Friday, December 15, 2017

On Rituals and Loss

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words were: prison, austerity, lurking, skunk, snuggles.

They were submitted by:


Recently someone very close to me lost his grandmother. I'm certain the whole world felt that loss. She was an amazing lady whose 89 years were filled to the brim with love, warmth, and kindness.

This loss has been hard on him, and I've tried every way possible to be supportive (but to be honest I am just not equipped to be all that great at things like this. Maybe I'm just too dependent on rationalizing things, on throwing out emotion for logic). I did the whole family/visitation/funeral stuff even though I wasn't feeling well and had zero energy to do it, and I tried to provide as much of an emotional shield from it all as I could, but I know it wasn't enough. We sat at the funeral in stony silence as two non-family members took turns talking about generic traits and repeating the same stories over and over again. Despite saying her pastor saying he'd known the woman for over 2 years, he didn't have a clue that her entire family calls her Maw-maw and mispronounced it several more times even after he was corrected. Small town cliches about everyone knowing everyone else are simply that--cliches.

We've talked often since then about how weird our death traditions are and how unsatisfying it was for him to be a part of it. A skunk could have sprayed right on him, and I think it would have been more fulfilling than the things these two men shared about the #1 love of his life. Why let a strangers' broad descriptions be the last memories created about you?

So in the spirit of sharing something more real, I want to share my own Maw-maw story.

Brandon and I had been friends/hetero life mates for a few years before I actually met his grandma. The thought of it alone was extremely intimidating. I knew how much he looked up to her and loved her, and I also knew how most of the rest of his family felt about me--that I was some kind of horribly bad influence with my liberal ideas and tattoos. I certainly wasn't up to many of their perceived social status.

We had been walking the woods on her property looking at some of the outbuildings and enjoying being outside when he asked if I'd like to come in to meet her. It was a hot Georgia evening, and I had on short sleeves. I asked him if he was nuts. There was no way I would meet her without having more of my arms covered. He pulled me toward the house anyway and told me it would be fine.

If I'd known how lovely she would be, I would have met her a lot sooner. She didn't double take or even so much as let her gaze linger on my tattoos. It was like they were just...any other part of me. She talked to me like she had known me for ages, asked about my son who she already adored after just a few meetings, and respected me like she would anyone else. She offered cake and something to drink and to teach me how to sew anytime I wanted. There wasn't so much as a hint of what other family members had been like towards even the idea of me. She was the same every time I saw her. Even sitting around the house in her pjs at 89 years old on her bad days, she was the epitome of beauty, and it absolutely radiated from her. There was no way you could leave a visit with her and not be affected by her, inspired.

That's who she was--an unconditionally loving, nonjudgmental, warm, caring, compassionate, independent (and sometimes stubborn), inspiring woman who was beautiful inside and out, who provided for her family with hard work for years on her own, through easy times and those of austerity. Her faith was strong, but it wasn't the crutch to be judgmental the way so many people seem to use it. And the times she grew up in while so different from the culture in the time in which I knew her were never a prison of excuses to be ugly or spread hate. She was the person to go to if you needed snuggles no questions asked and always had the goods if you needed to eat your feelings. In every possible way, she was good. And she was wholeheartedly loved.

I know with every fiber of my being that she had no lurking doubts about that--about how much love she had felt and shared in her lifetime. Perhaps we all have questions towards the end. Maybe we wonder if we got it all right, if we could have done more or done things differently. Maybe that's a part of it all. But she died the same way she lived--surrounded by love. And that's the best thing any of us could ever hope for.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script


  1. It seems as though you've just made up for the assault that was the funeral service. My condolences to you and your son and Brandon.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful Southern lady. Thank you for sharing Maw-Maw with us.

  3. When my brother-in-law died a few years ago, my husband deal with the whole family drama bullshit of a funeral so instead of heading back home to KY we turned the car around a just drove until we ended up in Biluxi, MS where we bought a 12-pack of my BIL's favorite beer, went to the beach and watched the sun go down telling our own stories about him. It was perfect.