Nora McGann ~ My Own Grandmother’s Funeral

When my own grand­moth­er died I went on vaca­tion in Florida. But when your grand­moth­er died I went to her funer­al. I didn’t real­ly know my own grand­moth­er, nor did I know yours that well. But I did know you, and I knew you’d be at the funer­al, and I knew you’d be on vaca­tion in Florida, which is why I did go on vaca­tion in Florida and did not go to my own grand­moth­er’s funer­al.

When my own grand­moth­er died my moth­er called me from the air­port in Arizona. She had been try­ing to get there in time, but my mother’s moth­er died when my moth­er was in the air. I was sup­posed to go on vaca­tion in Florida with you tomor­row. My moth­er told me to go on vaca­tion. You told me you want­ed to go on vaca­tion too. I told myself that my grand­moth­er would want me to go on a vaca­tion instead of going to her funer­al. That was prob­a­bly the most true.

The Florida Keys are hot in the sum­mer. It took us fif­teen hours to dri­ve there. Why did we dri­ve there? We picked a small bou­quet of flow­ers ear­ly into the dri­ve and set them in the cup hold­er.  They were so beau­ti­ful and then they died from the heat. It was so hot that you start­ed to lose your hear­ing. At din­ner the last night nei­ther of us could hear any­thing. You were talk­ing so qui­et­ly because it sound­ed so loud in your head. You couldn’t hear a thing I was say­ing from across the table. What I was say­ing was, are you hav­ing fun?

When your grand­moth­er died I was order­ing a bur­ri­to. Well, to be fair, that’s when I learned that your grand­moth­er had died, from you. I went to the funer­al because I hadn’t seen you in six months and your grand­moth­er would want us to see each oth­er. That was prob­a­bly also true.

The funer­al was strange. It was only the sec­ond funer­al I’d ever been to. The first funer­al I went to was when our stu­dents’ moth­er died sud­den­ly. Her six sons car­ried her cas­ket. Stan, the old­est, cried the hard­est. Your grandmother’s funer­al was not like Stan’s mother’s funer­al. First of all, your grand­moth­er was white. And Catholic. Second of all, you were there. At your grand­moth­er’s funer­al Rena’s sis­ter told sto­ries about your grand­moth­er and every­one laughed and cried. That’s what Grammy would have want­ed and Rena’s sis­ter knew it. The best sto­ry she told was how one time at Walnut Hills after Church, Grammy took her around to every table in the place and asked the peo­ple, do you mind if this young woman sings to us. And of course every­one didn’t mind, so then Rena’s sis­ter had to sing because Grammy had asked her and because every­one in Walnut Hills had said yes she should sing. So she sang the song that she had sung for Grammy and every­one in Walnut Hills and she near brought the house down. You were cry­ing so hard you were shak­ing and grab­bing the wood on the pew in front of you. I tried to cry then and I scrunched my eyes up but no tears would come.

I cried in the car on the way home because I had seen some­thing not meant for me, that funer­al. When my own grand­moth­er died, I wished I could have a sec­ond chance at her dying, so I could do it bet­ter the sec­ond time over. And then when your grand­moth­er died, I did have a sec­ond chance to do it over, and I did the oth­er thing, which was to go to the funer­al, and that was some­how wrong too. If some­one else’s grand­moth­er dies I will know to not go to their funer­al, because they were not my own grand­moth­er. And if my oth­er own grand­moth­er dies, I will know that I must go to her funer­al. But then, but then, my oth­er own grand­moth­er has already died.


Nora McGannlives and teach­es high school in New Orleans Louisiana. This is her first pub­lished story.