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I walked about the funeral, admiring the purple lavender flowers that had been put up. Yes, Gran would have liked it. The deep cherry wood that covered the walls and floors added an authentic look to the depressing atmosphere of the memorial service. Again, the though that this was actually a funeral –my grandmother’s funeral– hit me like a blow to the chest. The woman that had taught me everything there was to know about life, from growing up into an adult to making the right decisions to being a man, was gone.
My gut clenched as I walked up to the casket, unsure if I would be able to even make it within five feet of the wooden tomb that held the body of my most beloved relative. Dad had died of cancer when I was seven, and unable to cope with the loss along with mentally unstable my mother had run away, leaving me on the doorstep of her mother in law’s house.
Gran had done her best to raise me properly, and I feel she did a great job in doing so. But never had I realized how much of her life she had committed to make mine work, and how much I truly needed her, until she was gone. The only comfort I could take out of her absence was that she was in a better place now with the good Lord.
I turned to the voice that had come from an old family friend. Rick’s tone was comforting and I could feel the pity seeping off of him. Trying to be friendly, I made an effort to smile reassuringly but to no avail the corners of my mouth would not turn up.
Rick pursed his lips, “I know this isn’t easy for you, to lost someone like Lila,” The way he said my Gran’s name tore at my heart. “And of course it’s hard on all of us. She was a great woman. Respected and well loved. No one will forget her.”
I nodded at this statement, unable to really speak.
He cleared his throat, “I don’t know if you’ve already spoken with Lila’s lawyer or not but she had left all that she had to you. But she wanted me to personally hand deliver this to you.”
I looked at the brown package and ran my hands lightly over my words written on my grandmother’s elegant script, To Timothy Watson. Love, Gran.
I took in a deep, shaky breath, holding back tears and then cleared my throat. “Thanks Rick… Gran will be missed.”
“Yes, she will,” his voice melancholy. “Yes, she will.”
He left without another word, and I watched as his body disappeared from sight. His old, broad shoulders faded out of sigh as he walked through the hall amongst the crowds of mourning people that would never again see Lila Ann Watson.
My gaze drew down to the package that now lies in my hands. With trembling fingers I open the plain brown wrapping paper to find a box. In the box was a photograph of Gran and I fishing at the lake. At the bottom of the box , carefully tucked away, was a letter. My heart jumped as I recognized Gran’s handwriting.
If you’re reading this, then I must have completed my journey of life and have finally joined the good Lord and His Son. Yes, I knew I was dying but that’s just basic knowledge. With every passing day my death came closer and closer. The moment you’re born you’re destined for it. I was only sixteen when I had your father. I was rash, young, and in love, or so I thought. I missed out, Tim. I missed out on some parts of life, because I had a baby at too early an age. I was old enough to know to have a kid was a big responsibility, but too young to really know what I was doing. By the time your father was in his twenty’s I was only in my late thirties. I started spending a lot of my time thinking about life and death. In my thirties and I was already thinking about my personal eternity, where I would go, and what would happen.
As I write this I gaze out the window, watching the autumn leaves hit the ground in a soft pallet of colors. As they reach their soft destination on the soft dirt floor, I realize something. Our lives have much in common with the leaves, always falling, falling and it seems like forever. Every tumble of that fall is another memory, another tear, another smile of your life. The rides exhilarating but once you finally reach the bottom; it comes to mind that the most exhilarating part isn’t the ride. It’s the end. You leave. You leave behind your loved ones, but not the memories you made with them.
My eyes wet, I read the rest of the letter.
Remember that time we went fishing at the lake? One of the best memories of one of the best days of my life. All because of a grandson who loved me. Not for one moment have I regretted taking you in and raising you up. Because of you… I didn’t care about when the end came. Live every moment as if it were the moment. Take every breath in as if it were your last breath. Life’s too important and time’s too precious to waste. I love you Timmy. Don’t hold back the tears, otherwise they’ll boil up inside and rage out of you like a river. Let the rapids go peacefully and don’t look at my death as the end, but instead, as a new beginning. The beginning of your new life. This is your life.
Don’t think of me as gone either. I’m still with you, I your heart.
A sob ripped from my chest, the tears welling up in my eyes. My chest heaved as one cry of agony tore from within me, one after the other. I looked at the picture of that day at the lake. I see myself with a wide grin split across my face, and Gran, holding the fish and smiling so brightly I can just all but feel her warmth wash over me. I smiled at the memory, tears sliding down my face as I looked up at the ceiling, imagining a large blue sky and Gran’s comforting arms.
“You’re always with me,” I whispered. “Always with me.”