A few days before Thanksgiving in 1968, my mom’s father passed away from his third heart attack. My mom was 14, and her parents had just celebrated their 25th Wedding anniversary. That Christmas Eve, my Nanny fell and broke a bone (I think her arm, but I can’t remember for sure). She went to the hospital, and met with the Orthopedic Surgeon who had just joined the local practice. Nanny told the story many times: how the other doctors wanted to keep her overnight. That she spoke to the new doctor and told him that she had to be home on Christmas morning. That it was her kid’s first Christmas without their father, and that they needed to be together. The new doctor mended her and sent her home that night, so she could spend Christmas with her children.
A little less than 14 years later, that orthopedic surgeon’s son married her daughter. Although my Pop Pop doesn’t remember treating Nanny, there is no doubt in my mind that he treated her with the respect and kindness that she so often re-told.
When my Nanny died, I arrived at Mema and Pop Pop’s house the day before the wake. I talked to my Pop Pop for some time. Without fail, with every difficult situation, he always finds a way to speak clearly, logically, and with the right amount of emotion. He had known Nanny for almost 43 years and was equally devastated about her death.
He disappeared for a while and came back with a newspaper clipping that he found years ago. He gave it to my mom and I to give us a little persepective and some hope in the dark time. We loved it so much that we decided to put the words on the funeral program.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
” Here she comes! “