Two Days in August

As I’ve been writing lately, my grandmother Gigi died a couple of weeks ago – I’m on a plane home now from her memorial service, which we held this weekend on St Simons Island, GA – she and the rest of Mom’s family moved there in 1962 or 63, and she lived in the house that they built ever since.

It was a nice service, and nice weekend with my family – a group that I love and admire so much. Everyone who spoke about Gigi talked about her sense of humor, and her sharp tongue. And when the church pastor, during the homily for your funeral, mentions how sharp your sense of humor is, well, that’s something distinctive. (He quoted Jack as saying, “She could bury you with a single word.”) Makes me smile to think of that – and I guess I know that I myself come by that particular character trait honestly.

And of course, books and Gigi reading them to kids, were featured prominently.

There were probably a couple hundred people there, from the island, from Brunswick, from Jacksonville and beyond. I think we had the service that she wanted. (And in fact, I know that we did, as she left extremely detailed instructions regarding, well, pretty much all the details. Also characteristic of her.)

And while only my brother David and I will really feel this, it’ll always be hard to think of this weekend without thinking about another day in August in south Georgia when we buried my dad’s father (Grandee is what we called him) 15 years ago.

The two experiences were incredibly different from each other – just as different as the two families are, really. Quitman, where Grandee lived most of his life and where my dad grew up, is a tiny, tiny town about 60 miles north of Tallahassee – and what I remember the most from those days was the funeral procession through the town, with the police at the intersections with their hats over their hearts, and then how impossibly light he was in the coffin was when we laid him to rest.

Gigi’s service was very different, though – she was cremated a couple of weeks ago, and before the larger church service we had a very small gathering of just the family and the pastor to put her ashes in the memorial garden of the church. No body, no pall bearers like at Grandee’s funeral, just us, with my uncles and brother putting her ashes into the garden. It was a good remembrance, and honored who she was.

What connects the two events most viscerally for me, other than the obvious relationship, is that I think I’ll always remember how hot and humid it was both times – a characteristic Georgia heat that makes you sweat almost immediately when you step outside – and all of us in our ties and dresses and nice clothes.

Anyway, two completely different experiences, different families, separated by 15 years. But for my brother and me, these two August days will always be connected by the heat of the Georgia summer, and of remembering and honoring our grandparents.

2 Replies to “Two Days in August”

  1. Nice post, John. It’s important to remember where we came from, and to share what we can before it’s too late.

    When my grandfather passed I couldn’t help but think of all the stories he took with him — the memories and experiences that were only his because he didn’t share them with everyone.

    I hope Gigi told you her stories, and that you’ll pass them on. I hope that when I/we go, whenever that is, there will be 200 people there whose lives are all the better for having known us.

  2. I had a similar experience with the passing of my favorite aunt, we called her Cookie, and my grandmother, Abuela Isa. Cookie died young and was tragic, her funeral was full of sorrow and emotion. My grandmother’s funeral was stoic and reserved – she passed after a long bout with cancer. Two different events but the one thing that binds them in my memory was the food afterward. The feast was massive and almost identical, even though the funerals were 7 years apart. Your post brought that back to me – thanks!

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