I remember watching as a restless young child in church as she conjured up baby dolls for us to hold and rock in order to keep us busy as the homily droned on. Her big, strong hands deftly and impossibly folded the Kleenex into little tissue “dolls” nestled into their own beds. I was momentarily in awe of her magic. I had forgotten those tiny dolls until I saw my mother emulate her mother by making one of them for my little girl. And then today in church as we said good-bye to my grandma, I too managed to summon a “baby doll” out of the ends of my scarf for my daughter to play with.
I am noticing that the grieving is not so much with the loss of grandma – she was ready; she is happy – it has more to do with ripping at the seams. We have become acutely aware of the way she stitched us all together, some stitches holding tighter than others, but nevertheless, we were bound. This grieving is about a final good-bye to places and people who encompassed so much of what we were. It is also about finding courage to step into a new, different time without those stitches holding us so closely. It is about spreading our arms to become figureheads of our own ships.
I’ve realized that so many of my memories focus on grandma’s hands. When I was a teenager she taught me how to make pie crust. You must have cold butter. You must work the dough just enough, but not too much. I remember these words every time I make any kind of dough and I can hear her rhythmic breathing as she would knead and roll it out. But mostly I see her hands, squeezing and folding and then finally crimping the dough – always making something amazing out of almost nothing at all. My grandma was a magician.