I said goodbye to my grandmother this week. She is still here, but not for long. She had a massive stroke, and they have removed her IVs. So it is only a matter of time. I visited her, and stroked her face and hair as she lay there sleeping. And I whispered in her ear that I loved her and goodbye. On the long ride home I kept thinking about the point of life…..what is the point if we are just reduced to our basic functions at the end, and then we are gone, and then everyone who knew us is gone, and then the cycle of generations moves on. I became frustrated because I wanted to reach out and touch the woman she was; the young girl, the young woman, the bride, the new mom, the farm wife, the grandmother, but all my thoughts of her are intertwined with me. Intertwined with what I know of her, not what she thought or felt.
My mind is yelling “Where is it?” “Where is the vessel that contains the HER of her?” Where is the vessel that I can immerse myself in, and understand her mind and heart as she traveled through her life. A vessel like the big claw-foot bathtub that as a child I inched my way into. Into the steaming hot water that she drew up for me. Inching my way in while my head was wreathed in the smell of Dove soap. Soaking and playing in the tub while hearing the clatter of her in the kitchen frying the hamburgers that my grandfather requested almost every night. Then drying off and getting dressed. Screwing off the lid of her Raining Violets gelee, and dabbing a bit behind my ears and in the crease of my elbow. Grabbing the comb and padding out to the living room where she would gently ease the knots out of my freshly shampooed hair and lightly draw the comb through my hair bringing goosebumps of delight to my neck.
And again I’m brought back to my piece of her that is tatooed with the raised heiroglyphics of my memories. When I’m gathered with my family at her funeral I’m going to look for the other fragments. I’m going to immerse myself in photos, and I’m going to listen intently to the conversations around me. Then I’m going to gather up those pieces as well and form my own vessel. It will be cracked, and there will be pieces missing, but I will carry it with me, and I think it will be a worthy container for my beloved grandmother. And we will each become the vessels of her life.