It's been over two weeks since an update post here or even a picture on Instagram. I got a message from a friend a few days ago asking if I was alright since he hadn't heard or seen anything from me in a while and some similar concern from others people in other forms. I have not been eaten by a bear (although I did see my first one very close up, more on that at another time), and I am not lost in the mountains. The reason for the silence is because my grandmother Marguerite passed recently. She was an amazing woman and spectacular grandmother, one of the types that would give all of herself to you before even thinking about herself for a fraction of a second. Her passing was sudden but I am at age where these things aren't completely unexpected. I had set aside some emergency funds in case of something like this, and within a few days of the news I was back to the Boston area, then my home town of Taunton for the services.
I won't write a long sad post here. While it was extremely sad and I've cried plenty, the biggest thing I've learned in these times is that we need to sit with grief in the darkest times; that is the only way we can overcome the pain. Trying to ignore pain will only make it worse. Also, I feel we need to be mindful that death is part of life, part of the cycle. We are all dying, some unfortunately faster than others, and I feel one of the best things we can do is be open about death no matter how close or far it may be. It won't stop pain from happening especially when death is sudden, but it will certainly help somewhat in the process.
In the past week I endured some of the most difficult moments I've had in a long time, but at the same time I have learned and grown more than in all the days of my surrender journey. When I was boarding my flight back home, just before take off, I got a message from my Mom that members of the family agreed in asking me to do the eulogy at my grandmothers funeral mass. I immediately started to cry in reading those words, not just because of the passing of my grandmother, but because I knew that this was all part of my journey. I was meant to do this. A previous version of myself would question if I was worthy of such an honor; to sum up the life of one of the most kind, loving, and generous people I've ever known. But in that moment, feeling so humbled to have been given the opportunity, I knew that not only was I supposed to do this, but that I could do it, and make my grandmother proud. Tears of sadness and joy flowed with force as I sat on the plane in this realization, and from there I started writing. It took a few days and a good amount of editing but it is something I am very happy with, it felt good to read it, and I think Grandma would have been happy with it as well. Read on if you'd like to get a tiny snapshot of the amazing woman that was Marguerite Fielding.
Marguerite, Maggy, Grandma, Mom.
How do you put into words within 5 minutes the life of someone so spectacular?
I think you have to begin and end with her values; her beliefs on how to treat people, how to give with your whole heart, and how to raise and love a family with every fiber of your being.
You could find Marguerite's smile in the yard, preparing the hydrangeas and the rest of the flowers around the house for the upcoming season. You could find her uplifting attitude at the places of work that were lucky enough to be graced with her presence, and you could certainly find her in the kitchen, preparing the next masterpiece for the family, the church quire, or any number of other events. And in one of the best places, you could find Marguerite's laugh at the yearly Fielding gathering talent show doing a skit with her dearest Bob, an event that brought together the most important thing in her life, her family.
Nearly everything Maggie did was out of love, even if it didn't seem like it. If you've attended a dinner hosted by her you know what I am talking about. After a delightful meal followed by seconds or even thirds and feeling stuffed to the max, out comes the dessert. You could barely resist her charm as she asked if you wanted a slice of pie at the exact same time as she scooped a piece onto your plate. The pie was there before you could answer. You could be sick to your stomach full of food and not resist her. And after you finished the pie off she would be be right there offering another piece. It seemed to break her heart if you said no. It was as if she believed the more food you ate the at that one meal the better off you would be in life. I prepared for this every visit and still I could never say no. I just learned to say yes but make sure the slice of pie was the smallest you could cut, and even that would seem to sadden her slightly. And the thing about it is she would do this without hesitation for any guest who visited her and Bob's house. This is exactly how she treated people in so many aspects of her life.
I remember that on many Christmas Eve's, grandma would stay up all hours of the night, making sure all the presents for our large family were wrapped, labeled with her meticulous handwriting, and arranged just so under the tree. I remember seeing her so drained and tired on some Christmas days. It was something you could barely notice through the glow of joy in sharing time with her children and grandchildren, but it was there.
Some of the times I saw Maggie in her most ruthless form was at the table playing rummy or what might have been her favorite, Kings in the Corner. Even when that might have been grandma at her most competitive state, and even in playing cards with her as an adult, at certain times I couldn't help but think she was trying just a little bit to let me win. She never wanted her loved ones to feel an ounce of pain. So much so that she would sometimes hold back her true feelings to protect those around her. And that was the thing, it was never ever about her. It was all about Bob her husband of more than 60 years (60 years!), it was about her daughters, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her extended family, and so many other people that came into her life.
The last time I saw Grandma was just over month ago. As we both sat on the couch I looked at her, tired and weary from the day, without the energy to do much more than sit and to chat. She turned to me with her eyes as full of love as they were when I was a child, slowly smiled, and in a cracked voice asked: "Can I make you a turkey sandwich?" I said, no thanks grandma I'm fine, lets just relax and talk. "Oh alright", she said, almost sad that she couldn't do something for me. After a few quiet moments, her face perked up once more, "Well how about some strawberry ice cream?". That was Marguerite at her core. Always loving. Always giving. And if I had said yes to that sandwich you could be damn sure she would have used any remaining energy she had left to get it for me.
It has probably been said by a number of different people and in many different and better ways, but I remember it best from a song from the 90's that said simply, "life is just a moment in time". And that is so true. Time moves so fast. In a moment we'll leave this place still wondering how to deal with our grief. In a few more we will start to feel a little better. In what seems like only a moment in the grand scheme of things you and I will be gone and someone will be up here talking about us. And while memories are quick to fade, the way we can always keep Marguerite with us and around us is to practice her values.
Live generously with a wide open heart, do your best to approach everyone and everything from a place of love, show the ones you cherish the depth of your love with words and actions, and most importantly, treat your family even better than that. Love through thick and thin, always be there for each other, through the good times and especially the bad, visit when you can, share some stories, laugh, share some food, have seconds, and definitely have some dessert. Marguerite will always be with us now and we can keep her smiling by keeping those around us smiling, especially our families.
It might be a little unconventional but in closing I'd like to invite everyone to do something. I'd like to invite us all to take a breath together. A deep breath is something so simple and yet so powerful. It can center and ground us when we feel off balance, it can give us clarity and focus when we are distracted or lost, and ever so slightly, it can bring us some relief and comfort when we are in our darkest most painful times. If you'd like to now, please join in one collective breath inhaling deeply.....and slowly, gently, exhale. Lastly if you'd like, place a hand over your heart, think of Marguerite, feeling all the love and joy you have for her, and in this moment, in your own way, offer some gratitude, some thanks, for anything and everything she has done for you...
Thank you Marguerite, thank you Mom, thank you Grandma...