I watch them from the back of the church as they gather together, looking unsure in their black suits and dresses – attire fit for a funeral. It may actually be their first. I’ll have to remember to ask later. Teenagers are meant to attend basketball games, concerts, homecoming dances. I guess this is a homecoming of sorts. Not for them, but for their grandmother who has unexpectedly been called home.
They’ve been advised not to go up to the casket. The person laying there is a shell now, not the woman who cheered them on at sports games and dance recitals. Ironic, given this is the one place she felt most at peace. It is the place where she lived her faith and instilled its importance in these very children whose love for her is breaking their hearts as surely as the priest breaks the delicate wafer representing the body of Christ.
I watch them huddle a bit closer together as they make their way to the altar to present the offerings. They move as one, no one leading, no one left behind. They aren’t brothers and sisters by blood, having recently entered into a blended family. Yet today they appear as though their short lives have led them to this day. A day when as one unit they hold each other up through the pain, support each other through the uncertainty, and come together in shared grief, possibly seeing each other in a different light through the very tears they unsuccessfully hold back.
Later at the house, I watch them hug extended family members they’ve never met due to trivial family disputes. Their grandmother’s house is now brimming with relatives and a love no one thought possible before her death. And, when the last guest departs I watch them huddle around on the floor in front of the fireplace, a stack of old photos in the center. With each photo passed from the smallest hands to their grandfather’s aging ones, they cling to the connection it provides to the woman who brought them together time and again.
May this angel who has brought them a little closer together once more continue to influence their lives from above. May the memory of her undying faith always serve as a guiding light in their darkest hour, and may that light always feel warmest when they huddle a bit closer to each other.