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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When I Was Just a Little Girl...

I know, I know, I had to get all musical on you. I'm trying something a little different today and linking up with The Red Dress Club prompt about memory and reflection. This is what came to mind:

I walked into the warm room, full of people I didn't know. They were all talking quietly, but the collective buzz hurt my ears as I tried to pick out a voice that I recognized.

I kept my eyes down, playing with my nails, trying not to bite them. My grandpa always told me that it was a disgusting habit and the thought of biting them here seemed wrong.

My aunt put her hand on my back and gently guided me to the front the of the room.  I forced myself to smile. I knew my parents weren't sure if I should be here at all.

I'd heard my father saying that it wasn't an appropriate place for a seven year old. My mother argued that it would be seen as rude if I weren't there, though she worried I would cry.  It was decided I would go, for just a little while, and then return to my aunt's house.

I smoothed down the skirt of my yellow sundress, my favorite dress.  How bright I must have looked in a room of black and dark-blue clad adults.

My aunt gave me a little nod and I took those last few steps forward.  My grandfather looked like he was sleeping.  He was dressed much the same as he usually was for our weekly Saturday shopping trips to the grocery store, where he always bought me a special toy, though he insisted each week he wasn't going to because I was getting spoiled.

Just like he was sleeping, just like my parents had told me. But, Grandpa wasn't sleeping.  He was my only grandparent who really loved me. My mom's mom had died well before I was born and her father was possibly the strictest adult I'd ever met. My other grandmother was very ill and all she could do was give me an occasional hug.

This, in front of me, was the man who took me to the park, teased me, and stuck up for me.

But, he was gone. Lung cancer. Don't ever smoke, he told me. Girls don't smoke.

I stood there, not really sure what I was supposed to do.  I knew I was supposed to say goodbye, but he wasn't really there any more anyway.

He was gone. I didn't want him to be gone.

Tears started to form and threatened to fall. I did not want to cry, sure that someone would be mad at me for crying, like it was the wrong thing to do.

And so I smiled. The biggest smile that I could. A smile that stretched my face and made my cheeks hurt, but stopped the tears from falling.

My aunt must have been right behind me the whole time, but I didn't notice until she touched my shoulder and told me it was time to go.

I walked out, still smiling as hard as I could, wishing I didn't have to say goodbye.

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Blogger Tiffany said...

I member being a young child and seeing my great grandmother at her funeral. I was very sad that she had passed, because she was the sweetest woman. The grandmother that I had always wanted since her daughter, (my maternal grandmother) had passed years before. I remember standing over her casket as they had it lowered into the ground at the cemetery and wished she would come back. It is my first memory of loss that I will never forget.
(hugs)to you.

February 22, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I saw your tweets about this post the other day & your fear of it not being good enough. You had no reason to worry my friend.
Once again, you have me in tears.

Funerals are always difficult, but the passing of a beloved family member is even more so. I can't imagine how you handled this as such a small child.

February 22, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

This punched me in the gut.
My grandpa, "Papa" who was my entire world when I was very young, passed. I remember my parents took me to the wake every day it was held. Felt like an eternity. The one day I cried so much my younger sister laughed at me so I tried my hardest not to cry at all.
It was the worst funeral I've ever been to in my life

February 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Kmama said...

That brought tears to my eyes, because, even as an adult, I've had to the smile to stop the tears.

February 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Brittney said...

awww thats so sad :( brought tears to my eyes.

February 22, 2011 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger KLZ said...

Oh, Shell. No one that young should have to learn loss. It's a shame that most do.

February 22, 2011 at 9:20 AM  
Anonymous tracy said...

I was 6 when my great-grandmother died and my mother refused to take me to the funeral. To this day, I still feel like I didn't get to say goodbye. So, when my grandmother died and my eldest was just 4, I took her to the funeral because she asked to go. I am so glad she and you had the opportunity to say goodbye. How sad, I know - but still how beautiful.
Thank you so much for sharing this.

February 22, 2011 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Renegades said...

My Aunt died of lung cancer and it was heartbreaking to watch.

February 22, 2011 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger singedwingangel said...

Ok my uncle was the first funeral I ever attended I was 10 and I never got past the last row of chairs in the funeral home. I literally got ill. I still get ill in funeral homes I hate them with a passion. This was a beautiful piece hun and now I have to go write mine for this. I forgot all about it dagnabbit

February 22, 2011 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Beautifully written.

I hated saying goodbye to my grandpas. I am dreading saying goodbye to my grandma.

February 22, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger angela said...

