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Dear Nanny Jo
Dear Nanny Jo,
When you passed away, I kept all of those feelings of death and loss bundle up inside, until I thought they would burst. Like a balloon filled with tears, or a volcano. When I heard you had finally lost your battle with lung cancer, my face went pale and my palms became clammy. I didn't have any words to say at that one moment in time.
When I went to see your body, laid out on the narrow, metal table, I stayed about ten feet away so I didn't have to feel the cold coming off of your skinny frame, or hear your chest not rise with a single breath like mine had risen all of my young life. Mom went up though, touching the table with one hand, with a tissue in the other. She was at a loss for words, losing her own mother. My brothers also stayed back, thinking it was too awkward to stare into the face of a dead woman. But I gathered my courage to go up and check on Mom.
Your face was ghostly pale, covered in a layer of makeup that some overseer had applied, bringing out the wrinkles of age on your face. One of the men who worked at the joint told Mom not to touch you, saying that a chemical had been put on your body. I don't remember what it was for. I looked at your head, seeing your hair. The gray, blackish hair that once a long time ago, had been out in a large afro of fox red on the top, brunette underneath. I would touch my own hair, feeling the eternal thickness that my friends had said, was "as thick as a lions mane and just as hard to work with".
When the funeral was to go under way, you had been burned to ashes in a cremation chamber that I knew had been used for other dead souls too. I couldn't stand the thought of you, beautiful Jo, being shoved into it and being burned to ashes in a boiling heat, almost like the embers from Hell. But you were now kept in gray urn, that was as smooth and slick as obsidian. You always liked to look flashy and new, even in the hospital. My father had also been invited, and although my Mom and Dad were divorced, he wanted to say his condolences as well.
The preacher talked about you Nanny, saying that you never told him about your condition. He said that you were always so full of spirit and life, he couldn't even notice you were ill and dying. You were always a fighter, a stand-up-er, someone to depend on to go even if something tough got in the way. I looked across the aisle, seeing my younger cousin, although only by seventeen days, in one of the front pews. She was bawling her eyes out, taking use into the box of tissues that had been placed in every row. I didn't have to use any. I hadn't started crying, yet.
When he showed the video, I could see so many pictures of you and me when I was younger. You would hold me, sit with me, talk with me, and you would let me climb up the stairs to the spare room, and sometimes I would sleep in that bed. The cat, Peter, would lay beside me, purring against my freezing skin. Your house was cold at night, but he always kept me warm and safe. Until he bolted at the sound of the dogs barking at a squirrel or something like that. I could smell the soil-tobacco-hickory scent that you seemed to always carry around when I hugged you. But I still hadn't cried.
Now, it's about three years later, and I sang at a talent show. I had learned a song, and it was beautiful. I knew you were probably hearing it, listening intently as if the angels themselves had broken out into a glorious song. My soprano opera ran across each seat, each face. Even causing a few to come to tears. I nearly came to that scenario myself, and even though I lost the competition, I was proud to have sung that melody just for you. I did cry in a bathroom stall though, holding toilet paper against my eyes so my mascara didn't run. But that's not the point. Don't ever think I didn't cry because I didn't love you, I just didn't cry because I was too proud or "tough". I love you Nanny Jo, and I miss you. And I hope you remember the song I sang just for you. Never forget.
"Spend all your time waiting.
For that second chance.
For the break that would make it okay.
There's always some reason, to feel not good enough.
And it's hard at the end of the day.
I need some distraction, oh beautiful release.
Memories seep through my veins.
And they may be empty, oh and weightless and maybe.
You'll find, some peace tonights."
"You're in the arms of the angels.
Fly away from here.
From this dark, cool hotel room.
And the endlessness that you fear.
You were pulled from the wreckage.
Of your silent, revere.
You're in the arms of the angels.
May you find, some comfort here."
Dedicated to Jo Sharon Thompson