March -- whether viewed as a directive or merely a month -- turned out to be a singular challenge this year.
I feel as though all I've done since three-one-sixteen is grieve, cry, travel, rinse, repeat.
But there have been happy moments. There always are, scattered amongst the sad ones.
Then there are those times when, without planning to, you laugh and cry simultaneously.
Let me tell you about one of them.
I hope when I'm done telling it I won't say to myself: Guess you had to be there -- about the time I read my readers' collective mind and it's saying: What is she on about now?
Oh well. You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take. So here goes.
Last December, early in the month, we learned that Greg's mother was not well.
Consequently, once the hols had concluded, and the winter proving warmer than usual all over the country, Greg and Andrew made a trip north to see Mom/Grandma.
A few weeks later, Erica and I made the same trip.
(Stephanie and Audrey had seen her in late summer and hoped to visit again. There wasn't time before their grandmother passed away.)
But at Christmastime, we wanted to make sure we were thoughtful of her.
So it was that one December day when I was keeping an eye on Dagny and Audrey was out shopping, I asked my daughter to locate and purchase a specific item for my mother-in-law's Christmas. The gift was to be from me alone.
You should know about my mother-in-law that, throughout her ninety years, she was a tall, slender, handsome woman. Since she loved clothes was an excellent seamstress, she made many of her own stylish outfits.
She always looked lovely. The type of clothes she favored were classic, tailored but soft, and -- especially in winter -- warm.
Since I am partial to soft turtlenecks -- be they mock or the fold-over kind -- as layering pieces during cold weather, I wanted to get her one.
So I asked Audrey to go to a department store and find a turtleneck that looked dressy but comfortable, in a pretty color. I provided her with my debit card.
She promptly texted me photos of two separate tops. I chose the one I thought my mother-in-law would like the best: a soft mock-neck in a vibrant shade of raspberry.
I wrapped it up with a Christmas card just from me to her, and Greg took it to the post office.
The holidays came and went. Grandma got sicker. When Erica and I were with her in February, days before her ninetieth birthday and scarcely a month before her death, she wasn't dressing in much besides her robe over pajamas.
Also it was fairly warm there at the time -- not like a normal Northwest Ohio February at all. And so I never saw my mother-in-law wear the shirt I'd given her. Nor did the subject come up.
When the entire family assembled the first week in March at the house that seemed to be missing her too, the girls and I went into Grandma's bedroom one evening.
It was empty except for her dresser and a few side tables, and her cherished phonograph player with her vinyl LP collection. She loved to listen to records that reminded her of her youth.
Her bed had been disassembled and stowed in the basement when the hospice workers brought in a hospital bed. She'd gone to sleep for the final time in that bed, in the room where she'd slept for nearly sixty years.
But we girls turned our backs on the empty room and began rummaging through Grandma's closet.
Don't look at us like that. It's not as though she was going to walk in and catch us. I'm still not sure why we did it except, for one thing, we wanted to see if she'd worn the things we'd sent her.
(Audrey had picked out a dressy sweatshirt for her grandmother's Christmas. Grandma loved cozy shirts.)
It wasn't long before Audrey located the sweatshirt, the one she'd chosen in a classy shade of plum. She said: I'm taking this back and I'm going to wear it.
I said, I would. I knew Grandma would want Audrey to have that shirt back, and to enjoy it. And I continued looking for the raspberry-colored mock-neck I'd sent.
Not finding the shirt, I worried that she hadn't liked it.
Meanwhile, earlier that day, Greg and Andrew had driven the mile to the funeral home to check on a few last-minute arrangements. The funeral director, Brian, beloved to all of us since Grandpa's passing five years ago, gestured toward the viewing room.
Mom is in here, he motioned. We chuckled about that later, and repeated it a lot during those few days. Mom is in here. We thought it was amusing that he called her Mom. But she loved him, so it was fitting.
We girls asked the guys how Mom looked, and especially what she was wearing.
Something green and blue, was the answer. That's as specific as the menfolk were able to be. I couldn't think of what outfit that might be, but I knew my sister-in-law Ruth would have chosen something appropriate and beautiful for her mother, so I didn't think any more of it.
The day of the viewing came and throngs of relatives were assembled in the lobby of the funeral home.
Faithful sweet Brian -- who told us we are his favorite family and he hopes to never see any of us again, alive or dead -- indicated that it was time for Greg, Ron, and Ruth -- the children -- and the brothers' wives, to spend a few minutes with Mom privately before the viewing was opened to other family and friends.
And so we followed, and the five of us approached the casket. And I began to laugh and cry at the same time, and Greg looked at me funny and when I explained, he began to exhibit similar emotions.
Because Grandma wasn't wearing blue and green. Well -- she was wearing blue: a sedate but soft suede-cloth jacket in understated slate. And underneath, a nearly-new raspberry-colored mock-neck.
The one I'd given her. The one I couldn't find in her closet. She's wearing it still.
The top and jacket completed an outfit that featured a skirt containing the same berry-and-blue colors. A granddaughter told us that Grandma loved the mock-neck because it was the first time she'd had a shirt that coordinated perfectly with the jacket and skirt -- both of which she'd made with her own hands.
She'd worn the top with the skirt once, and even twirled a bit in delight at the way it matched. Best of all, it was so warm.
Sometimes things just fall into place.
Eventually we made the long trip home and began to feel normal again. March did what it does: marches.
But before it marched out, I learned that a dear lifelong friend had passed away suddenly.
Greg and I attended her funeral last week, in Atlanta. I miss her so much.
At my mother-in-law's graveside the family lifted our voices into the balmy, windy day and sang a verse of It Is Well With My Soul:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
I know it is well with my mother-in-law's soul, and with my friend's soul too. And although I wept my way through March, this knowledge makes me happy. I'll be laughing before you can say April showers bring May flowers.
And that is all for now.
Happy Monday :: Happy April