The Poem I Read at My Grandmother’s Funeral

“How Do You Make a Handkerchief Dance?”
My grandmother is lying on a hospital bed,
holding a small square of paper
in her hands
and pausing between words
as she reads it to the nurse.
“I don’t know, Sally,”
the nurse says.
“How do you make a handkerchief dance?”
“You Put a Little Boogie In It.”
She tells it to the next nurse, too.

Grandma kept things simple.
Red lipstick, jigsaw puzzles,
and photo albums.
Chicken salad on finger rolls and
As the World Turns at 2 o’clock.
Judge Judy, Star Magazine,
and the National Enquirer every evening.
But she read the Wall Street Journal, too.

And she focused on the details,
placing towels and a fruit basket on the bed
for every guest.
Suggesting a nap if you looked tired,
and complimenting your outfit.
She wouldn’t start eating until the hostess
had lifted her fork,
and always passed the food counter-clockwise.
She kept her elbows off the table, too.

But it was in between those moments
that I finally found her.
In between the hugs and kisses,
the pleases and thank-yous,
the celebrity gossip and 9 o’clock news
that I cornered her in a La-Z-boy
alone one day
and asked her about her life.
I found the pearls and blossoms of her wisdom
in those reflections, that narration,
those worries, her hopes, and all the angles of her spirituality.
My grandmother was never afraid of death.
But as long as living was comfortable, she preferred to keep going with that.

She loved through the details and I loved around them
and we met each other someplace
where line meets line.
Hand to cheek,
hour to minute,
we lost our barriers when our thoughts
melted fear back down into love,
and we decided to sit in that space for awhile,
because the weather was nice
and we had a lovely view of the birch trees.

I couldn’t fluster her.
Every time I shapeshifted,
grew into a new awkward and challenging angle of myself,
she looked me in the eye consistently,
the same way she always had,
with adoration and eager hope
for my happiness.
She loved
constantly
thoroughly
and fully,
teaching me by example
that we can overcome our egos
if we find footing in honesty and acceptance.

I’ve only met one person in my life
whose sole job was to love
and she raised me
through a family with thick, strong arms.

I loved being loved by her.

I think she knew that, too.

– Sarah Dopp
August 1, 2008
Rest in peace, Grandma Sally

(Extra mushy thank-you hugs to Dawn, Shaun, Amy, Devil Crayon, Marcie, John, and Jon for the last minute editing help.)

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10 Responses to “The Poem I Read at My Grandmother’s Funeral”

  1. Tim Says:

    This is beautiful.

  2. gina Says:

    sarah – that was beautiful and heartwarming… it brought tears to this stranger’s eyes. i’m sorry you lost such an amazing person, but it seems like she will remain in your heart forever. peace and hugs

  3. cindy Says:

    Really really beautiful. My relationship with my grandmother (I’m 49) was the single most important, nurturing relationship of my life thus far. I could read “between your lines”; I could feel, and I know the depth of this love. My grandmothers name was Anne Maude Perkins Clark. I loved being loved by her. Nice work.

  4. minta Says:

    well…..once again i am in tears…
    tears of sadness for your loss…
    & tears at the happy memories you brought to the forefront again …
    of my grandma =)

    thanx….(((hugs)))

  5. Amy Gahran Says:

    That was, indeed, rich and beautiful.

    How did the reading go? How did you feel? How did people respond?

    – Amy

  6. Jess Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that.

  7. Sugar Says:

    I love this amazing tribute. I only hope to leave that kind of legacy to my children and on to their children. Thanks for reminding us that it’s in the middle moments that our love is found.

    Truly beautiful testament…

  8. Don Says:

    You both sound like lovely women. God bless you — especially during this hard time. May God be gentle with her in transition from here, and with you as you suffer the loss of her.

    Peace.

  9. schmutzie Says:

    Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us.

  10. Marie Says:

    You are making me all teary with this lovely tribute.