It was such a dreary morning that day so many years ago. The February afternoon sun was hidden behind dark, gray clouds and the wind was bitter cold that chilled me to my very bones. I remember wrapping my winter jacket around my tiny frame and biting back the acidic tears that stung my dry, blood shot eyes. Despite the fact that my nose was red, my toes numb, and my fingers were feeling frostbitten, I barely noticed the disagreeable weather. I was emotionally numb as I gazed dumbfounded at the unfamiliar faces all drawn into frowns. My family and cousins were among those faces. Everyone wore the same expression: Death.
I watched as my military cousin, Jed, gave a folded American flag to a broken-down elderly woman, my dear Granni. How old she looked right then. No longer did she resemble the older woman who was truly teenaged at heart. Oh, Granni used to be so alive and vibrant! She and Gramps were always the party of our side of the family. They were always laughing and joking around with each other. Age couldn't drag them down. Who had time to old and boring when there was so much life to be embraced?
Oh, Granni and Gramps were so happy. All throughout their many years of marriage no argument came close to causing and rift between the two. They raised three healthy children, all of whom became very successful. Their youngest son became a well-respected mechanic right as he received a job transfer to Las Vegas, MFEMFE to work on Nellis Air Force Base as the main mechanic. He had a lovely wife, and together they had three beautiful daughters. The eldest had talents well-rounded in the performing and fine arts. She played piano all her childhood and teenage years expertly. She quickly picked up the flute and performed with her high school marching band for three years before she was unable due to unfriendly circumstances her senior year. The middle daughter was also blessed with the talent of music. She picked up the guitar early in life and excelled throughout her middle and high school days. The youngest daughter was bright and keen. She had a kind heart and compassionate spirit; she was the peacemaker of the girls. They were beautiful granddaughters.
Jed leaned close to Granni and whispered how honorable Gramps had been during his life. He had fought during the Korean War, honoring his family and his country. Gramps was such a wonderful man. He was the perfect grandfather and friend. Whenever I was having a hard day, he'd always be there to wrap me in his protective arms and fill my mind with wonders as he'd recall childhood experiences of his life. He would always reminisce during family campouts up at Sourdough in the mountains surrounding Utah. Campouts were always a blessed escape from the cruel reality. He taught me how to fish and I caught two fish that afternoon! I even had to gut the fish. I had a fat, ugly, green worm in the throat of my Rainbow Trout. I took the bones and guts out. It tasted delicious that nippy night. But no longer will we go to Sourdough. No longer will I hear his calming voice. No longer will I feel his gentle, warm arms around me. I'll no longer get to hear him call me "sweetheart" in his special way. I'll never see him again. And Granni will no longer be happy again.
Granni rocked back and forth as her sobs grew more hysterical and wild. Uncle Lamoine wrapped his arms around her and let her cry into his chest, his own tears mixing with hers as Jed marched back beside the black coffin decorated with beautiful flower arrangements. The funeral ended and everyone left their seats to console the broken lady with beautiful memories of how things were and what a wonderful man Gramps had been. I just sat in my seat four rows behind her in numbness. I was blank. The black coffin glared at me from up where she was. Even the floral arrangements seemed to mock the situation. Oh, the flowers were beautiful and vain though. The crimson red roses, the spotless white roses, the consoling white daisies … they were beautiful. I had always liked flowers. My room was decorated in pale lilac with white daises as a thin border. I had my own bouquet of flowers that sat as a centerpiece for my dresser. Oh, how I adore roses. Especially the crimson and black ones. So poetic I've always viewed them as. So beautiful and admonishing … almost as if it were from another planet altogether. A lamentable planet where Death prevailed always and ruled over its minions. Black roses…the icy kiss of Death….Gramps.
Oh, Gramps….why did you have to die? Why did you have to get cancer in your pancreas? What does a pancreas do, anyway? Why did it make you so sick? Why did it spoil the wonderful time we were all having that summer up at Sourdough? Why did it upset your digestive system? Why did you lose so much weight? Why did your skin turn a sickly yellow tint only a month after? Why was it too late to operate the cancer out? How did it spread to the lobes of your delicate lungs? Why did you have to die?! I miss you so much, dear Gramps. I miss hearing you call me your pet name of "sweetheart." I miss the Christmases at your house. I miss sitting around the fireplace, snuggling with you under a flannel quilt. I miss everything. I miss the parties you and Granni would throw. I miss gathering around at Thanksgiving for the mouth-watering feast and the pleasure of having our loved ones so close to us. I miss you, Gramps!!
I remember standing at the coffin side, my Uncle Sean from my mother's side of the family gazing at me in sympathy. His eyes held so much concern, so much sorrow. He looked so miserable at the helplessness of the situation. He, too, looked so old. The shine had left his clear blue eyes, leaving his normally beautiful eyes hard and dead. He reflected the attitude of the flowers. He reflected how I was so dead inside as I gazed in numbness at that horrible coffin. The wind tangled my hair in every direction and chilled my insides. My fingers were a pale purple and all feeling from my knees down had been lost. My nose was deepening to a fine crimson color and tears strained my exhausted and sore eyes. I just stared at the sealed lid. I just stared at the cruel flowers. I stared. I barely heard myself as my lips uttered those hollow words that still haunt me these many years later. Those words, which made me into the young poet and novelist I am. Those words, which gave me another area of fine arts that Granni was so proud of before Gramps passed away. Those horrible, horrible words. The tears flowed freely then. I didn't even bother to raise my hand and wipe them away. They just streamed from my red eyes and down my frozen cheeks, finally dripping to the dead, frozen earth. They froze instantly, marking the spot where the one who so greatly lifted the family up would lie after the viewing the following morning. Those icy words…those horrible, horrible words.
"God, be with you until we meet again. I love you, Gramps."