Okay, get ready for one hell of a story.
So a few days ago I told you that my sweet granny was in the hospital with covid and wasn’t expected to make it. This was fraught with complicated feelings because she has dementia and wants her parents and was absolutely ready to go to see them. None of us could be with her because of covid but hospice was there in the hospital and I know that the covid units (while flooded) are still filled with nurses and doctors who care so she wasn’t alone.
Yesterday we got the call that she had passed peacefully and it was sad, but it was also a relief. If heaven exists she’s there with her parents and her husband. I talked over the phone to my mom and sister and we alternately laughed and cried together because we look for joy whenever we can. In fact, my grandmother’s name is Joy. It’s a family name. She was Joy Nell. My mom is Nelda Joy. My sister is Lisa Joy. Her daughter is Gabi Joy. And it fits because my granny was the most stubborn, joyful, quietly fascinating person. She was a country girl who sewed all of her own clothes. She was a black-jack dealer in Reno. She was a factory worker in Texas. She was a single mother of three young kids when single mothers were not really a thing. She was a voracious reader and I inherited all of her Stephen King and Ray Bradbury and other dark novels that inspired me growing up. She dumped the serial cheater (sorry Grampa) and never looked back and found my Papa, a wonderful man to spend the rest of her life with. She was amazing and sarcastic and always let you know that she was in charge.
My calls with my mom kept getting interrupted bc a million people were calling her about arrangements over the next few hours and I joked with my sister that every time it happened I assumed someone was calling to say granny was alive again because she’d decided she wasn’t ready after all and was too stubborn to stay dead. We laughed. I told my mom the same joke when she called back and she laughed. We made our plans. There will be no funeral because it was too dangerous. Their town is a hotspot and their covid units are full. My mom and her brothers would be there when they put her in the ground. And next year when things are better (please let them be better) we’ll have a memorial and celebrate her life together. I desperately want to go to the burial but it would break my heart even more to see my mom and not be able to hug her or go to her house so I will mourn from here.
A few hours later I got a call from my mom. “So…remember when you were joking about granny coming back from the dead?”
“Yeah. She’s alive again.”
Turns out there are a lot of patients in the covid unit and the hospice worker who’d called my mom got their wires crossed about who was dead, and the reason we even knew she was still alive was because when our funeral home went to pick her body up the regular nurse was like, “Well you can’t have her because she’s not dead yet.”
The hospice worker was beside herself with apologies but luckily my mom is the kindest person in the world and found herself laughing because this is exactly the kind of story my granny would find fascinating. So mom got off the phone to call everyone to tell them granny wasn’t dead. I waited about an hour so she’d have time to call everyone and then I texted my sister.
Turns out mom hadn’t gotten to Lisa yet because she was too busy telling people to stop digging graves and retract death notices and other things you don’t expect to be doing on a weekday so Lisa found out by text that our granny had returned from the dead.
And it was an incredibly complicated afternoon of feeling sad yet relieved that granny was dead and then guilty confusion when we found out that she wasn’t dead and also punch drunk hysterics over a story line that granny would have fucking LOVED. My mom had to put a pause on the obit and I mentioned that she definitely needed to put both of granny’s death dates in there when she did eventually die. Lisa and I decided that if granny didn’t have her first and second death date on her tombstone it would be a total waste of a tombstone and we started figuring out how much it would cost for them to add both because we were definitely springing for it.
Victor would check from time to time to see how granny was and I’d say, “Oh, she’s still dead” and he’d say, “WHAT?” and I’d be like, “Wait. UNDEAD. She’s still undead. Or ‘not dead’. Fuck. It’s confusing dude.” And then he’d go hide in his office because he didn’t entirely understand the quickly alternating heavy tears and peals of giggles as my sister and I told granny stories to each other as Gabi Joy yelled, “IT WAS JUST A DRESS REHEARSAL” in the background.
And then a few hours later mom called me again and was like, “Okay, she did it this time!” and I was like, “Are you sure?” and she was like, “I mean? Pretty sure?” And instead of getting super sobby like the first time granny died that day we were able to laugh and it was the most healing sort of thing. I have no doubt that granny probably planned all of this. It was late so I didn’t call Lisa but this morning I hadn’t heard anything so I texted her just to check:
I’m almost certain granny decided to die twice on the same day because she knew Lisa and I were going to buy a new tombstone and she really hated it when you spent money on her.
Victor sent me a photo he’d taken of me with granny and papa and my mom on one of the last times we’d all been together. We were looking through her photo album and she was telling me amazing family stories and we’d all laughed until we cried. I wish I could back in time to tell her that she’d created one that will live on forever in our family.
But somehow I suspect she already knows.