Fragile light filtered through the stain glass windows. Oh the stories those windows told… or, more accurately, the stories Granny Agnes spun about the scenes in those windows. I stared at them remembering her energetic voice as she whipped up a new tale every time. Never did one window have the same story twice. She was brimming with imagination. That was one of my favorite things about her. Another tear slid down my already damp face and the windows became watery reflections on a past too soon left behind.
I tugged at the sleeve of my black dress down to cover my hands. It was new and quite pretty. Granny would have said “look you’ve got legs!” as the hem brushed against my thighs and showed off my slender legs. More tears spattered my lap and my hands fidgeting there. Shuffling footsteps and quiet conversation echoed off the rafters, the squeak of the pews eerie in the usually lively little church. A particularly loud groan to my right followed by a familiar warmth informed me of company. I didn’t want company.
I didn’t respond, instead opting for silent tears.
Still I didn’t respond just picked at my nails and pulled on my sleeves, a knot forming in my throat.
“Yeah that’s a stupid question.” A few moments of quiet stretched between us as the rift in my heart grew. “Hey,” he said more softly, placing one large hand over mine, effectively stopping my fidgeting. A strangled sob tore from my throat without my permission. And then he was gently pulling me into his lap tucking my head under his chin. We sat there under a somber blanket, him holding on without a word while I sobbed and wept, clutching to him as someone drowning does to a life preserver.
“She’s…” I sputtered.
“I know,” he whispered.
“Why?” I wailed. He had no reply. We all new why. Cancer. It was a long time coming. We were lucky we had so much time with her. But even so. Why did God have to take her from us – from me. I wasn’t ready. But honestly who is ever ready.
He sat there cradling me in his lap for the whole service, as the priest spoke of heaven and a better place, as mom spoke of her life and energy, as friends and family joined in to sing Granny’s favorite worship song, an upbeat version of Joy to the World. I managed to get through the first couple lines of the song before my throat closed up too much sing with everyone else. And as the song started to come to a close I swore I could hear Granny singing with everyone. I peered between the swaying bodies around me to the front, where her coffin lay, and there perched atop it was Granny – one leg crossed over the other, in a beautiful white summer dress, belting out the words like she always did. I scrambled out of Caleb’s lap. She looked so full of life and vigor. As the song ended she made eye contact with me and whispered words only for my ears before dissipating like mist in the sunshine.
Be brave, my little warrior. It's all going to be just fine.