Thursday, June 01, 2006

[Week of the Dead]

Death Story.

In late July of 1992, my grandfather had a touch of something that wouldn't go away. He went into the doctor and found out he had the flu. There followed a cacade of minor ailments, one brought on by the other, and he died on August 10. From swinging a golf club to death in three weeks. I was in graduate school and didn't make it home in time to see him alive. But this is not the story.

Following his death, his two daughters negotiated the arrangements. I believe these were fairly straightforward negotiations, but there was at least one sticking point. My mother wanted to keep his wedding ring, but my aunt wanted him buried in it. I speculate that this is because she has a good relationship with death; she was able to work through the death process with her father and could see it through his eyes rather than feeling overwhelmed by loss. She was alone with him when he died, an hour or two before dawn. One element of this orientation was that she was also clear about his corpse--it was no longer him, and she saw no reason to bury the ring.

My aunt, seven years her elder, seemed to have a less comfortable relationship with the death, and--again, speculating--I think she wanted the reminder buried away from view. In any case, she won the first round, and my mom agreed to bury him in it.

However, on the day of his burial, she changed her mind. It was an open casket service, and at some point before he was taken to the cemetary, she slipped the ring off his finger. The image of her pinching it is so strong in my mind that I recall it as if I witnessed the event, but I can't actually be sure. My mother is a minor revolutionary, and so was her father, and I like to think that he would have approved of how she handled it.

I was very close to my grandfather, and when I got married five years later, my mom gave me the ring (I'm wearing it as I write this).

1 comment:

Joe said...

I remember when these events occurred. This is an excellent, beautiful telling, Jeffrey. I hope your Mom reads this one.