A funeral in Chicago, Part 3.

May 29, 2012. Well, time to get the show on the road.

I’m getting ready for breakfast and then it’s off to the funeral.

Breakfast and a funeral.

To go, please.

Looking back now on the events of today, the funeral, the burial and the gathering of relatives, I can only conclude that today was a beautiful day. How can a funeral be part of a beautiful day? It felt like we weren’t just saying goodbye, but we were also celebrating Grandma’s life. In her 99 years on this planet, she lived life to the fullest. I realize now that the presence of people who loved her was a testament of Grandma’s love of family and friends. She truly was a great grandmother.

It was an honor carrying her to her grave alongside Grandpa, where years ago, Grandma was picking the weeds from around the tombstone. Knowing her, she’s going to keep those weeds from ever germinating in the first place.

And I will never forget the words inscribed on the Pilmonas tombstone.

“Life is changed, not taken away.”

So, so true.

Sure, today was a very heart breaking, tear jerking day with nearly everyone in tears. It was hard even for me. My eyes got misty and I started breaking down myself at the cemetery.

Why can’t I live the life Grandma lived? Always active, always on the go, always busy, always active. She had friends because she knew she had friends. She made and kept them.

I don’t know where I get these ideas of everyone constantly snooping on me to get me, tat everyone out there is the bad guy. Time to change that.

What would Grandma say if she were in the front seat?

“You really don’t need to get off at the airport, so quit pretending you’re playing the Airport Game*. When it comes to games like this, you’re always the one who ends up losing!”

Grandma??

Seriously, I consider today to be a beautiful. I’ll always admire how I walked up to the casket one last time, walking right past Grandma and close enough for me to rest my hand on hers one last time. She liked that. She liked it before and she enjoyed it more than ever. She was testing me the whole time. How much did I love her? It says enough that I loved her so much that I was willing to take a few days off from work to fly to Chicago, arm myself for the sad days ahead so I could touch her hands one last time.

Right now in heaven God and Ida** are talking about the events of yesterday and today.

“Well, judging from the kind words spoken about you and the people who took the time to pay their respects, you did prove yourself to be a decent person after all.”

“It was so beautiful,” Ida would say. “I wish they could hear me say my thanks for all their kind words.”

“They don’t need to hear you say that,” God would say. “They know.”

“And my granddaughter Lisa. She gave such a stirring speech about her memories with me, even through her tears. And my grandson Michael. I felt his tender touch and admire his devotion to carrying me to my resting place.”

“You raised your grandchildren well,” God would reply. “They are good people, because of you. Everyone whose lives you touched turned out just as well. You did a great job, and I’m proud of you for it.”

Then Grandpa would enter the scene.

“There you are!” he would say. “I’ve been looking for you. I know you’re still in the process of moving in, but I hope we’ll spend more time together once you’ve been settled.”

“Me? Settled? Never!” Grandma would reply. “Even up here, my work is never done. I must check up on my daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I need to stay in touch with everyone who took care of me. I need to make sure they’re safe and that they’re eating. Is there any way I can send down some of my dinner dishes?”

Grandpa would sigh, roll his eyes and say, “Make no mistake about it. Ida’s home!”

I really wish this was a true story.

It would be great to see Grandma again, even in my sleep. I’m going to open my mind and speak to her as if she never left. I’m keeping her right here beside me. I’ll give her things to do. She did a great job raising me as a kid and she’ll continue guiding me until the day we meet again.

As I write this, tears are flowing. That means she heard my thoughts. She’ll come back and tell me not to cry. She’ll say she never left me.

“I’m still here, Mikeluk***,” she would say. “I’m never leaving you. It’s that this old body, this cocoon, couldn’t support me, so it set me free. I’m still with you. I will never leave you. I love you for what you did today, which says a great deal for how much you truly appreciate all that I’ve done for you. How could I leave you now? Just leave some room for me in your heart and I will always be there for you, always a heart beat away. You always were my favorite grandson. I want to continue helping you any way I can. You still need me. And I am right here, right now, in spirit. So I can never be far from you. Stay strong, stay happy and don’t forget to eat your vegetables.”

That’s my Grandma.

To be continued…

* I sometimes played the Airport Game during my morning commute to work on the interstate. When I pass the exit for the airport, I signal as if I’m getting off that exit at the last second just to annoy the other drivers. I know, I’m a stinker.
** Ida was Grandma’s first name.
*** That’s what Grandma sometimes called me.
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