Traveling last minute, isn’t necessarily a foreign thing to me. Frankly, I enjoy it. The thought of shoving what you can into a small suitcase, and knowing you will be in the air in less than a few hours is just exhilarating to me. I love to travel, and because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid it has almost become routine.
On Thursday, January 22, 2009 I found out that my Great-Grandmother passed away at the ripe old age of 92. Her death was becoming more and more anticipated by my family as the time passed. My Grandpa, who lives in California, held his mothers hand as she breathed her last breath on Monday. Soon after her death, they flew her to NY, where she was from originally and soon to be her final resting place. So, today January 24, 2009, me, my mom, my aunt, and Grandma all boarded a plane to join my mourning Grandfather and attend the funeral of Gertrude McBride-Boat.
As I packed my things, I thought about my Great-Grandma and how I have very few recollections of her. Although, there is one very vivid memory I do have. Since I was young she suffered from a very bad case of dementia. When I was around the age of seven or eight my Grandpa (a.k.a Papa Boat) took us up to New York to visit her. After the death of her husband, she moved into a small house along side a very small lake. While we visited, Papa Boat decided he would take us fishing. But, we could only fish on one condition, and that was that we had to dig our own live bait out of the ground. Immediately my brother and I rushed to the backyard to start digging. We dug those holes for an hour finding at least twenty slimy worms. Tired and covered in dirt we returned to the house, but as we entered, the room went from uneasiness to anger . My great-grandma and Papa Boat were arguing about something, and soon talking turned into yelling. Unfortunately that wasn’t a foreign thing to us either, so Tony and I retreated to our room to look over our worm catching. As we walked away, their yelling got louder, something about the holes in the backyard. Suddenly my great-grandma grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and wrapped her arm around my grandpa’s neck threatening to stab him to death. Caught by surprise, Tony and I didn’t have a clue about what to do, except all we really could do; scream. We cried until the tears were streaming down our faces, luckily she clamed down and Papa Boat put away the knife. To my demise, that is the only memory I have of my Great-Grandma, and now I sit on the plane that heads toward the last memory I will ever make of her.
The airport is like a second home to me, and I like it that way. But I’ve watched it evolve over the years and I believe it has become one of the biggest centers of materialism in the world. Mind you there are many more places that are huge on materialism, the airport is just definitely one of them. We went from peanuts and candy bars, to Ipods and Bose headphones in the vending machines, I even saw a Rosetta Stone “vending machine” spitting up the bright yellow boxes after you coughed up at least $250. And, well for a while now, food has been extremely expensive because they know you’re trapped and almost forced to buy their food if you’re looking for a decent meal. There are more than enough convenient stores placed on every corner, next to the $5 dollars-for-a –tall-mocha Starbucks “coffee” shops. The “latest” item that is absolutely necessary for flying is always displayed in the center of the store intentionally and successfully distracting the passersby.
There is a cornucopia of magazines layering the wall with the latest gossip and fashion tips screaming “its only cool to look like this!” Like the many people who walk into airports, I too gave in to buying something. I was craving a book so I made my way to a store that surprisingly had more books than magazines. I scoured in and out of the book shelves most of which held books that held no interest to me, I wanted a book by Obama to learn more about our new president but they seemed to be sold out. I settled with a book called Rainbow’s End a memoir about a young girl who grew up in South Africa and she loved horses. Perfect, right? And so far so good, I am learning a lot about the war in Rhodesia in the seventies which rocks my socks so… We met my Aunt and Grandma at the Houston airport and shortly after boarded our plane to LaGuardia (which happens to be the airport where the plane landed in the Hudson because of the birds) Of course The three stooges (my grandma, aunt and mom) made a bigger deal of it than they should of, asking every five minutes “see any birds?” Regardless it made me laugh, and I enjoyed watching them be worry warts. P.S We arrived safe and birdless.
The Three Stooges
I couldn’t have traveled with a more entertaining group of women. If you don’t know my mom, she is a loud Itailian with a joyful spirit when she wants to be, very sarcastic, humorous, loves cemeteries, and LOVES being in control. My grandma is a close replica except for the cemetery part, and my aunt is timid, worries more than she should, very set in her ways, and also loves control (they get it from their dad). So we grabbed our bags and headed towards the rental car center. When we walked outside the doors our ears almost froze off and triggered a line of loud gasps and mumbles from all of our mouths. We picked out a van, the sisters in the front, grandma in the middle and me in the way back. I became tired of the black scenery nightfall displayed as we made our way to Beacon, so I laid down to take a nap while my aunt read the directions and Grandma played back seat driver. Just like her mother, my Grandma loves reading each sign with familiarity as we passed by, when we got closer to our destination she started recognizing more signs and would yell out “ohh turn!”, my mom and aunt would then yell back with disapproval. Then a confusing two way fork came our way, Lori (my aunt) looked down for a second, and my grandma yelled “right!” and Lori was too late to stop my Mom from turning. Anyways, we landed ourselves in the wrong direction, but later found a detour and made it to where we were staying. I just sat in the back laughing up a storm while re-realizing that they are actually my family! Definitely a “you had to be there moment” but I wanted to share it nonetheless.
