The Pillar

I walked with my family, cold marble surrounding us, the high arches beautiful as they reflected the flickering candles. I slid into the wooden pew, the bench hard and unforgiving.

Strong. I had to be strong.

Aunts, uncles, cousins, my parents, and siblings. Everyone together.

Except one.

I glanced at the casket before averting my eyes.

If I didn’t think about it or look at it, it wasn’t real.

And this wasn’t happening.

I turned my head, instead focusing on the person to my left.

Her face was heavily lined, wrinkled, her composure in place. The spots of age peppered her body, covering her hands, showing the years she’d lived.

Fifty of them with my grandfather.

Each of her six children surrounded her, every out-law and grandchild present.

Yet somehow, I was the one next to her.

I had to be strong.

My father stood to read, delivering the eulogy, speaking of my grandfather’s tour in World War II, his zest for life, his refusal to pay for anything on credit, and his love for his family.

Beside me, my grandmother shook, the words reaching her.

I lifted my left hand, reaching for her right.

She gripped the life preserver tightly, her fingers stiff from arthritis yet surprisingly smooth, drawing from my strength.

I smiled at her, giving her my love too, as she returned a simple look.

Thank you.

Bolstered, I faced my father, taking in the words, smiling at him, sending him my strength as his voice faltered.

You can do it, Dad.

He recovered, continuing on.

My grandmother’s hand still held mine, the firmness now the only sign of her pain. She hid it from everyone but me.

I squeezed it again.

It didn’t matter my grandmother and I weren’t super close. Living states away meant visits once a year, rare phone calls,  letters, and now email were the pieces that formed our relationship.

I had no memories of snuggling on her lap, receiving boo-boo kisses, or reading books together – not like I did with my maternal grandparents who lived walking distance from my parents.

But she was Grandma B.

And I loved her.

Always, she was the pillar of the family – her four daughters and two sons all close – holding everyone together over the multiple states and cities.

Her food legendary. Her love endless.

But today, I was the pillar.

For her.

And I will never forget the unspoken bond we formed in those moments.

All through the simple touch of our hands.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Some of us show it easily, hugging relatives each time we meet.  Wrapping our arms around friends.

Some of us are more reserved, rarely touching other people.

And then a few of us hang out somewhere in the middle.  Hugging our children, but limiting our affection to handshakes with others.

This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.

Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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41 Responses to The Pillar

  1. C.Mom says:

    This was beautiful….and so true. It is amazing how the miles of distance no longer matter during moments like these. So glad that you were able to be there, as the pillar, for your family.

  2. You have captured your emotions and those of your family marvelously, and reminded me of my role in my cousin’s funeral. Thank you for sharing somthing so personal and doing it so completely.

  3. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    Nicely written. I’m wiping tears from my eyes. Thanks for sharing this moment.

  4. Beautiful. Those pillars at this time are truly preservers. Great job of showing the pain…and the pride you had as the pillar. A moment of maturity I am sure.

    • I was a sophomore in college this took place on the weekend before finals, and two weeks before Christmas.

      I drove from college to my parents in white out conditions, over 30 cars in the ditch where I pulled onto the interstate (all within a mile of each other) – all thanks to black ice.

      It was one of the more terrifying driving moments of my life.

      Not nearly as scary as the fear of breaking down when I had to be strong.

  5. Galit Breen says:

    So strong, so sad, so hard- all captured right here.

    This part: “She gripped the life preserver tightly, her fingers stiff from arthritis yet surprisingly smooth, drawing from my strength.” slayed me. Beautifully written.

  6. Tracie says:

    You have brought me to tears with this.

    So powerful and so special is that bond forged in a hard time. I’m glad that your family had you there that day to be a pillar for them.

  7. I could feel your emotion. You took us to the day. On a CC front, and this is a pure matter of taste, I wouldn’t have said “super close” for some reason the casualness of that phrase took me out of the piece. On the other hand, I also love the line that Galit commented on. Good job.

  8. KG Waite says:

    “She gripped the life preserver tightly, her fingers stiff from arthritis yet surprisingly smooth, drawing from my strength.” This bit is just beautiful. I like the way you capture how she gave away her stress through her hands. Outward, she’s composed, but she’s got this terrific grip on your hand. I have done this. I can feel this.
    Gorgerous description as always.

  9. Ratz says:

    That is beautiful. I never had any relationship with my grandparents. Like you said, living in different states limits us and by the time, we grow there is hardly that will to mend or build relationships. You are lucky.

    • I am much closer with my maternal grandparents – who literally lived down the street and within walking distance most of my life.

      Most family “vacations” were spent visiting relatives.

      I admit at the time, I’d rather have gone somewhere “fun”, but now I am grateful.

      Most of our communication was via “pen pals” – we wrote letters. I still have them all.

  10. Jackie says:

    Tears are welling as I read this piece. A great memory filled with emotion.

  11. Victoria KP says:

    Beautifully written. I like how you talk about being there for someone you aren’t especially close with. That’s the true meaning of family isn’t it? I don’t see my brothers, sisters, etc. all the time because we don’t live nearby, but I know they would be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them–and vice versa.

  12. Jackie says:

    Funerals are so difficult for everyone there. It’s sad. It’s a celebration of life. It’s remembering.
    You did a wonderful thing that day by being the pillar that your grandmother needed to lean on.
    Once I finished reading this I realized how hard reading all these posts would be today… the sad intermingled with the happy. Smiles & tears.

  13. angela says:

    What a beautiful piece! It’s funny, but I am closer to my grandmother who lives far away than I am to the one close by (though I love them both very much). Also, how strong of your dad. I eulogized my grandfather, and that was so difficult; I can’t imagine having the poise to do that for a parent 😦

    • I eulogized my grandmother, almost exactly four years later from this day.

      “Oh Kelly, you’re such a good actress. There is no way we can do it.”

      My aunt was supposed to help me write it… yeah.. other than some notes about my grandmother’s life, I had no help. I was up most of the night before the funeral, writing, practicing. I think I had three hours of sleep.

      But it was beautiful. And I didn’t cry or tear up, while my aunts sat sobbing in the pews.

      I actually posted it here, on the 10th anniversary of her death.

  14. TheKirCorner says:

    this was my favorite line:
    “But today, I was the pillar.”
    it said so much in those words, how a loss causes all of us to take over for others for a little while
    I’m so glad that she had you that day.

  15. Elaine says:

    Oh goodness, I’m crying over here. You brought up so much emotion with this piece. You had me right from the beginning. Very lovely and well written.

  16. So beautiful, so sad, so wise. Thank you for sharing a part of your heart – and hers – with us.

  17. This was gorgeous.

    You illustrated so perfectly how a simple touch can bind us together, how holding your grandmother’s hand conveyed so much more than words ever could.

  18. Frelle says:

    Beautiful. And I can see it all so clearly in my head from the way you wrote it. Feel the hand in yours, feel the energy you were sending to your dad, the inside knowing you must be strong for those who cant be, knowing it deep inside. I know that. I feel it right now.

  19. Although a sad moment, you made it comforting. Your grandmother needed you that day and you were her rock.

  20. shesnotbroken says:

    That was a great thing you were able to do. I’ve been where you were and it’s hard to be that rock.

  21. Anastasia says:

    That was beautiful. I’m glad you were able to share that bond with her.

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