My grandmother has been a widow for fifteen years, after over 60 happy years with my grandfather. One Sunday morning at her church, I guess it was about ten years ago, I paused in the middle of a hymn to ask her why she didn't sing in church anymore. I so missed her warm, full soprano with the ever-so-slightly trilled rrr's.
She whispered back, "Oh, honey, I don't have a song anymore."
"But Gigi, you have a beautiful voice. Won't you sing?" I asked, not yet grasping her meaning.
"No, dear," she said with the sweetest smile you ever saw. "Ever since I lost George Emmett, my song is gone. You sing now."
Granddaddy lived to be a few months shy of 100; Gigi is now almost 97. She has outlived all of her own generation, all of her many siblings (of whom she was the oldest), and two of her own children. And now I wonder, considering the whole of her life's staggering griefs, how can one heart be so broken and yet so merry? Grace is amazing.
Gigi Louise's homegoing is hastening on. Her mind, so weary of dwelling upon earthly things, has these past few days fully retreated from all that's mortal. Her heart is tired and lumbering, her breath rattles... her body is ready to release her from the surly bonds of earth.
Back before this long grey fog began to gather over her mind, Gigi could call hundreds of plants, flowers, trees and birds by name, and with contagious delight. A self-taught naturalist, she never felt a minute of guilt for going easy on housework so she could get outside, and her yard was always a world of wonders.
And so while visiting her last week, my mother wheeled Gigi outside to enjoy the beautiful trees, hoping for one last pleasant afternoon just to be a daughter with her mother. They sat a while, remarking a little about the beautiful trees. Gigi was mostly quiet, her conversation now gone as well as her song. Before Mother took her back inside, though, she slowly and gently asked Gigi a question.
"Mama, who was George Emmett?"
Gigi Louise pulled hard at her shadowy, fleeing thoughts for a few moments. And then, like a small child full of wonders, she answered in her soft, lyrical southern drawl,
She paused and looked at the trees.
"I wonder where he is."
"Mama," Mother said, "he's with Jesus."
Ever since then, it looks like Gigi's been trying to get there as fast as she can.
And then, my sweet Gigi, you'll have a song again.