The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is on the TV, as it is every Thanksgiving morning. My grandma was a firm believer in this Parade, and would even get up early to watch it live, sipping her Sanka and making me a grilled cheese sandwich and frozen red grapes. As an adult, I don’t particularly care for parades, let alone parades on tv that are spliced and diced- but it would not be Thanksgiving for me without Al Roker yelling at me and the Rockettes freezing their cute tushies off while they slip around in the New York cold.
My grandma died ten years ago today. Tomorrow would have been her 92nd birthday. In my mind, this time of year has become a mash-up of traditions- Thanksgiving, family, illness, death and birthday cake. It’s bittersweet- and sometimes I have to step back and catch my breath.
When my grandma died, I was not a member of the church and had no inkling of the restored gospel. The phone call came that time was nigh, and I rushed from my job to the care-home where she was spending her final months. I broke several laws and ran several lights in the five-minute drive, but I still did not make it. My family was gathered outside her room in the hollow, echoing hallway and I knew I was too late.
With trepidation, I gingerly entered her room, and stood by her bed, looking at her quiet body. Gently, I bent down to kiss her soft, relaxed brow. I’ve heard it said the dead look as though they are peacefully sleeping; I don’t think so. Even without knowledge of eternal things, it was clear my grandma was gone, her spirit was no longer in her tabernacle of flesh, and I was reverently and tenderly acknowledging the remaining clay.
In the days following her death, I was swallowed in grief. When your family has no organized faith, and your grandma wished for no services, no memorial of any kind, it makes processing your grief and loss difficult. For the first time, I understood that funerals are for the living, that ritual is a balm for those left behind.
The day her ashes were scattered at sea, my family walked out on the Golden Gate Bridge with flowers we had collected from my mother’s yard, and bid our goodbyes to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Watching those flowers fall forever down to the cold waves below was bittersweet. I knew my grandma was not gone, but I ached for a way to hold her close, to keep the fleeing memories from floating away like the tide.
The following year, I became a mother, and the year after that, I found the restored Gospel and opened my life to the mercy and love of my Savior. The blessings of the gospel are countless, but the one I am most grateful for, and have been since the beginning, is that it’s never too late. Hope springs eternal. I have been given the gift, the testimony of prophets, and the promise of God that life does not end. Not the waves of the Pacific nor the refiners fire can take our souls, and that family is eternal. All family. The family of man, the family of God.
So today, while Al Roker yells at me and the Rockettes slip and slide, I feel my grandma close. My daughter, who bears her name, bounces around on the bed next to me, squealing with glee at the cartoon character balloons floating high over the streets of New York. I’m going to fix grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen grapes for kids for breakfast, and tell them stories about my grandma.
Happy Thanksgiving. And Happy Birthday, Grandma.