Newburgh is the city where my Mom, Grandpa, Grandma, Great Grandma, and Great-Great Grandma all grew up. Half my roots lay in the ground of Newburgh. It had been 10 years since I went there, and I have no recollection of it. But this time I learned much more than I bargained for. Gertrude was my Great-Grandma, her mom's name was Christine. Christine was an illegitimate child born in Germany that her mother's husband wanted out of the house, so he shipped her to America at the age of 10. The family that was supposed to pick her up at Ellis Island failed to do so. She then tried making it on her own, becoming a Nanny at the age of 11. She eventually married Mr. McBride, whom which she had 4 children with, one being my Great-Grandmother. Christine’s husband turned out to be a drunk, and after four children she seemed to have suffered from post-partum depression. As a child Gertrude longed for piano lessons, and when her Dad denied them, she ran away at age 14, he eventually agreed to pay for the lessons, and it was then that she came back home. Piano became her life. She played the organ for the church her whole life, and that was one of the many things she is remembered by. Gertrude eventually moved in with some family friends, she lived in the attic, and a man by the name of Mr. Boat lived in the house as well. People began to say that it looked bad that two unmarried people were living in the same house, so they got married (even though she was substantially younger, and not interested in each other). They had one son, Wesley Boat, my grandfather. Her husband died in 86’ at age 81 and twenty-three years later Gertrude died at age 92.
The wake was peaceful. I surprised Papa Boat when I arrived, he wasn’t informed I was coming, so he was very happy to see me. As I hugged him he was shaking and tearing up, which was touching because all my life he has always been very stoic and stern about his emotions.
Gertrude looked so comfortable in her auburn casket. It immediately reminded me of Olivia Hyten’s wake, although Oivia’s death was very unexpected, she too looked very peaceful. Almost looking as if she was saying, “its okay now, my life was good, but hard times are over, and now its even better”. Many people who knew Gertrude throughout her life attended the wake, I reunited with so much family I hadn’t seen in a really long time and some I never met until that moment, although the circumstances weren’t the best it was still very nice to see them all.
5 minutes before the funeral
As I was getting out of the van, due to ice, I cautiously turned around but apparently not cautiously enough. I slipped, dropped my camera, smacked my face on the car door and braced my self with my arms, almost slipping a second time when I attempted to get back up. I still have a bump, and a bruise on my nose, its lovely.
The funeral was the next day, A minster went up and said a few words, about my Great-Grandmother, we sang Amazing Grace (Gertrude’s favorite song) and closed in prayer. We then, followed the hurse to the cemetery and layed Gertrude in her final resting place. It was beautiful and I was very thankful to be able to witness it.
I’m not going to lie, I thought he was a little weird. He kept smiling at me and trying to talk to me but not in the normal kind of way. He gets really close to your face when he talks to you, and from the start I didn’t take a liking to him. During the service for the funeral he talked about Gertrude like he knew her, and even teared up at one point. But I didn’t feel like it was genuine, it was more for show than anything. But heres the funny part, as we shook hands to say good-bye, he leans in to hug me and says a prayer in my ear. And this is what he said, “God bless her and this baby, through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless Jill and her baby!” I walked away with a half a grin on my face, trying not to laugh in his face, I mean c’om I was at a funeral! What the heck? He thought I was pregnant! Unknowingly we went to a resturant and he came with us all, and then we said our final goodbyes he said “take care of the baby now!” I laughed and said, "heh thanks?”. And this time my grandma heard it. I mean I know I have a little food belly but sheesh, I was wearing a black dress but my belly didn’t go passed my boobs for goodness sake. You just dont say that to people. We got in the van and I blurted out what he said and we laughed the whole trip home.
Death is weird thing. Now I've only been to three funerals but every time I've gone to one the idea of death completely puzzles me. I get all tangled inside, like a spider in her own web. Open caskets kind of freak me out, not in a childish way, its just kind of erie seeing a lifeless body caked with make-up and showered with flowers. Don't get me wrong I think as humans we do a very good job in honoring our loved ones and their lives when they do indeed pass way. Although that isn't the case for everyone. It's just crazy to think about, I mean we weren't created to experience death. Many problems around the world occur because of oppositions over the idea of death and life after it. To me its obvious we weren't meant for it and the extreme amount of grief that comes with it. I can't even imagine the kind death people experience all over the world, some of which don't even get a nicely decorated casket or a memorial service. Death is crazy, and I don't get it. In spite of the fact, I do know the wages of sin are death, and Jesus died on the cross to spare us from the worst death of all (separation of God) but what does that really mean? Life after death is one thing all humans know very little about but the bible does tell us.....
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled “Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
The death that we experience now is nothing compared to what we would have experienced had Jesus not come, but because He did, I am so thankful. Now, the death we experience here on Earth becomes our second chance at real life with God, and what could be better than that?
I am currently riding the plane back to Vegas reminiscing over the good memories of the weekend and although my Great-Grandmother has passed I know she lived a good life and is dancing with Jesus in heaven. I hope and pray I will live a long and happy life like her, and watch the future generations of my family grow up. I pray that I don't ever forget truth that my life, like yours, will always be important. Important enough to be saved by death, now that is a life to celebrate!