20091214

It never rains in Southern California

A Mother's Hands

Long Beach, December 2009
Or so they say.  But the dark grey sky over Long Beach turned into a giant, cold, shower stall Saturday morning, as I arrived at my destination.  Walking into the building, I saw people filing into a room at the end of the hall.  I signed the guest book, turned to follow the others.  She was at the door, hugging everyone as they entered.  And then it was my turn.

"I'm glad you made it."

"There is no way I would miss this.  I love you."

"I love you, too."

Long Day for Grandma
Long Beach, December 2009

Similar stops with her husband, sister, mother, in-laws, before taking a seat.  Her mother walked to the front, put a hand on the tiny creme-coloured box, not much larger than a shoe box, closed her eyes, and put her head down.  They say there is nothing more difficult than having to bury your own child.  In that moment, I could see that burying a grandchild is just as painful.  This particular grandchild never had the opportunity to breathe even the smoggy Southern California air.  And this particular grandmother came within a hair of losing one of her children at the same time.  In delivering her stillborn child, an infection traveled up the umbilical cord, sending her into septic shock, and she battled for her life for almost a week before the doctors finally cleared her to return home, 40 years to the day that she had been born herself.

The moisture absorbed by our clothes and hair in the 30 seconds it took us to get from the building to the car was enough to fog up the windows, even with the defroster running full blast.  Large drops continued to fall.  At the cemetery, we ran for the shelter of the canopy set up for us, huddling with the others.  The burial service began, and suddenly, the rain stopped.  Above us, a small slit appeared between the clouds.  A slender shaft of light reached down.  As we said farewell to Genevieve, we all imagined that particular ray of sunshine had come for her, to carry her to her next destination.