My grandmother, Dorris, stood about five-foot nothing and weighed 98 pounds in her navy blue Northern Isles sweater. She was a Colby College graduate, class of 1932, locally known as "the old campus," and what she called, "on the other side of the tracks." She had seen a lot. After a brief stint teaching Latin and French, she took to working for the State of Maine as a Social Worker for Child Protective Services. In my teens, I would get off the bus near her house, and we would play Scrabble. She made me cup custards, with nutmeg on top. She had one of those knowing, ironic senses of humor that come with seeing the worst humanity has to offer. I adored her.
This was the time of year she lived for - a time of daffodils - and it was this time of the year she died.
It was her father who first brought home cigarettes, from Boston, for her to try. She started in her teens. She never stopped, and she never regretted it. While she was a cancer survivor (ovarian, why my father was an only child), her smoking didn't much bother her until emphysema caught up with her in her 80's. Even then, in a nursing home, on oxygen, when the aides would go out for a smoke break, and she would smell it through the open door, she would smile. The last time I saw her, in the basement of the Bath Memorial Hospital, her bed was raised to an angle that mitigated the discomfort from her lungs filing up with fluid. (The morphine helped, too). Her heart was giving out. I stood at the foot of her bed, and with all of the energy she could muster, she raised her right hand, like she was asking me to take a pledge: to swear that I'd tell the truth and the whole truth, so help me, God. Reflexively, I raised my right hand, too. And what she said was: "Remember me."
The wish to be remembered must be a powerful thing. Not all of us will be Shakespeare, after all. We won't live on eternally on this plane. We will live here until, like in the recent Pixar movie "Coco" says, the last person living remembers us. (I'm not crying, you're crying).
Folks have called The Woman with the Alabaster Jar the first disciple. She was the one who understood, and believed, what Jesus was saying: that he was going to die. People who are dying sometimes want to talk about death. We should listen to them. While the (male) disciples argued about who was going to have the seat next to him in heaven, or which one was going to be the greatest, she seemed like the only one paying attention to Jesus; to his teachings. She was generous, extravagant, risky, and loving - willing, like him, to give all she had in service, not seeking anything in return. She anointed him for his burial, and, in return, he said, "Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Sound familiar? It should.
One wonders if Jesus wasn't thinking about her when he said those things on the night we call "The Last Supper," which we commemorate (there's that word again) this Thursday at our Maundy Thursday service at 7:00 p.m. As often as you break bread and share a cup, as often as you gather, do so, he said, in remembrance of me. This Holy Week, we gather many times to tell the story, and to remember. We remember him.
The duo Eastmountainsouth only made one, eponymous, recording, which is just a crying shame. So beautiful. It was produced by Robbie Robertson, from The Band. Like the song from "Coco," this song's refrain is also, "Remember Me." As often as I smell daffodils, or cup custards, or play Scrabble, I remember her.
Wishing you his peace.