Last Friday, JG’s sister and I went in to see Mimi while the parents talked to the hospice nurse. We were going to just sit and chat quietly while Mimi slept, but she woke up when we opened the creaky door. My SIL tried to hush her gently. “Don’t worry, we’re just going to sit. Go ahead and sleep.”
Mimi said, very softly, “I can hear you talking in the kitchen.”
“Do you want RA to ask them to be quieter?”
“No, honey. I don’t want to miss any precious moments.”
- – - – -
The burial was a private ceremony with the family on a high, grassy plot at the local cemetery. There was a large, gray headstone inscribed with the family name. Under clear blue skies, the minister began by quoting Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help! My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Next to me, JG and a cousin took turns triggering each other’s tears. I squeezed JG’s hand and passed a packet of tissues to the cousin.
And then it was over. My MIL kept repeating, “I don’t want to leave her here. I don’t want to leave her here.”
- – - – -
At Mimi’s house that night, the aunts corralled the girls in Mimi’s room. There were piles of costume jewelry up for grabs, and we were welcome to claim whatever we wanted. At first, we moved throughout the room quietly and cautiously. We felt like scavengers. Everyone qualified their statements by saying things like, “I’d like this if no one else wants it,” and “I’ll just look after everyone else has a chance.” Slowly, the awkwardness thawed. We had a good time imagining the events where Mimi wore showy rhinestone pieces, and it was fun to find matching sets with a necklace, earrings, and brooch. We started draping necklaces our necks and putting bracelets on wrists. In the end, the room was full of bejeweled gypsy girls. And one cousin who looked glamorous and funny in the mink stole.
- – - – -
The visiting hours before the funeral were packed, as we suspected. I stood with the grandchildren away from the main receiving line. Occasionally, a family friend or relative from my FIL’s side would come over to say hi to us. Sometimes, we’d go through a series of introductions for a childhood friend of our parents. Mostly, we talked among ourselves and fetched glasses of water for the adults in the line. In 2 hours, there was only a brief lull at the end of the first hour. People cried as they expressed their condolences. They called Mimi their best friend.
- – - – -
After the funeral, we continued splitting up small household items. I snagged 2 champagne flutes and a couple of carafes, but I couldn’t find what I was really looking for, so I asked my MIL if anyone had seen Mimi’s Thanksgiving apron.
No, not yet, she said. They’d keep their eye out for it, though.
JG and I went back to his parents’ house that night and then headed home the next morning. During the drive home, I got a text from my MIL: “We found your apron!”
My apron. It gave me pause.
All the while that we were dividing Mimi’s stuff, the adults kept reminding us that it was what she would have wanted. She would have wanted us to spend time together, eat lots of food, and give new life to her things. During the eulogy, my MIL shared that one of Mimi’s last messages to the family was to “stay together and have fun,” and we were doing that, even immediately after the services. Actually, being together then felt kind of like Thanksgiving. … Except that Mimi wasn’t there, and that was not right at all.
I think the thing that I will miss most about Mimi is the sense of home she created. She was the center of our Thanksgiving dinners and beach vacations, but she was focused on all of us. Even when I was a new initiate into the family, Mimi always helped me feel at ease. My picture was on the fridge just like the rest of the grandchildren. I was included with “the girls” for everything from Black Friday shopping to photo ops. JG brought me in, and Mimi enfolded me. I’ll miss her terribly.