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I’m awake before dawn, trying to get this article zipped up and submitted so I can focus on the tasks before me.
I’m thankful for the greeting of a crisp, clear, autumn morning, for this is the day we will bury my grandmother.
I was blessed to have been born with eight living grandparents. Over the years, I have watched as one by one they went on to their eternal reward.
This particular grandmother lived to the age of 90, surviving three of her 10 children, including my mother. She had 18 grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren. Her legacy is far-reaching, and her funeral will be a celebration of her life.
Last night we attended the viewing, which I kind of expected to be staid and stuffy like most. But there is nothing about my Pickel side of the family that could be described with either of those words.
We are far from staid or stuffy, and that doesn’t change just because we throw in a dead body and a small funeral home.
The absence of a receiving line made it quick and easy to get to the casket and say my farewells.
My 5-year-old daughter was barely able to peer over the edge, so I asked, “Do you want me to pick you up so you can see Grandma better?”
“Um, no mom,” she replied, “I’m really tall.” And she ran off to play outdoors with her 45 second-cousins.
I made my way through the rooms, hugging the aunts, uncles, cousins and distant relatives whose faces I only recognize from Facebook. Speaking of which, my family is so casual that I was actually on Facebook when I discovered my grandmother had passed away.
I was at the airport Sunday afternoon, picking hubby up from his latest business trip. I went to pull the car around and decided to pop onto Facebook while walking through the parking garage. My sister had posted, “RIP Grandma Pickel!”
I immediately called my dad. I was certain he didn’t know or he would have called me. This man seems to enjoy being the bearer of bad news.
He will call me at all hours to say things like, “Do you remember John Doe who was the substitute mail carrier for a week when we lived in Pittsboro?”
“Dad, I was 4. I don’t remember him.”
“Oh, you have to remember him. He drove that ’63 Dodge with the turquoise pin stripes.”
“No, Dad, I don’t remember.”
“Well, anyway, he died about 30 minutes ago.”
So, dad answers the phone and I ask, “Have you heard about Grandma?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “I’ve been at her house since about 7:30 this morning. I was here when they came to pick up her body.”
“Um, did it ever occur to you to call me?”
“Oh, I thought your cousins were going to call you.”
Of course my cousins all feel terrible that I discovered Grandma’s death while surfing Facebook. At the funeral home last night, they were apologizing all over the place.
Really, though, I don’t mind.
It just gives me one more chapter to add to the tell-all book I will write some day about my nutty family.
Well, the sun is up and I need to go make enough cheese potatoes to serve 80 people. Another little quirky aspect of my family life is that the funeral dinner is a pitch-in.
This is what happens when you don’t attend a church or any social clubs. Your family has to make their own funeral dinner.
The obituary did list Grandma as a member of a particular church, but I’m guessing their parishioners were just as surprised as I was to read that in the paper.
Grandma was funny and strong and fiercely independent. She always wore a baseball cap. Everywhere. Even to our weddings. I hardly recognized her in the casket, with all that make-up and her hair so nicely curled.
In memory of her, my female cousins and I will be wearing caps at the cemetery. She left us with a heritage of strength and loyalty. And today, 77 of her direct descendants will honor her for 90 years of a life well-lived. I love you, Grandma.