On a beautiful southern Colorado afternoon, the sunlight crept through the creaking, old trees, slowly turning their leaves the soft, gold color of autumn. The weather was warm after several days of cold, dark, and rainy, and it was just the way Grandma would have liked it.
It would be difficult to say goodbye.
My cousins, brother, and I were pallbearers, the white flowers pinned solemnly to our chests. My red scarf felt too tight amid the stress, the black of my outfit absorbing too much heat. It all came clawing at my throat, and as my chest constricted, hearing my heartbeat in my ears, I knew this would be a day unlike any other for me, for all of us.
We stood behind her casket, decorated in bright, beautiful flowers and tributes to her, in the part of the cemetery filled with my ancestors, our family. I clung tightly to Grandma’s cross; I could feel the deep, complex impression it left in my palm.
We listened to the eulogy, the simple words describing the life she made and the children she brought into the world filling the air, and like the gust of wind that swept my hair back from my face, it blew me away, my cool exterior escaping with it.
A heaviness crashed over me, and I willed the tears to go away, but they persisted, trickling down my face like the calming river down the road from Grandma’s house, the one I might not visit again for a long time. My makeup began to smear, but I tried not to focus on it too much.
And before I was ready, it was my time to speak.
I stepped forward, hands shaking, voice quavering. Tears continued to stream down my face, and I said to the crowd of friends and family, “I’m Nichelle Taylor; I’m Amy’s daughter. I wrote something for my grandma, but please let me compose myself first.”
Daring to look at my mom, wishing I could be beside her, holding her hand, the heaviness became an unbearable anchor, holding me down while I fought to breathe beneath waves and tides of utter heartbreak for those who stared right at me. I wanted to tell my mom that I would always be by her side, from now until forever, and I wished I could just make the hurt go away like the clouds dissipating in the distance.
I took in a deep breath, wiped the tears away, and spoke, my voice sharp from holding back the grief,
“As a child, my grandma gave me several books to share in her love of reading, but the one that became my favorite was ‘The Secret Garden’. I read this book over and over throughout the years, and it still remains a fond memory when I think of what my grandma provided. Not only that, she gave me her cross that she always took to church. She sent it to me when I needed it most, and even still, I hold it when I need it most, and I think about her.
“We all get a lot from our family. We have similarities, differences, things we inherit. I think we can all agree as children and grandchildren of LaVaughn Linnens that we all inherited strength, kindness, wit, but above all that, I’m extremely grateful to have inherited the gift of writing from my grandma. Grandma was a writer and a reader for most of her life. She wrote a cookbook, published articles in the newspaper, and even wrote a novel, although it hasn’t seen the attention it deserves. I’m anxious to pick it up and truly see how great of a writer she was. There’s a lot to learn from writing, a lot to take away. It has become something that keeps me going day in and day out, and I feel I have my grandma to thank for that. I am grateful to her for the love of reading and writing, for providing me with my wonderful family, with a loving mother.
“Thank you for everything, Grandma. We will love and cherish you forever.”