Mom said that at Saturday's memorial for her mom, my Grandma Dorothy. The rest of us -- family, friends, church colleagues -- understood where Mom was coming from. It's the accumulated weight of the eighty-nine years that Dorothy (Dunlap) Nelson was in the world, doing stuff and being herself.
We've had a month to adjust to Dorothy not being here physically. We've thought about her, and her deeds and influence, and we very clearly see the influence that's still there. It's not as if the world's Dorothy-ness went to Nil when she passed away. It's just less direct.
"It's a missing," Mom said. "It's not a sadness." It means -- it can mean -- that we're capable of taking up the work that Dorothy did, the work that she was hard-wired to do, using her lessons in living well and caring for people and carrying on with them.
I think we can do that.
We certainly gathered together well, connecting in love and joy and jokes. Several in my family first went to the cemetary in Southeast Portland where her ashes have been interred, next to the niche where Grandpa Bob's ashes reside, on an outdoor wall in a garden looking towards downtown and the West Hills. I showed up, parked, and wandered nearby because I needed a moment for myself (I had something I needed to think about; that's the simplest way to put it). I walked back towards the cemetary's front parking lot, visiting a grove when I saw Mom and Dad arrive with Aunt Pat. I joined them in riding back to the garden with Bob and Dorothy's wall. And I finally noticed that some of my younger cousins were there, including Steph and her 5-month daughter Eloisa. I've finally met Eloisa. And she's a sweetheart. She was sweet throughout our visit.
After the first family gathering at the cemetary, I went home. (I'm an errand-combining person: I stopped at the recycling depot near my place to drop off some newspapers.) A quick lunch (Ramen and Samoas) gave me the fuel to go on, to the chapel in the Hollywood neighborhood. More family, and friends and colleagues as well. Visiting commenced in the parking lot, as well as more cooing over Eloisa. I went inside with pages from my photo albums -- Grandma Dorothy in the 1990s -- and left them on a table with other pictures. People were glad to see her. We also had this great poster with photos from all throughout Dorothy's life, including her as an impish-looking 1-year-old.
Eloisa kind of looks like her.
I'd say that's a good sign.
Our pastor (who'd been a colleague of Dorothy's) led us through prayers, proverbs, and memorials. The four Nelson daughters, including my mom, lit candles for her. Many of us spoke, telling stories: my cousin Rob's ritual tickling of her; Rob's future wife Birgitte doing Dorothy's nails and "giggling like 12-year-olds"; her hard but happy work in her garden. I'd only vaguely known that her career job had been in Child Services. I'd really not known that once she'd had to duck behind her desk when a man entered her office holding a gun.
Most of the stories were happier than that one. But even that one had a happy ending (Dorothy was still here!).
Next were smaller family gatherings: first at a family apartment near the Sellwood Bridge, where immediate family members who had the time dined on takeout lasagna and manicotti from the Olive Garden, then at my parents' place. I stayed the night there, getting more visiting time (as well as March Madness time (yay Ducks!), reading time -- Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things -- and, of course, more food). And I returned to my home, watched more Firefly, cooked up a basic stir-fry for dinner, listened to music, and relaxed.
This has been a good weekend. And yes, it was a beautiful day.