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Remembrance

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When Marie first met George she wasn’t all that “into him”. They were taking part in a game of street hide and seek. Even at the age of 16 Marie was a force to be reckoned with – a strong willed, fiery Irish woman, living in the Bronx in the early 1930’s. And George decided he just had to know that tall, porcelain beauty with red hair and green eyes. He followed her to hide in the same spot and the rest, as they say, is history. They soon fell in love and got married while George was in the service. They traveled around Europe together, seeing and exploring all the beautiful, wonderful places. 40 years later they were parents and grandparents; transformed from Marie and George to “Mom” and “Dad”, “Grandmama” and “Grandpapa”.
They were adoring grandparents, spoiling us grand kids whenever possible. I remember many a Christmas spent listening to them regale us with stories about their traveling during the war, all the while munching on cookies and candies and drinking soda (which was definitely not allowed at home). Though, for all the stories I heard growing up, I wasn’t told how they met until I was almost grown and it was far too late to ask questions.
I didn’t know my grandmother was sick until it was too late. I guess no one wanted to scare us kids. It was seven long years of agony for all involved – a heartache unlike any other. Suddenly the familiar walls I had grown up with seemed barren, my grandparents’ house a ghost of what it once was. We went there less often, opting to visit the nursing home instead.
That place, my worst nightmare, was clean – too clean. It reeked of bleach and the walls weren’t inviting. The soft 50’s music drifting through the hallways made it no more bearable. That place was clinical and cold. I still try to forget it and the uneasy feeling that would grip my very soul when I was there, twisting, turning, making me sick. Death.
As I watched my grandmother slowly lose herself to time I reminisced on the happier moments I’d shared with her. I remember playing with cars and airplanes in the living room as she filled the space with music from the piano. I remember her laughing at Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter dinners with the whole family. Most of all I remember going to church on Sunday mornings and racing through the aisles as fast as I could to beat my young siblings to that coveted spot: the space, enough for one, between my grandparents.
When I was younger I went to church regularly. I sat dutifully with my grandparents, received the host, and said my prayers at night. After my grandmother got sick we didn’t go to church that often. In fact, we stopped going altogether.
We went back to church in November of 2012. She – my grandmother; my rock and inspiration; Marie – was dead. At her funeral I tried to hold it in. I tried so hard to be strong like her. I convinced myself that I didn’t know her that well anyway and it wasn’t worth it to cry over nothing, right? By the end of it I almost needed life support myself.
I decided then that I wouldn’t willingly step foot in a church again. The happy memories of sitting with my grandmother and grandfather were somehow tainted. The finality of her funeral, in the very place she had seemed so alive, was too much for me. I gave up the faith I had grown up with, threw away the ideas of salvation and eternal life, of forgiveness and a kind god. If that were all true, how could life be so cruel?
I distinctly remember how she had always worn a cross around her neck – a nice, thick silver one with Celtic knots through it. That was the one constant with her: she was faithful to the core. This was something I was unable to process as a sophomore in high school. I didn’t want to be faithful when (as I saw it) that faith had taken someone I loved.
In the past few weeks I realized that I had received a cross like it for my Confirmation. I dug out the worn, dusty box and cradled the cool silver in my hand. It took a few moments of reflection but I finally looped it around my neck, swearing to never go without it, to never forget.
I may not be able to step inside that church again without wanting to sob but I know that she would be proud of me. It took a few years, but I was able to pick up the pieces of my own heart and put them back together. After this time I have learned that even after death the ones we love can be found in our hearts. I wear this cross to honor my grandmother. I wear this cross to remember Marie.

This piece was written for AP Lit as our quarter 2 Watershed project.

This piece was written for AP Lit as our quarter 2 Watershed project.

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Remembrance