By K. Trian
Last weekend I traveled 400 km to east to my grandma’s funeral, and that trip really got me thinking about death, like funerals often do.
Of course it was a terribly sad occasion, but what struck me almost odd was the warmth and joy amidst the people—despite the sadness of someone so dear passing away. It brought our enormous family together, the aunts and uncles, the cousins and second cousins, brothers and sisters, new and old spouses, even the pets! Suddenly I could see my grandma everywhere (though not in the pets); her smile on one grandchild’s face, her dainty hands on an aunt, her slanted eyes on my brother, her pale skin on myself. She wasn’t really dead, after all, was she? This was the first time I really understood what people mean when they say the deceased do live on even beyond their death.
Later my brother and I ventured to the ghost house of my grandparents, uninhabited for almost ten years at this point, and it looked almost exactly like when I was a kid. Yes, the pictures on the walls were dusty, the drapes had faded in the sun, and the smell was all wrong; musty, moldy. But other than that, it was just like stepping back in time, to the moments grandma baked pies and made soup, squirrels climbed behind the kitchen window, and the sturdy, chipped, long table groaned with stew, veggies, and home-made berry juice.
It feels almost like your childhood falls apart and fades away with that house. It’s buried in the past like that house will be someday, grass growing over it like it already does over the dog house and the stables (grandma hadn’t kept animals for the past 20 years at least). You look at that picture on the wall and realize that many of the people have already passed away. They still beam at you from behind the dusty glass, and you can vaguely remember their voices, the clothes they wore, the way they felt and smelled like when they grabbed you off the floor into a bear hug, but with every passing day those memories too fade. That’s when they truly die, decades after their bodies have been buried, and that’s also what I already dread when it comes to my grandma: those familiar smiles, hands, and eyes will also disappear if they are not passed onto our children and grandchildren, and even that’s no guarantee to keep her around.
The reason why I find myself missing her so much, why I feel particularly sad about this, is that I never really got to know my grandma, and now it’s too late. Yes, I can learn about her through others, but my own chest of memories with her is now closed and locked, nothing more to add in there. Considering that she lived almost a hundred years, that chest should be fuller.
Now rest in peace, Helmi (her name means ‘pearl’), you led a hard but long life, and I’m happy I got to know you what little I did. Please feel free to come and haunt me, I still have things to say and questions to ask!