I’m totally out of line today. I broke all the rules. I wrote for 10 minutes. I corrected a few typos so you wouldn’t get hung up on nonsense words. But I never went back and edited or proofread. And I’m adding in a few pictures. Not that that’s against the rules. And not like the rules aren’t meant to be broken.
This is just a from-the-heart piece about my experience visiting my grandmother’s grave today for the first time since she passed away almost 30 years ago.
My grandma passed away in 1982. I was only 11 years old and yet I remember her with the sweetness that every grandmother seems to project. She didn’t have a perfect life. She had a checkered past. But I didn’t know her as that woman. I knew her as my grandma.
As odd as it sounds, I didn’t attend her funeral in 1982. I don’t remember how the conversation exactly went but I think I basically said I didn’t want to go. I’ve never felt comfortable talking about or dealing with death and it may have all started at this age.
I loved my grandma more than words can say but I didn’t go to her funeral. And I had never visited her gravesite until today. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s that my mother taught us to believe that once you’re spirit is gone, your body is simply the shell left behind. She never saw the sense in visiting her gravesite because she’s no longer there.
On a trip back from Maryland a few months ago, we took a back way home to avoid some traffic. We drove past a cemetery and I immediately swerved the car towards the gates. My husband had no idea what was going on.
“I think this is where my grandma is buried.”
I was sure of it and I was sure that I wanted to see her grave. Not because she is there but because it is one tangible place that I can go and remember her. The cemetery is only open until 5pm and we had missed the time but made plans to try to stop there again on a future trip.
We tried on the way up for Thanksgiving but we left our house in Raleigh too late. And then today, as we set off on the journey home from our Thanksgiving visit with family, we saw that traffic was going to be heavy. I asked my husband if we could go the back way and he knew immediately what I had in mind.
Since I had never visited a grave, I had no idea what to do, I wanted flowers but couldn’t find a florist and before I knew it, we were there. It was a veterans’ cemetery and luckily they had a way to look up the burial plot, otherwise I would have no clue where she was.
I got the map. I got the location and set off to see her marker, not sure of how I would feel.
It’s been almost 30 years.
Wow. 30 years since my grandma left. I still miss her and I still have the most wonderful memories of her. But the sadness is gone. I found her marker and didn’t feel sadness. I had no tears, as I thought I might. Instead, I felt this sort of bittersweet happiness. The feeling that I was able to connect with her again in some way.
I wanted her to know I was there. And I wanted someone else to know that after 30 years, someone cared for the woman known on the stone only as “Ethel M.”
Since I had no flowers, I did the best I could to make sure the grass was trimmed around the edges and the leaves were away from the stone. I took a piece of paper from my son’s sketch book and made a rubbing with one of his crayons. A purple crayon. My favorite color and one I thought my grandma would like.
I thought for a moment and decided I wanted someone to know she was loved. I took a purple crayon and drew a heart next to her name.
I briefly thought that I might get in trouble for defacing a grave but figured I could talk my way out of that. I know the weather will quickly fade the heart. But I know it was there. And I know she does too.