasses: I hold her imperfections with such a fondness, and I remember how right it was to sit around a table and laugh with her. I’m glad the suffering is done now. I miss her. Mom picks up the phone to call her and cries. I keep picturing her in her chair, coloring with colored pencils some delicate floral sketch. I’m trying to rewire my brain to understand that she’s not here, but it won’t stick.
I like to picture a person in heaven. It’s the most unimaginable thing to imagine, like thinking, what was there before there was nothing? The brain can’t conceive. But I like to do it anyway, because I know she’s somewhere, laughing with her sisters, hugging her mom, grabbing my cousin and melting down in some tearless joy that my he just looks so strong now. Maybe she’s in a recliner coloring, even. Whatever it is, I know it’s good, and I know her brain is still spinning with conversation. I bet she’ll get a chance to host a party up there, which was her favorite. I have to remember that my people aren’t gone. No one’s lost in the ether. When I get there, having assumed in my earthly simplicity that they’ve been snoring for decades, they’ll greet me with, “I have so much to tell you!” and I’ll sit back and listen to all the memories that have formed them after death. These new, brilliant creatures, every bit what I remember and better.