"Why don't you ask her? She's sitting ten feet away from you," Mom replied.
I shrugged, feeling awkward. The truth was, Grandma had been confused lately. More than day-of-the week confused, too. I didn't want to upset her, or complicate her thoughts even further. And I didn't want to feel those emotions, either. I felt them enough around Grandma as it was. Still, I really wanted to hear their story...
Suck it up and do it, I told the wimpy part of my inner self. I walked over and stood in front of Grandma's wheelchair. "Grandma, how did you and Grandpa meet?"
Immediately, a smile spread across her face. Without preamble, she began: "Our churches were playing dartball against each other. Grandpa was playing for his church, and I had come with some friends to watch. Grandpa and I started talking at the food and drink table and just kept talking the whole night, until the game was over. When it was time for everyone to leave, he told me, 'Bernice, I'd really like to drive you home, but I drove the pastor to the game tonight. I can't just leave him here.'"
"But then," Grandma recalled with a laugh, "Walter Winther came up to him and said, 'I'll take the pastor home, Victor. You go drive Bernice home.' He could only take me so far, though, because I had my truck parked at a friend's house, so he followed me the rest of the way so he'd know where I lived."
I grinned, ready to sit down again, but Grandma continued. "He asked me out on a date, and when he came to the house to pick me up, he had flowers for me. Then he said, 'You know, I wanted to get you some flowers, Bernice, but I couldn't afford any. I finished closing up a grave earlier today,'" (I knew that Grandpa had been the church's gravedigger for years) "and I figured no one was using the flowers on that grave, so --'" Grandma thrust her hand out, as though she held flowers, "--here you go!'"
Everyone around us laughed heartily. Looking at my mom and her brothers and sisters, I could tell that they had heard the graveyard flowers story many times before. But no matter how many times they heard it, this telling - which turned out to be the last one - was just as dear to them as the very first time they had heard it.
"You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she's left. Your heart can be empty because you can't see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on." David Harkins.