On Sunday, my grandfather passed away. Buster was a big man most of my life. He had coal black skin and long hair. He wore cowboy boots and a big cowboy hat. On summer afternoons he would load me, my siblings and cousins in the back of his customized pick up truck and take us to Krystal for hamburgers in the parking lot. He pinched our cheeks, laughed giant belly laughs and loved Jerry Springer. But on Sunday, he passed away as a result of complications from cancer.
My grandmother and aunt, together with his family, began making funeral arrangements, and then unexpectedly my grandmother had a massive heart attack and died early on Tuesday morning. She was standing at the stove in her home making an early morning breakfast and then she was gone. We were all so stunned.
My mom and I packed up the kids and got on the road early on Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday were full of people who were calling or stopping by to offer condolences – but many of them were stopping in to check on my grandmother. When they heard the news about her they were stunned and our family bore the full brunt of their shocked reactions. Seventy-year-old men crumbled into heaps of tears on her sofa. Large bodies and slight frail ones rocked with sobs in her chairs. Some could hardly speak and some had many words. Some just repeated – no, no, no.
I think it will still take me a while to recover. I know that in many ways I haven’t yet begun to grieve their passing. I am still adjusting to the shock of their absence in the house that was so much a part of my youth. And I’m still working through my own feelings about those friends and family members that reacted so powerfully to the news.
In the end, I know that it won’t be this past week that I remember – although it’s made a powerful impression on me. It will be the way that Buster looked in that white suit and string tie, my grandmother’s infectious giggle and the way she referred to herself in the third person ("Grand-mama loves you"), and the steadfastness with which they loved each other and each of us.