Photography: A Child Says Adieu (Nana’s funeral, 2013)

My daughter saying farewell

My daughter saying farewell

I apologize if this image offends anyone. But I find it beautiful and I wanted to share.

My husband’s 94-year-old grandmother died last week after a long battle with cancer. For the first year-and-a-half she did well, a round of radiation with my mother-in-law as her live-in caregiver and nurse. After her birthday this year (July 4), she retired to her bed and did not leave her bedroom again.

With the help of hospice nurses, my mother-in-law cared for her as if she were a newborn baby. I wish I could say it was peaceful as her obituary claimed, but the last two weeks were not. I will spare the gruesome details and say only that I now understand how zombie legends started. Apparently, my grandmother-in-law’s heart kept going even when her body had begun serious decomposition.

Nana died at home. This was the third and final great-grandparent that my daughter had. The first passed away when she was five or so and we brought her to the viewing with one brief glance into the casket. The second followed a year or two later, and this time my daughter heard more about the choices that had to be made about end of life care and “pulling the plug.”

This time, my daughter, at nine, helped care for her dying great grandmother and attended the whole funeral– riding in the limo with her grandparents, attending the whole viewing and funeral, and even going graveside. (My daughter sat beside the grave with her grandparents and boisterously asked, “Are they going to drop her into that hole?” The pastor laughed.)

My mother-in-law had asked for three pink roses tucked into Nana’s hand– one for each of her three great-grandchildren (all girls, the other two are in their twenties). The funeral director knew Nana well and slipped a peppermint into her fingers as he remembered her always having a hard candy to share.

I found so much beauty in that day. The sun-drenched October day turned out perfect, sandwiched between cold, rainy days. My daughter did such sweet things, like helping her aunt arrange the blankets around Nana before they closed the casket.

But this photo summarizes it for me: My darling baby, kneeling before her great-grandmother for a farewell, using those quiet moments before the public calling hours. Yes, you can see the body, but it’s almost indistinguishable. Bathed in light with color from the flowers. It was a peaceful moment.

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