Is Memaw with Elvis in heaven?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Saturday, the girls’ grandmother lost her nearly two-year battle with cancer.

While a sad event, it was – in many ways – a blessing. The last several months had been truly awful. The watching, waiting and wondering if today was the day is a hard process for anyone to go through.

Earlier, we’d had a workday at the new house, with my family helping me remove two ugly trees that were pushing out my retainer wall (Why on earth would someone plant a Catawba tree next to a block wall, I’ll never know). The afternoon ended with ballgame and a chili supper – and all three of my children announcing they were going to spend the night with Nana.

So, at 10 p.m. that night, I found myself driving out to Red Oak to pick them up so that they could say their “goodbye” before the funeral home came. The oldest took it (and is still taking it) very hard. But the younger two, as one would imagine, had a few questions. A long, long while ago, the girls and I had a candid conversation about death.

Then, they wanted to know what happens to you when you die, and then, I answered the questions the best I knew how.

On the ride home, I tried to comfort them the best I could. I explained what would happen next, what they would see when they got to the house and what would happen in the coming days.

The decision had already been made for their grandmother to be cremated, but I made the mistake of saying that next, there would be a funeral, and she’d be buried at the cemetery.

“So, we got to get the shovels and dig a hole?” the middle one asked, nearly causing me to hit the ditch. If you’ll recall, she’s also the child who asked me if worms eat you when you die, so I was very, very wary of explaining the process of cremation to her.

“Well, not us, really,” I said. “There’s other people who do that because that’s their job.”

“Will she be in a box?” she asked.

“Normally, people are put in box, but it’s called a casket,” I said. “Not Memaw, though. She’s going to be put in a pretty jar thing. You know, because Memaw liked pretty things.”

She mulled on that a bit before saying, “Do we get lunch after?”

And that made me smile. Not because it was funny – because it was – but because it was a perfect illustration of how, after death, life goes on. We all must continue to live, to take care of our basic needs – food, drink, shelter. Life doesn’t stop going on because someone dies.

I’d like to think that if their grandmother were listening (if she wasn’t too busy meeting Elvis, because that’s was the youngest girl said would be the first thing on Memaw’s Heavenly to-do list), she’d smile, too, knowing they’ll be OK.