There weren’t many photos of just her. The snapshots were on display on an easel at the funeral home for family members and friends to look at and remember while they mourned her passing from this life into the next. Most of the photos were of her standing next to loved ones, holding a baby on her lap, arm around her husband of over seven decades.
I had pulled 79 photos of Grandma from the books and bins that we store at our house, and taped them all to a huge posterboard. My cousins made additional posters from the photos they store at their houses, from the photos she still kept at hers.
There were way more than seventy-nine photos of her to mark her presence in this world, in our lives.
Once again our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends gathered to remember and cry on each others’ shoulders. The tears we shed were over memories, the knew-it-would-come-but-never-quite-ready realization that she was gone, during a spring of sorrow that hit each of us at different times. We moved through the funeral home to greet old friends and rarely seen family members, and whispered questions to each other about who this person is and who that person was. I tried to keep my mind from dwelling on the sweetest memories of my dear grandmother, that there would be no more new ones.
It’s always hard being left.
Fifteen months ago we cried from a loss, but also because she would be left; Granddad died on Halloween and we all shared a portion of her grief, of continuing on without him. I numbered the photos I found to display on his posterboard, just as I had for hers. Most of the photos I pulled for her funeral already had a number scrawled on the back.
Their lives, intertwined. Their days, weeks, years - numbered together.
We gathered at their house and ate food that caring people prepared. We failed to keep teeny fingers out of candy dishes and laughed at little faces covered in powdered sugar and donut crumbs. We ate off of Styrofoam plates in the living room and on the floor of their bedroom. My dad said that he thought the walls of the little house would bow out from all the people stuffed inside.
We opened dresser drawers and found more photos, and tucked a few into our pockets to take home. We pulled photo albums out of end tables and and paged through them. We laughed at old hairdos and fashion misses, named babies and remembered past events.
When dinner was over we sifted through piles of boots and shoes that littered the kitchen floor, as they always had when we were there. We found our vehicles in their driveway, closely and randomly parked. We picked our way out carefully through the snow, and drove over the hill and through the field to get back to the funeral home to greet more guests that would be coming to see her, to see us, to offer condolences and support, to remember.
And to see her face smiling through those more than seventy-nine photos.