The Funeral Singer

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When it comes to tragic events in life, we all think that we are invincible. In our minds, we think, “Of course, something that horrible and devastating can’t happen to me.” It’s impossible, we tell ourselves. But when reality steps into our path and slaps us across the face, sometimes it is hard to come to the realization that our lives aren’t as perfect as we hoped they would be. For me, this realization came when someone who played an extremely important role in my life, my grandmother, Jacqueline, died from cancer. That was the moment I realized that I was not a child anymore. And that was the moment I knew that my life would never be the same happy, carefree journey as it was before.

As a young girl, I found so much joy and excitement in going over to my grandma’s house. Up until I was about six years old, she lived in Glenview, in a quaint little suburban home. Even though Glenview was about half an hour away from where I lived-- which was far away in my opinion-- I would always be excited to visit my grandma and grandpa and the many neighborhood felines who would always play around their house. She would always welcome me with open arms, not to mention an open kitchen, where she would always cook for my brother and me. I guess that was the French side of her.

Besides cooking, my grandma had another hobby, which was very interesting and far more unique-- ornament making. Whenever the Christmas season rolled around, I would always pride myself in helping my grandma make beautifully crafted ornaments with pins, needles, and beads of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. After we finished making some, we would give them out as gifts to our family and friends, who would always compliment our work and tell us how talented we were. I was especially proud when I saw these ornaments hanging on our own Christmas tree, and even now when we decorate our tree with them, I remember that time spent with my grandma.

When my grandma and grandpa moved to San Francisco, it was hard for me to see them on a daily basis, as I was used to when they lived in Glenview. When I was about eight years old, my cousin and I took an airplane all the way from Chicago to California, which was a long trip for us at the time. I had missed my grandmother so much, and just seeing and being with her made me happy, like I would stay in that moment forever. We traveled all around San Francisco, and even took a car ride down the Pacific coast to sightsee. She showed me around, and I saw some interesting things like the steepest road in California, which we drove down, and also another steep road with a very curvy, winding path. This road, which looked like a snake slithering down a hill, had houses on each side of it, all looking as if they were lopsided because of the steep incline. When it was time for me to go back home, I was heartbroken, but I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I saw her completely healthy.

Sometimes when I think about my grandma’s sickness, it overrides all of the good things about her life. I tend to make a bigger deal out of the bad things than the good. But when I think about my grandmother’s life, aside from her death, it was a happy and content one. She was such a beautiful lady, as French women usually are. A naturally glamorous woman, she was cultured, refined, and extremely sophisticated, which made me want to grow up to be like her even more. I don’t know what it was, but there was just something so special about her that drew people in; she had a comfortable aura around her, not to mention a distinguished sense of fashion that would later be an interest of mine. She had so many close friends, and whenever I could, I tagged along with her to spend time with them as well. It was as if I had many grandmothers, not just one. “You all remember my beautiful little granddaughter, don’t you?” She would always say. And every time she said that, I beamed. She was almost too good to be true.

My grandmother had had cancer ten years before, but she had recovered from it. Now, she was having a relapse, and her condition was worse than ever before. I had no idea what was happening until much later on, but when I found out, I was crushed. As her condition worsened, and she became weaker and weaker, she finally moved to a small apartment in Iowa that was close to my uncle, who is a doctor specializing in cancer patients. As the next few years went on, the realization that my grandma could not be helped was becoming clearer, but I tried to imagine that it was all a dream.

I finally realized that this “dream” was truly a nightmare. My dad, my uncle, my cousins and I visited my grandma on her deathbed for the last time. She did not look like the energetic, funny, beautiful grandmother that I knew. She was lying in bed, very still for the most part. She could not speak full words-- only different sounds came out of her mouth. It was as if I was looking at a stranger. Oddly enough, my uncle and cousins seemed to be more calm and collected than my dad and me. I had to run into the bathroom literally every minute to grab a tissue to blow my nose and wipe away my tears. My dad asked me to sing a song for her before she died. I chose to sing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, because I knew that even when she died, I would carry her with me in my heart forever. I tried to sing the song as best as I could, but it was so hard for me to get through the song with my eyes soaked from crying, tears running down my face and making an effort not to go into a hysteric breakdown. After finishing the song and staying with her a little while longer, I said goodbye to her for the last time. After this, I would never see my grandmother again.

Ironically, the day of my grandma’s funeral was a beautiful, sunny day. Even now, I think that she made it that way from up in heaven to make sure that we knew she was looking over us, wanting us to be happy she was in a better place. When I walked into the church, I was shocked at how many people were there. There were people from my family, people from work, people who were friends of the family, people who I did not know personally, but who had some acquaintance with my grandma. These people, I realized, were there because they wanted to be there, not because they felt like they had to be there. In the middle of the service, all speaking and music stopped, and I knew that this was my time to go up to the microphone and show everyone how I truly felt. My dad squeezed my hand and assured me that I would do great. When I got up to the microphone, beautifully chilling music began to play. I started to sing the words of the song that I had practiced so many times at home, the words that painted a picture of my grandmother being lifted up by the wings of angels. I put all the feeling and emotion that I felt those past few weeks into the song. When it was over, the whole church applauded me. I felt so proud. Proud of myself, the strength of my family, and especially of my grandmother, who I knew was right there with all of us in the church that day, crying and smiling at her ten year old granddaughter who had just sang her little heart out.

To this day, my grandmother’s death still affects me. It does not affect me so much as before, but every once in a while I will think of my grandmother. I wish that she was still here so she could see me now and see how much I’ve grown, but I know that wherever she is, she is watching over my family and me, cheering me on, guiding me through life, and doing the most important job of all-- being my guardian angel.





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