After the funeral, there was a reception. And after the reception, there was the graveside service with just family.
The service itself was short. We had all said whatever it was we wanted to say at the funeral. We weren't there to talk.
We were there for some vague feeling of closure.
Not everyone thought it was a good idea to witness the burial, but I knew I had to be there. I had to see my grandma buried. I had to put the white rose on the casket, watch my daughters put the rose on the casket. I needed to watch the casket placed in the ground and see the dirt pile up.
The heavy machinery rolled in, dark exhaust fumes temporarily masking the scent of the hundreds of flowers that surrounded us. The workers were exact. Pour the dirt. Move the dirt around. Pour some more dirt. Tap the dirt with the backhoe. I was amazed at how one of the men was able to finesse the machine around with great precision and gentleness. The three (or maybe four?) men were respectful. Someone wondered later if they were acting differently on account of the 40 family members watching them.
No, said the chaplin. He had witnessed hundreds of burials, and those men were always the same. Respectful. Hard working. Good men, he called them.
They smoothed the dirt, arranged the headstone, placed the grass. Perhaps even now the lines of the sod have faded away and the grave looks as if it's always been there. Only the shiny "2009" plate will give away the newness of grief that grows with the grass.
Sydney watched the machinery, and she watched the dirt. She didn't say anything.
I held Jules the whole time, and she narrated the process. "The man is pouring dirt on Grandma," she said. "Now she can't play with us."
"No," I said. "She can't play with us."
After a second load of dirt was placed into the grave, Jules was more concerned. "They're covering her up. We need to get a shovel to get Grandma."
I cried until Jules wiped the tears off my cheeks as she said, "You're dripping all over your face, Momma."
The chaplin had told my parents that seeing the burial was important for little kids. If they walk away and the casket is still above ground they wonder what happens next. Will someone take their loved one? Will someone watch over them? Why are we leaving them there?
I didn't want my girls to wonder. I didn't want them to be afraid either. I wanted them to know that Grandma was safe. I can't speak for their experience, but they were okay when we walked away.
Watching the whole burial process was important for me. I couldn't have left my grandma until I knew she was safe. Even though I already know her soul is safe in Heaven, I still had to witness that difficult hour on Friday afternoon. For all that, though, it was awful watching the casket sink into the ground, awful watching the dirt pour in, awful to be there.
We need to get a shovel, Jules had said.
If only it was that easy.
I love you and miss you, Grams. Always.