|The mortuary called it the "Ivy Chapel," but you couldn't have found a chapel with less ivy on it. Insects buzzed around the high colored windows above the heads of my aunts, uncles, and cousins; above the head of the fat jolly priest who got his degree or whatever you call it for priests at my alma mater; above the heads of the small cluster of musicians pleasantly playing on stringed instruments; above the heads of the various non-family people arranged in the back of the church, including a few from my father's side of the family, and the women who had been taking care of my granny. Granny herself, supposedly, lay in a closed coffin that looked more like an upholstered lounge sofa with polychrome handles; but I suppose that's what fancy coffins look like.|
People went up and talked about her. My father told a funny story that I didn't hear at the time because I was concentrating on keeping things in order in my head. After he finished I figured it was now or never and stood up. I believe that I said something like the following, though rather more incoherently and incompletely.
"Although I risk offending the rest of our numerous family living in this town, Granny was always the highlight of our trips here. A visit to her house was a trip into a wonderful land of mystery, featuring old knicknacks of uncertain purpose, photos of my mom and aunts and uncles as children, and such wonders as the gigantic (to my young eyes) cheese ball that she put out on the kitchen table one day; I hadn't known that you could do such things with cheese. It was marvelous.
"She always seemed very elegant to me; cosmopolitan, even, somehow. I loved her drawl. I loved getting letters from her; I loved her handwriting, with big capital letters, and the way she used words like 'fabulous' and 'darling,' and drew little smiley faces.
"She was the good fairy always trying to slip money to my brother and I, although my parents usually caught her. She got better at it, though. More recently, at the end of our second family reunion in Montana, I went to the lodge desk to pay our bill, only to be told that it had already been paid. 'By who?' I asked, flabbergasted. 'By Marnie D-,' they said. She got me. I took what revenge I could by sending her flowers at every Christmas since. [I'll miss doing that. Maybe I'll just keep sending them, and whoever moves in there will have to figure out what to do with flowers whose card says 'To Granny, love, your grandson.']
"Everyone knew her sense of humor, and she never lost it. I spoke to her just last Sunday and wished her a 'Happy Grandmother's Day.' She laughed and said that she'd been pretty much everything: daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother; everything except an uncle. I told her that was probably for the best."
After I sat back down, I realized that the buzzing insects, which I had thought were flies, were bees. They flitted about in the warm mile-high May sunlight filtering in, green and yellow, through the stained windows, up above the musicians playing violins, and up above Granny's framed photograph, beaming a radiant smile down upon all her somber children.