Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"This is the World I Want To Live In. The Shared World."

What a few weeks it has been. The world has been reeling. I don't need to tell you: attacks in Paris and Beirut, hundreds dead too early in cafes and concert halls and sports stadiums. Refugees fleeing atrocities in the Middle East, men and women around the world collectively paralyzed by the decision between opening their arms in love and faith or barring against possible terror incursions that would threaten their own families. Terrorist attacks in Israeli communities I have been to, been a part of for however briefly.

And on Saturday the 14th, my own sweet grandpa died. I posted a picture and message on Facebook and Instagram about Grandpa a couple of days later. It felt a little funny interrupting the stream of posts about these heavy world events to post something so natural, so intimate. It felt like such a calm, comprehensible thing amidst the chaos, my 92-year-old grandpa passing away quietly at home from something as normal as old age.

His funeral was calm and pleasant. The family gathered, we were remembering and telling stories. Madelyn was twirling everywhere she went in her new (to us) flowy dress. I felt a few quiet tears, but it seemed that most of my "sad" emotion had been spent when I received the first phone call.



Last night my very talented sister-in-law, Sarah Lynn Hill, sent us the album of pictures she had taken of the funeral. With it came pictures from my grandparents' home, and they were stunning. I will treasure them my whole life as reminders of my childhood.
It's amazing how things like chairs and clocks can become so familiar and have such meaning when they have been associated with people you have loved. I only regretted that those pictures couldn't have been taken in my grandparents' longtime home in San Jose, the beautiful white rambler with black roof and shutters and the big beds of flowers. I will always, always think of that home when I think of my grandparents.

I must have had that thought in my mind when I went to bed because I spent the night dreaming of their California house in great detail. I went through every room, hanging on to every detail I could remember: the way the light fell through the rooms, the little round yellow soaps in glass containers in the bathroom in the hall, the color and texture of the wood in their furniture, the way the house smelled and sounded, the views from the windows. In my dream there were desperate plans to hold on to that house - Dave and I were going to buy it somehow (even at 5 million dollars, an inflated price because I was dreaming, but not much. It is, after all, in California).

After I woke up, my first to-do was to make a batch of rolls for a funeral luncheon at the church across the street. I had volunteered when the list came by on Sunday. Having been the recipient of the lunch made by volunteer strangers on Saturday, I wanted to pay the service forward. My sink overlooks the church and its parking lot, so I saw the hearse pull in when I was measuring water for my yeast. I'm sure that because of my dream my feelings were extra tender this morning. Watching Saturday unfold again across the street made me quite emotional, even though this time it was someone else's grandpa. I saw the mortuary workers pull the casket out and wheel it inside. Another flag, another World War 2 veteran. There are so few left now.

I was weepy all morning. There was something emotionally cathartic about the physical act of making rolls. As I measured, stirred, and shaped those rolls, I cried because I missed my grandpa. I cried because my feelings were so full and many-faceted: there was sorrow and pain because of loss (the loss of my grandpa, the loss of his home, the loss of such a stable part of my childhood), and there was love for the unknown recipients of my rolls, there was sympathy, there was gratitude, and there was peace.

As I worked, I watched the parking lot fill and mourners stream inside the chapel. I cried because I loved the giving, the sharing that these tender but monumental life experiences bring - new births, marriages, deaths. When people come and rejoice and grieve together because we all know, we've all experienced, we've all felt those times in our own lives. I love this shared world.

I don't know who you are, you who grieve across my street today. You who grieve around the world. But I offer you my rolls and my tears. And all the love I can give.