Last Saturday night, nine days before her 90th birthday, my grandmother passed away. Because she had been failing for four months, we should have been prepared for the news, but when the call finally came, we were one sad family.
My husband spent five years in the funeral industry, noticing that the trend is away from traditional "funeral" services and toward "celebration of life" ceremonies. On one hand, I can see the logic in and appeal of the celebration concept. We miss our lost loved one. We want to remember the happy moments, that person's contributions to our lives, how life was when they were alive.
I think of my Mimi and want to remember the good times, how she served me hot dogs stuffed with relish and topped with a triangle of melted cheese, all on a china plate. I want to remember the countless hours she spent with me, usually on the long car trip from Washington to Colorado, teaching me to crochet. I want to remember her house in Gunnison, Colo., where we fished, played in her sandbox digging for shells she brought back from Mexico, and threw rocks in the Dos Rio river that ran alongside her property. I want to remember her showing me the castle they used to own, the picnics in the mountains, the clothes she sewed me, the industrious model she provided for me, how she taught me to make do with almost nothing, and the hundreds of backgammon games we played in which I learned, at long last, what the best move for a five and a two is.
The fact is, death is a ripping of the body from the soul. It is the consequence of sin and, as such, something worthy of more than just a recollection of happy moments. Yes, there is a place for reminiscing, for the sharing of memories, for remembering. But we would be remiss if we ignored the reality of death, that no matter how "peaceful" she died or how nice it was that her great-grandchildren got to see her one last time or that her daughters were by her side when she breathed her last, death stinks.
As Christians we know that because of Christ, death has lost both its sting and its victory. We grieve, not as those without hope, but as those who know that separation from our loved one is temporary. But I think that in our rush to get away from the pain and sorrow (and let's face it, the depressing prospect) of death, we need not close our eyes to its curse, even while looking ahead to heavenly reunions. Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh, and we would be remiss to switch that order.
All this to say, I miss my Mimi. Life won't be the same without her. I will never again have her soft cheek against mine, whispering, "I love you, honey." But this I know, that although weeping may endure for the night, joy cometh in the morning.