All around me people are packed into pews and standing along at the back wall of the church. The ushers bring white folding chairs and set them up in the aisles. Sniffles, tight hugs, laughter and smiles mix together as the minister describes my great aunt Martha. I can feel my mom sitting beside me holding herself still and silent like only she can do. Zen in the middle of chaos.
I can’t look at my mom because I know I will see white tissues wadded up in her hand, red puffy eyes, tears and sadness. I can’t bear to see my mother cry. So I sit still, facing forward, watching photos of Aunt Martha’s life slide by on the projector screen. I see: Martha grinning in front of a tractor, Martha and her daughter Jane holding fishing trophies and Martha kissing Johnny, her husband. Then there it is, the picture I’ve been looking for, a teenaged Martha lined up with her sisters: Bonnie, Betty, Irene, Robbie, Bessie, Ruby and Marie. My Grandma Marie.
Suddenly I’m not at my great aunt’s funeral. I’m not in a church in Arkansas. I’m at Grandma Marie’s house standing in the kitchen watching her mix flour, pat it flat and cut out biscuits. I’m listening to her sing The Old Rugged Cross. I’m sitting next to her on the couch watching The Carol Burnett Show and running my hands along her arm to feel the softness of her skin.
Aunt Martha was the best kind of person. She loved everyone, made everyone feel special and the fullness of the church is a testament to her power. She was a dynamic combination of grit, grins and generosity. The same type of person her sister Marie, my grandmother, was. The type of person I’d like to be someday.
This type of person, the minister says, has the most bejeweled mansion in heaven. A diamond covered mansion sitting on a street of gold. When he says this I can see the rows of mansions and Grandma Marie and Martha so clearly that I hold my breath. They are running toward each other, arms wide open, swathed in the light of diamonds. Two strong, independent women, who lived completely and unconditionally and after all these years have found their way back to each other. Their life forces reach out to me. I see the past, the present and the future. They grant me a glimpse of all I’ve lost so that I can remember who I am and who I want to be. They remind me to live and to breathe.
###I’m participating in #Reverb10 and posting my writing here because it just feels right. Today’s #Reverb10 prompt is: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail. (Author: Ali Edwards)