Mourning Dove

We buried my Grandma yesterday.

The weather was pretty awful while I was there, but yesterday we woke up to clear skies, sunshine, and warm southern winds. The pastor said that my Grandpa ordered the weather, and I believe him.

My Uncle is something of a bear. He expresses his despair in loud profanity and banging and crashing around, and when he’s upset, his temper is hair trigger short. Behind the blustering roars of displeasure and bashing about of select items lies a great deal of sensitivity and gentleness. He woke up a little late and stomped through the house as if he had a thorn in his paw. It was about the worst mood he’d been in since I arrived. I should also be clear here- most of his ranting and raving is done on another floor, where he either figures I can’t hear him or he at least isn’t on display.

As we left the house, we discovered a mourning dove on the sun porch. Disorientated and newly frightened by our company, it frantically flew into all the windows trying to escape. He walked past it first, calling to it, asking it to follow him. I came out behind him, and the dove still couldn’t find the door. My Uncle walked back in, cornered the bird slowly, and chased it out. It walked a few steps and flew off, gaining only enough altitude to miss my head by inches as it did.

We arrived at the cemetery a few minutes early, and the pastor, someone from the funeral home, and my Grandma’s relatives (who run the cemetery) were gathered, waiting for us.

My Aunt and Uncle and I stood together as the pastor began to speak, but my cousins’ weeping drew her to them, with all the tenderness a mother has for her children when they hurt. And so I stood with my Uncle, arm in arm, and cried quietly as the pastor read a few verses and said a few words. I began to shake, just a little, and my Uncle wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to his chest. When I calmed down a little, and the pastor was finished, he excused himself for a moment, and came back also weeping quietly.

I cannot quite describe my relief in this moment. To finally see him break a little, to hurt openly and receive my comfort and that of his sister, it gave me the strength I needed to leave last night. He will be okay on his own; he will heal and there will still be ranting and raving, but perhaps the grief will trickle out in manageable doses. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll call out to someone if he needs to.

We drove from the cemetery to the house chatting idly here and there, but mostly in silence. Peaceful silence.

He only took a few moments of privacy when we got home before he loaded up my car and I helped him with a few last minute things. We were talking about some things in the house that he wants me to have, and he said “if anything happens to me…”. It gave me goosebumps. The passing of the torch. My Grandma used to say that all the time- “after I’m gone”, or “when my time comes”, or “if something happens to me”- followed by whatever instruction or knowledge she wanted you to have.

So in that one moment in time, as those words left his lips, it became clear to me- unbearably clear- that the day will come that I will mourn his passing. There is no one left ahead of us (myself, my Aunt and my Uncle). He’s roughly fifteen years older than I am, so with all hope and grace it will be a long time from now. Still, it was a stark reminder of life and death and time.

We said a long and drawn out goodbye, both of us choked up and not really willing to part, but both knowing that we have our own seperate worlds and I had been away from mine too long. As I drove south, my thoughts were practical- people to catch up with, things to attend to at home and the office.

I pulled into a gas station in West Virgina to fill up the  tank, and there was no room at the pumps, so I parked along the grass to wait. I turned around to check on the arrangement B had sent in the company’s name and the honeysuckle my Uncle’s friend dug up for me and saw that my Uncle had given me my Grandma’s African violet and her wax plant. He never said a word to me about it, he just slipped them into the backseat with the others. I  broke into sobs. When I had calmed down, I got out of the car to go splash some cold water on my face.

In the grass in front of my car sat a mourning dove.

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8 Responses

  1. Wow- I’m so sorry for your loss (I don’t know if I said that earlier). I can’t imagine these things and if I could be as strong as you were in the face of all this.

    I won’t belabor the Biblical imagery of the dove, because I don’t want to pontificate, but let me put it to you this way- I hope that it’s meaning in that context rings true for you, and I believe it is and it will.

  2. again- simply beautiful.

    i can’t imagine.

  3. I am so, so sorry you’re dealing with this. But your writing is really beautiful… I hope it helps you to cope. My thoughts are with you ❤

  4. So beautiful, and so poignant. Nothing left to say that the mourning dove didn’t already convey.

  5. This post was so beautiful. Mourning doves have always struck me as intuitive birds (perhaps that’s why they get their name…I don’t know, honestly). This really tied it all together.

    I was teary-eyed at the end.

    Again, I am sorry for your loss.

  6. A beautiful post, you write so well. I am sorry for your loss . . . . steve

  7. You bring tears to y eyes with this post. Once again, I am so very sorry for your loss. HUGS

  8. *should be MY eyes. Also shows I should learn to proof read before hitting “submit.”

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