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Relatives and friends were seated, all around me, telling each other memories of my beloved great grandmother, whom I called “Grammy”. Most of the women were crying and holding onto each other, wiping big tears from their faces on the cheap funeral tissues.
My pap was trying to look strong for these people. He politely whispered a trembling “thank you” to the small swarm of friends and relatives surrounding him, giving him their condolences. While wringing his hands forlornly and running his fingers over his smooth, liver-spotted head, he tried, without much success, to not look lost without his wife.
I watched as some people left their seats to go slowly, almost reluctantly, to Grammy’s casket. My eyes flicked over to Pappy Bud again, who was staring longingly at the decorated casket, as if he could bring back his wife, merely by staring.
I left my seat and walked over to him, ignoring the sobs of the people who were once close to Grammy, and I stood close enough to Pappy Bud that we were touching. We stood in silence as our eyes swept over the gloomy funeral home. Although there were big windows letting in light, and everything was white and flowery, the atmosphere was as though there were a dreary film over everything. There were mostly older people there, except for the younger family members.
Almost everyone was wearing black. A few elderly ladies had big black hats on, blocking the view of the people behind them, and also serving as a cloak for their tear streaked faces.
Pappy Bud looked down at me and reluctantly smiled, “Do you want to see Grammy?” I could only nod. He gently took my hand and led me over to see her laying in her red velvet casket, dressed in a bright green pantsuit with six giant colorful fluff balls serving as buttons down the front of her top, and white ballet flats, an eccentric outfit that she had chosen herself.
I stared at the white cloud that served as her hair, remembering when the cancer made her hair fall out, and she made a wig out of it, just a couple months before her passing.
Being only six years old, I was afraid of her bald head. I remembered the last time I saw her, when she took off her wig and wanted me to touch the odd, vacant space. She knew I was afraid, but she wanted me to see that there was nothing to be afraid of. I refused to touch it, and she replaced her homemade wig on her head with a knowing smile.
I continued to stare at her paper like skin, her hands that were clasped over her skinny stomach, and her bright green pantsuit. I slowly drew my eyes over her entire body, willing her to move. When my eyes reached her face, I looked up to Pappy Bud, “Are her lips glued together?”
Without looking away from his wife, he asked “Why would you think that, Andria?”
“Well….” I said sheepishly. “My friend told me that dead people’s lips have to be glued together or else something bad will happen.” I nodded toward Grammy’s face, “And look, don’t they look glued?”
“I guess they do look that way, but do you really think something bad is going to happen?” He cocked his head to the side and looked down at me.
“Nope,” I shrugged my shoulders and reached for Pappy Bud’s hand as I thought of what happened the night Grammy died.
I had woken up sometime during the night, but I was too tired to open my eyes. I layed in bed for a few minutes before I got the feeling that someone was watching me. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but it made me uncomfortable, the thought of someone staring at your back while you sleep.
I rolled over, without opening my eyes, and I pulled my bright pink blanket up to my chin. And then I smelled it, the smell of lavender, flour and playdoe. Exactly what Grammy used to smell like whenever I would visit her.
I opened my eyes, just a crack, and I saw her. She was standing right next to my bed, her tall wiry frame smiling down at me. I didn’t say anything to her; I just stared, my tired mind wondering what she was doing there, and why no one had woken me to say that she came to visit. I was also wondering if it was my imagination, and if I should say something.
Before I could come to a decision, Grammy leaned over me and kissed me on the cheek, lingering for just a second. I watched as she turned and slowly walked out of my open door, fading as she walked.
I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t really understand what happened. I pushed it out of my mind and drifted to sleep a while after.
I woke up the next morning to my mother lightly shaking me, crying. She explained to me that Grammy wouldn’t be around anymore. Although I understood I wouldn’t be able to see her again, I wasn’t sad. What happened the night before had reassured me that everything would be okay.
I decided I would keep what happened to myself for a while, because I knew no one would believe me. Or they’d say it was just my six-year-old imagination at work. But I knew that I saw Grammy, and as I looked at her lying in her casket, I knew nothing bad would happen.