What a tough thing for a little girl to do. Not only did you have to say goodbye to a beloved grandpa, you had to contend with that so-adult idea that tears are somehow not socially acceptable.

February 22, 2011 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Mama Marchand said...

My heart is breaking over here ... my grandpa died when I was in high school of all kinds of cancer and I remember his memorial service well. He had a closed casket but it was a time of celebration because we knew where he was ... but, it was still SO hard. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. He's a big part of my testimony ... his death served as a wake up call as to how I was living my life and that I needed to live it differently and for a Higher purpose!

February 22, 2011 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Oh my heart just broke for that little girl. Beautifully done, so glad that you decided to link up. I look forward to reading more in the weeks to come,now that you've started you aren't allowed to stop!

February 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Oka said...

Brings back memories of my own Papa. He too was "my only grandparent who really loved me." His funeral bitter sweet. Not only did I loose him, my grandmother turned vicious towards me, and I found out I was pregnant with my first.

February 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Heather In The Land Of Mom said...

Holding back the tears thinking about when my grandma passed away. I have been trying to blog about it for awhile now. I have started then stopped and started again.

February 22, 2011 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Andrea (ace1028) said...

Shell, this was a beautifully written post, capturing such a sad memory. :( I'm so sorry that you lost someone so special and important to you, but it's good that you can remember him at all, I think. How sweet your relationship must have been.

And how perfectly descriptive you were here in your writing.

February 22, 2011 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Babes Mami said...

Once I got to 'My aunt gave me a little nod and I took those last few steps forward. My grandfather looked like he was sleeping.' I started bawling. I went to my great grandpas funeral when I was 10 and it was the same way, he looked like he was sleeping but he wasn't there. I remember that day so vividly and I was so sad. I've had four good grandparents and three are gone now and even ust seeing a picture of them or someone writing about their loving grandparent I will bawl. I have a few other grandparents but they aren't the 'good' kind. Anyway, lovely post Shell!

February 22, 2011 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Tammy said...

I agree...7 seems so young to have to experience something like that.

Great writing girl!

February 22, 2011 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Mama Jules said...

This is beautiful. It's so hard to lose someone, especially someone we are so close to. I'm sorry.

February 22, 2011 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger MiMi said...

This is an amazing post, friend. Beautifully written and brings back so many of my own memories.

February 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Brandi said...

That is so sad. :( I've been fortunate to have only lost one grandparent so far. I didn't go to the funeral, but I called my grandpa while he was in the hospital and we got to say goodbye to each other. When he finally died, my grandma couldn't get a hold of my dad, so she called me hysterical... that was not pleasant (I was in my 20's though).

February 22, 2011 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

You write about such a sad event in such a beautiful way. I was fortunate in that I didn't lose any of my grandparents until I was an adult. It was still hard, but easier to deal with than if I was very young.

February 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

My children are absolutely in love with my dad who spoils them to no end.
I hope they don't have to experience this until they are much, much older.

February 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

So young to have to endure that kind of loss.

My first "close" loss was my dad's sister. I was in 8th grade.

February 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM  
OpenID caitlinsconcepts said...

Death is such a hard thing for children to understand sometimes. I feel so blessed that I had all my grandparents while I was growing up (even if we didn't see my paternal grandparents very often). Beautifully written.

February 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger DaisyGal said...

oh that was so heart wrenching, so real and so true to how I would have felt at that age, to hear that my grandparent was gone. I walked every step with you to that casket.


February 22, 2011 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

My fear that my children will have to endure a loss like this at such a young age. My grandfather died when I was in 5th grade, which was a little older and easier to understand.

I lost my dad to lung cancer nine years ago. It was, is horrible.

February 22, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Mrsbear said...

It must have taken all you had to stretch that smile across your little face. That image of a smiling girl in a lovely yellow dress at her grampa's funeral makes me so sad. Wonderfully written.

February 22, 2011 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Emmy said...

I went to my grandfather's funeral at about the same age and bawled like a baby.

Beautifully written

February 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Really well done, my friend. I wonder why they'd be afraid you'd cry. It's a funeral! What a thing to put on a seven year-old.

SO glad you linked up.

February 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I wish adults were more aware of what they tell kids - even the unspoken things. What a sad thing for you to have felt especially having lost someone so big in your young life.

February 22, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger adrienzgirl said...

You are my favorite kind of writer Shell. It's so easy to get lost in your words. Feel what you felt as you wrote them. Love this! Beautiful, just like you!

February 22, 2011 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger (Florida) Girl said...

Tenderly written. I just came back from a funeral yesterday so this rings vividly for me right now.

February 22, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger JDaniel4's Mom said...

