Last week my Grandmother died.
Her name was Marion Larsen Clark for most of her life. She married three times after her husband died in an airplane crash when she had eight children at home (the youngest Cindy was six weeks old). My relationship with my Grandma was complicated and I suspect other grandchildren felt the same way.
We lived close to my grandmother growing up--she lived around the corner from our house in a beach-style white-brick house that boasted the brightest arrangement of flowers of any household in Provo. People would drive by her house to see all the pinks, blues and purples lined up in a dazzling display of nature and gardener. I have a neighbor now who tells me my Grandma's house was what sold her on the neighborhood when they were looking to settle down. "All those flowers!" she says.
In the backyard there was a small swimming pool. Grandma's posterity carried most of the pool maintenance burden. We were there almost every day dipping our bodies alternatively in the cool water and the breezy sunshine. That pool was important to us--right up until the day she covered it with dirt deciding it was too much for her nerves.
But what I am asking myself today, as I write this, is why do I have a sizeable lump in my throat as I write? What is making me so sad?
And I think perhaps it goes back to that display of flowers. Sometimes I felt in my relationship with my Grandma that I was a flower in her garden. What she wanted from me was to look my brightest as the people drove by. But it came at a price that was precious to me, in our relationship there was a lot of gardening. My grandma didn't like the parts of me that were wilting, like my youth ("You need to marry him Courtney, you're not getting any younger and he's willing to marry you") or my body ("you've got to watch what you eat Courtney") my fertility ("if you lost weight you'd probably get pregnant") or my love life ("Can't you see? He doesn't love you.")
I grew up in the flower bed--along with forty-four other cousins--wanting desperately to shine, feeling like my appearance was my greatest value. But I fell short constantly. The very genes my Grandmother passed along to me became my greatest pest. No spray could stop my thighs or chest from bulging in unbecoming ways. And this was made obvious to me too many times for me to ignore. So I stopped visiting because it hurt too much.
It still hurts. But I am not inclined to throw dirt over the whole pool of our relationship. I think now that she's gone, the work that needs to be done--the pruning and weeding of our shared mortal experience--can begin. I believe she will work at it from her state of being beyond the grave and I will work on it here. Hopefully when I get to heaven we'll embrace with empathy.
Not to push the metaphor, but I do believe forgiveness is a great fertilizer.