The Chapel I sat in was lined with wooden pews, unadorned as befitted the sombre mood. Inside the atmosphere was oppressive and a faint mustiness hung in the air. I was vaguely aware of the murmurs and rustlings of the other mourners as they took their seats. I dabbed my eyes with the hanker-chief as the deeply moving and melancholy chords of “Amazing Grace” began to filter through the stony walls.
Ahead of the pews the mahogany casket was polished to a glossy shine and adorned with pale pink and white roses. Inside laid the body of my grandmother. Her life ended not tragically but inevitably. It was a day that I had anticipated with a sense of dread. Over the past few months I had felt a sense of restlessness and an inability to see clearly or make plans for the future. It was as if my grandmother limned the past and if that past no longer existed how could I possibly anticipate a future?
Memories are extraordinary. There are voids in one’s remembrances, yet the mind can conjure up detailed images of others. As the youngest in the family my “pre loved bicycle was a battered royal red etched with a silver logo. On countless Sundays I had ridden up the hill, over the rise and passing the weeping willow, to arrive at my grandmother’s house.
Invariably, she would be cooking in her kitchen. I vividly recall the fragrant aromas arousing my insatiable adolescent appetite. Sometimes she would be seated outside on the concrete porch on the wicker chair with her ebony cat. However the cat’s name is one of the memories that had alluded me, yet I recall the sun’s warmth rays shining as the cat stretches its back to capture the rays, in at attempt to hold on to it forever.
Nestled in a quiet, Californian Bungalow had been a solid respectable house. Yet it was one of dire ennui without the comfort and warmth provided by grandmother. I recall being at my grandmother’s house had been one of antiquity that seemed to stretch far as the Roman Empire itself. My grandmother’s house in contrast to the very one I lived in was small and humble, neat yet not overly tidy, welcoming form the warmth of the woman inside.
Yet it is with this ardour as I feel the loss of a jewel in an Aleppo Valley as I recall my recent visit to the hospital- just days ago. There lay my grandmother imprisoned to the bed unable to move as if rapt in a trance. Moreover her hands were slender and beautiful, surprisingly unnaturally as it resonated from the fluid that she was forced to drink. Her face was bright and resonate the sparks of the imagination and intellect of her observations that would have been impressive in a much younger woman. Her eyes looked dazed as if by a drug induced hallucination as she looked at me, it burned with the feisty spirit and dramatis persona within and the unquenchable thirst of life. “I want you to promise me that you will make sure that I am dead before they throw me into the bunker never to see the light of day.
A strange impulse had begotten me before protesting. “Do not be silly Nan” I choked out. “No I want you to promise me!” She exclaimed persistently, afterwards I agreed to such a proposition. It was barely two days later that I woke to the “passing away” of my grandmother. As I entered the hospital I amazingly saw the face of my grandmother calm and at ease with her surroundings. I was drowning inside as I sharply conjured my strength to overcome grief. “Goodbye Nan” I farewelled humbly.
The deep bellowing voice of my brother propelled me back into reality. His head was still fully etched with a few white hairs. “My grandmother was extraordinary” he evoked with a passion that cannot be attained by words. Her life began to take shape: her childhood, marriage, children, the war and surviving the Holocaust and finally widowhood. “All those moments will not be lost like tears in rain because you have bestowed us with such conjecture and enthrallment that will survive the test of time,” my brother outlined the generosity of my grandmother. I felt a sense of truth and her presence in those words as my grandmother concluded the eulogy.
Yet I wasn’t appeased, as I turned around to leave there was a moment just then. As if a feather was suspended in mid air as well as a pleasant, fresh fragrance that rekindled my memories of my grandmother; then it disappeared into the voids of space. I knew with certainty that she had farewelled me with love. Yet I knew the most important gift that she had bestowed on me was the strength to venture into the unknown; the strength that forms another link between the past and the present.