I am not sure I would have been ready for this a 7. I didn't attend my first funeral until I was in college.

February 22, 2011 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Beth Zimmerman said...

Oh sweet Shell! That one was a heart breaker! And you write incredibly well!

February 22, 2011 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

To this day I can't handle the funeral home. Thankfully, I haven't been presented with it in a while. When my grandma died (I was about 11), my mom told me I didn't have to walk up to the casket. My other grandma (now 89 years old) thought that was the most horrible thing ever. As a parent, I would do the same thing. Nothing good can come of forcing a kid into it.

February 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Breaks my heart...you poor thing.

February 22, 2011 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Grand Pooba said...

I remember being at my sister's funeral when I was three and totally not getting anything. I was dancing around wondering why everyone was acting so serious.

February 22, 2011 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger MultitaskMumma said...

My heart ached for the 7 year old you! I wanted to get down to your level and tell you it's ok to cry.
Great writing!!

February 22, 2011 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I have a similar memory of my great grandmother's funeral. It was so weird and I wish I would've thought about it because I would've written about it.

Fantastic memoir, Shell - you should do these prompts more often!

February 22, 2011 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

That was really vivid...so glad I found your blog from the trdc!

February 22, 2011 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Mommy Needs a Vacation said...

Shell, I LOVED this! Geesh...you brought so many memories back from my own grandmother's memorial service. She was cremated though so I didn't have to see her. I can't decide if this is a good or bad thing. Beautiful post!

February 22, 2011 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Aww I'm sorry you lost him when you were so young. I can't imagine not growing up with my pepaw.

February 22, 2011 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger TheBabyMammaChronicles said...

What a tough day. My Grandpa died of lung cancer too when I was 2. I'm sure your Grandpa's up there somewhere, to this day, loving you. Hugs

February 22, 2011 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

A little teary-eyed from this. Well done, Shell. This is why I worked so hard with my former employer's Child and Teen Bereavement program. I never wanted a child to feel like they needed to respond to loss in a certain way. I'm so glad you were allowed to go to the funeral because often children aren't and they miss the opportunity to see and experience and say goodbye. Even if the goodbye is realizing there's no one to say goodbye to.

February 22, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger kc said...

Shell, you had absolutely no reason to fear about this post. Beautifully written.....once again you pulled me back to that moment with you and then the memory of my own grandparents funeral. You are such a wonderful writer!

February 22, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous CDG said...

You've captured that moment so well, smiling so hard the tears can't fall.

I was fifteen when I lost my only living grandparent, and I still remember feeling like a child, even though I was desperately trying to behave like an adult.

February 22, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Not Just Another Jennifer said...

Oh, that's so touching. I only really had one grandparent as well, my grandma. She had a stroke when I was about 14. She lived another 8 years, but she wasn't really Grandma anymore. So hard.

February 22, 2011 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Wow, Shell. This touched me. Especially the last few sentences - the image of you smiling so hard to keep from crying. I could totally picture you doing that in your yellow sundress. I can relate. I, too, lost the one grandparent that I was really close to growing up.

So nicely done.

February 22, 2011 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

oooh that breaks my heart. I remember saying goodbye to my grandpa...and it was awful. This is so hard for kids. You painted the picture of this very well, though. I felt as if I was there.

February 22, 2011 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I love this line:

I walked out, still smiling as hard as I could, wishing I didn't have to say goodbye.

I can think of so many times as a kid that I smiled so hard, simply to make things easier on everyone else. I wonder why we did that.

February 22, 2011 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

This made me cry Shell! Brings back the memory of my grandfather's funeral. But I was older - married and pregnant with my first child when he died. I saw him in the casket. I refused to do the walk up and say goodbye thing. Mine died of prostate cancer (I think it was prostate? It got into his bone marrow)

It is painful to see them like that. I prefer to think of them going to heaven and remembering all the good times.

February 22, 2011 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Very touching. What detail. It makes me realize how much children remember.
Great job Shell!

February 22, 2011 at 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

You were so strong and brave to face that room and to smile. A very touching story and so helpful to try to understand this from a child's point of view. I think it's important to talk to children about death and let them ask questions and talk about it. We've begun introducing the idea to our four year old already since his Pop is very sick. Thank you for sharing this.

February 23, 2011 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Karen Peterson said...

Both of my grandfathers were cremated. I think that made it easier to say good bye. If I'd had to see them lying there, I would have just wanted them to get up and go for ice cream.

February 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you for sharing this piece of your story. What a brave little girl you were, and so sorry you felt like you couldnt express your feelings right then.

February 24, 2011 at 3:22 PM  

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