The black Lincoln limousine picked me up from the airport, and I looked out the window as the rain fell down on the dark street. It may or may not have been raining, but I have a horrible memory, and that’s how I have chosen to remember this event. Besides, rain is befitting of the occasion.
I had left an Air Force training to attend the funeral of my grandmother. The company for which my father works was kind enough to offer to send a limousine to pick me up at the airport, which was an hour or so away, so that my father could stay at the wake with the rest of his family. I felt strange having someone I didn’t know drive me, especially since the limo wasn’t like the limo I rode in for prom. I was in a regular Lincoln Town car, with only the front seat separating me from this man I didn’t know.
I looked out the window most of the drive on that gloomy night until we pulled in front of the funeral home. I was met by my father and taken inside the dark room where my grandmother lay. She didn’t look like herself–her face was bloated–and I felt uncomfortable seeing a face that didn’t look how I remembered it. And sadness and guilt filled me as I regretted not finding a way to travel to New Jersey to see Grandma while she was sick.
But in the midst of the grief that all were experiencing in the room, a trickle of joy had spread. When I moved to the back to join my mother, she was surrounded by most of her family. All of her sisters had come to comfort her in the loss of her mother-in-law, and two of these sisters had been absent from her life for around ten years, a split in the family severing the relationship.
I don’t know what caused the break in their relationship; I don’t know if they do, either, but my grandmother’s death brought them all together for reconciliation. My parents from Georgia, my sister and her husband from Kentucky, my relatives from New Jersey and Vermont, and me from training in Ohio, all together. And because of my grandmother’s death and this reconciliation, I was able to share with most of my family the news that I was carrying life within my own belly, a true blessing for me as I had not been able to share with any loved ones up until this point. I couldn’t even hold my own husband as I read the words ‘pregnant’ on the little stick in my Air Force lodging room.
After the wake, we made our way through the rain to grab some pizza. I had to chuckle at my father and my uncle–it doesn’t matter where we are or why we are there, they will find the best pizza joint in town. As we walked in the small restaurant, my uncle offered his loud New Jersey greeting, and I smiled to notice that he had already made friends with the owner and knew what food to recommend. It was good to know that even the death of their mother wouldn’t stop them from enjoying a good pizza.
I remember sitting around the long, rectangular table, my mom and her sisters together, my dad’s brother and his family interspersed throughout, my own sister and her husband there. And there was joy. Joy over pizza and pasta. Joy in the midst of grief and death. Joy in the midst of new life and nausea. Joy in the midst of fragile relationships.
And while my memory is foggy of the details like the exact meals we were eating or the clothes everyone was wearing, there is one detail I will never forget: my mother’s smile.
After dinner, we walked into the wet parking lot, our family talking, laughing, saying its ‘goodbyes,’ and my mother and one of her sisters stopped. They turned to each other and embraced. I remember watching this embrace, two grown women pulling each other tight, determined to not let go as they had done several years ago. My aunt’s eyes were squeezed shut, tears leaking out. But my mother–I just remember her smile.
Her mouth was closed, but her smile stretched across her face, and I could see that this hug, this reconciliation literally made her whole body feel better. In this hug she regained hold of part of her family that she had thought she had lost. As they rubbed each others’ backs, they smoothed out the discord that had haunted this family, and as their tears fell, they washed clean and started anew.
We left dinner and got into our different cars, making our way to the hotel to prepare for the next day. I don’t remember the ride there or where we stayed, but I imagine my dad was processing through his own emotions. But my mom–I know she radiated joy at this chance for new life.
When did you have a family meal that you will never forget? Have you ever had a moment of reconciliation that changed your life?
Come back tomorrow for ‘Journeys’–I’m no longer supplying a topic, so you can write on any spiritual journey that you are taking. Click on the tab above for more information. And lastly, I decided to try out this ‘NetworkedBlogs’ thing, so if you’d like click the ‘follow’ button on the right side of my blog. You’ll get an update to your Facebook account when I publish a new post. Have a great day!