When my grandfather’s heart stopped this past spring, he used his one last moment of decision to kiss my grandmother goodbye. In a church full of black, she wore her favourite deep red skirt suit to his funeral. She curled her hair, coordinated her makeup, and stood tall and graceful in a scene of unimaginable bravery. Theirs was one of the true great love stories, sustained over half a century by affection, faith, courage, and generosity. There would be space and time for grief, but my grandmother chose that day to celebrate the life and love of her extraordinary man.
What came as a shock to us all, especially to my strong, beautiful grandmother, was that there would be only five short months of space and time before she too would pass – the very day before what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary. Neither would have to spend an anniversary alone. My own extraordinary man and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this August. I’ll always be grateful to my grandparents for offering their unconditional love and support when we got married just 5 short months after meeting.
I wouldn’t tell anyone what I was planning for my part of my grandmother’s eulogy, only that I was bringing a prop. I knew was already taking a risk with my leopard print leggings, but since she’d once showed me a snakeskin print tunic/pants outfit from the back of her closet, I figured I was in good company. When it was my turn to speak, I took a step to one side of the pulpit and up at the front of the church, in full view of friends, family, two Reverends, and the entire congregation, I carefully applied a good thick gloss of bright red lipstick.
Appropriate? Sure! We all laughed, and then of course, I completely fell apart describing how my grandmother always used glamour, not as a mask, but as a celebration of the way she saw the world – and her family – full of promise and wonder, and worthy of the very best she could bring to the table.
In a literal sense, what a table! Using the delicious and ingenious strategy of cooking healthy dishes (like their famous peas and mushrooms) they teamed up to keep their love story alive and well far past its genetic due date – telomeres be darned! This Thanksgiving weekend was the family’s first without our dear Matriarch and Patriarch. While the gift of the Quebec cottage they built with their own hands will stay with the family (thank heavens!), their Ontrio home, with all its comforting smells, sounds, collections, and textures, is being dismantled for sale. And individual objects, once separated from their context, begin to lose their meaning.
I am a woman who lives through her senses (through rarely common-sense), and this Thanksgiving I gave thanks to my grandparents the best way I knew how. I made their magical peas and mushrooms (my version above). My kitchen was filled with the smells and tastes of tradition. I added some sauteed onions for some next generation flair, and melted in enough butter to have horrified my grandmother. But time stopped for those few hours, and the unfathomable concept of loss was made tangible. Grief took a physical form, as it had with my lipstick, but in doing so became a celebration.
This morning, my man slept through 5 snooze alarms and by 6:30am I was ranting at him for risking being massively late for a 7:30am dentist appointment. Seeing his pensive face (because who likes going to the dentist anyway), I caught myself. To lighten the mood, I threw a sock at his head from the 3 day old pile of unfolded laundry on our bed. He whipped it back and it got me right in the neck! But when the mock battle subsided, I lifted my face to his, closed my eyes, and waited for our sacred ritual – because you never know how much time you have. Gone was the warrior with impeccable aim, here was a husband, giving his wife a kiss goodbye.