An Old Safeway Bag

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Kerplunk. I watched in horror as I saw the crinkled plastic Safeway bag containing my great grandmother's ashes turned upside down. They tumbled down towards the still, murky water and hit the surface in a solid mass. Kerplunk.

When I think of my great grandmother I always think of pixie dust. I have no clue why. As I remember her she was a sweet, gentle, old woman who kept cookies in the freezer and had a small glass of red wine before going to bed at night. She was another gift under the tree on cheerful Christmas mornings and another cute card on my birthday. But as I sat in the living room trying to focus on "Kath and Kim", I could only see my mother's eyes brim with tears, and I realized how special she must have been.

The night my mom received the phone call, our family had been watching "Kath and Kim", a new TV show I had persuaded them to watch. After my mother settled back on the sofa no one talked, no one laughed at the preposterous show, no one was even really watching; we just sat numbly silent. My mother was especially bereaved. My great grandmother had been like a mom to her. It was my great grandmother who shaped who she is today and influenced her more than almost anyone. She loved and supported her, in a way that her own mother had failed to do.

The day we gathered, for what would become the ash-dumping, it was gray and cloudy. There was a strong wind that went right through my thin dress and cardigan, leaving me covered with goosebumps. All the faces were foreign to me besides my Auntie Billie, who offered me a bear hug and a smile. Aunt Sumi was dressed in a pink Hawaiian-style floral shirt with a matching hot pink skirt. Her outfit stuck out from the dull surroundings, bringing the humor in the situation to a more prevalent place. We gathered in a small circle and I was handed a light pink carnation, all that I had left of my great grandma to hold on to. Slowly we made our way out onto the rickety dock. Aunt Sumi carried a plastic bag, and then proceeded to lower it to the floor of the dock, and dump the ashes off the side and into the water. Once I heard the ashes hit the murky water, tears started streaming down my face, leaving wet lines showing that they had been there. I looked over at my mom and immediately realize she felt the same way I did. How could a life so long, so beautiful end in an old Safeway bag? Ten people on a rickety boardwalk. 94 years celebrated in less than half an hour on a chilly, late fall day. My astonishment quickly turned to sadness as I looked down below at the dirty lake water. I could see the gray-white clouds sit on the surface and slowly begin to sink down towards the bottom as the too-bright carnations cheerfully bobbed on the top of the water. Maybe the carnations were a better representation of what remained of my great great grandmother, the happy memories she had left behind with the people she held most dear to her.

As I sit now in my warm, comfy bed, staring at my flowered duvet, and eating quickly melting lime sherbet I wish I had known Great Grandma, really known her. What kind of shenanigans she had gotten into in her teens, how she met her husband, what her dreams and ambitions for her life had been, and if she had met them, if she had been truly happy with the way she had lived and was satisfied with it's ending. I wish that I, like my mother, had a strong connection with her. But this opportunity is long gone, so she is forever preserved in my mind as a caring old soul, who meant a lot to my mom, and finished her life in a plastic Safeway bag.





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