“You have fifteen minutes.”
I cross the threshold and throw down carry-on and run for the shower to wash off the residue of airports and airplanes… And then I emerge to run around the house with cuffs unbuttoned, nibbling Rosemary and Olive Triscuits– my substitute for lunch.
But still this isn’t real.
When I left, my little grandmother was tired. But she was alive…
. . . .
In this house, my mama is the Queen.
So my abuelita was the Queen Mother.
And sometime while I was guiding blind campers through the locker rooms at a swimming pool in Hellen Keller’s hometown in Alabama, she went to her rest.
So, Sabbath a few hours gone, I sat and watched the morning born out a window over the left wing.
And then landed in Albuquerque hours later, a few minutes before my cousin, inbound for the same reason.
But still, it wasn’t real.
It wasn’t real until I walked into the little church and saw her pretty face, all full of peace.
And I was washed over with gratitude…
Because though many call this nightfall, I think of it as just the moment before dawn.
Her night– al chained in by the blackness of a world increasingly impossible for her to understand–
That night is over.
So even while tears washed the piano keys, and I groaned for grace to keep going– happy that everyone was singing and my back was to them all…
Even when, after all the nearest and dearest of our friends had mingled tears with ours, wet our shoulders and let us wet theirs,
Even when they were gone and I knelt before the open casket gripping the side with one hand, and stroking her little, cold, white one with my other– shaking with sobs…
Even then, through tears I could only repeat one thing.
Thank You, Jesus…
Thank you for those little hands. Those hands that would reach around me from behind and suggest chords and harmonies when I was sitting at the piano pecking out compositions… That musical mastermind that always insisted I nail the progression without compromise, and would cheer and clap with glee when I did. She, with the equivalent of a Doctorate in music from the most prestigious conservatory in her homeland, the composure of unnumbered ballads; I, the upstart child that tried…
Thank You, Jesus.
For the gift she drove home for me, starting before I even knew my own name… By her endless creativity, her bottomless passion–
The gift of love for beautiful things.
Butterflies. And flower petals. And shimmering plumage. And harmonies just, just so.
And symmetry, and color, and shades and songs, and sunsets.
She’s why I’m drawn right into the heart of a flower the size of your headphone jack.
And she’s one of the great reasons I’m drawn right into the heart of God Whose idea beauty was [is!] in the first place…
Thank You, Jesus.
The Queen Mother sleeps.