The recent weeks have been hard on my mom’s side of the family because my grandmother, the incomparable and amazing Sue, which is somehow short for Geneva (I’ll explain that in a different story because Sue needs a piece dedicated only to her), had been suffering. She fell and broke her hip a couple of years ago and was taken to a nursing home for recovery, which, because she was the ripe old age of 93, never happened. We knew it wouldn’t. The lady was already weak, so we knew she would never walk again. And after fighting to bring her home and the saint-like diligence of her three daughters and my sister, accompanied by an angelic team of home-health care workers, at the end of February, 2021, my Mema - Ah-Mama to the great grandkids, went home to be with the Lord. I have a lot more to say about how her passing will affect our family and some of the stories she told of her childhood are classic, but that’s for later. Right now, I want to dive into some culture and theology that seems to flare up like the burners on Mema’s ancient gas stove whenever someone dies. I’m talking about the concept of Heaven, and more specifically, what we’ll be doing up there.
I’m Michael Blackston and this is an otherworldly dive into my Funny Messy Life.
You might be saying, I didn’t come here to be preached at!
And I’m here to tell you not to worry. I don’t do that here ... much (listen to the story called, The Trendy Curmudgeon for a slight departure from that rule). There may be a Christian themed podcast sooner or later where I bring hell-fire and brimstone, but here at Funny Messy Life, I like to keep it light. That’s why I beg of you … if you have trouble telling the difference between seriousness and satire, listen (or read) carefully ... I’M JUST HAVING A LITTLE FUN!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I can begin my commentary.
I’ve been to my share of viewings and funerals and graveside services over the course of my lifetime. I know my duties as a Pallbearer and I understand what to say and what not to say to the family of the deceased. For example, NEVER ... and I mean NEVER, no matter how similar an experience you’ve had ... NEVER EVER tell a member of the grieving party that you understand what they’re going through. Because you don’t. You might think you do, but ya don’t.
What you do say to them, depending on the region, is how sorry you are for their loss, and that if they need anything at all, it would be an honor to help.
There are some alternate words you might consider, again, depending on the region. If you’re in:
Georgia - I’m so sorry for your loss. She made the best sweet tea.
South Carolina - I’ll be praying for your family. Your daddy could swat mosquitos better than anybody I knew.
Florida - Bless your heart. Will your grandma be buried here or back home in New York?
Alabama - ROLL TIDE!
Of course, I’m from the south, so that’s all I can offer, but if you call your local funeral home and request a list of regional condolence alternatives, I’m sure they’ll be happy to send that right out to you. Unless you’re in California. They’ll probably just label you “insensitive”, call for a boycott on everything “You”, and tear down a random statue to make a point.
Anyway, I’ve made a left turn into, What the heck does this have to do with heaven?
Here’s the connection. More than a few times, because she was bedridden for so long, I heard people say things about my grandmother like, Well, she’s up there now, just a-dancin’ away, or She’s singin’ In The Garden with a heavenly choir as we speak! There are several of these little nuggets of ointment for the heart, but I started to think about what I want people to say about me when I go on to the Great Beyond. I started thinking about it during a trip to the grocery store when I was insanely hungry, but only had enough cash on me to buy the bare essentials. This is what I told my wife ...
When I die, if anybody says I’m up there dancing or singing, I want you to tell them what I’m really doing.
I’ll be eating. I’ll be at a big table with everything I ever wanted to eat in front of me because it’s heaven and I can have whatever I want and as much of it as I want because it’s heaven.
Seriously? Your idea of heaven is sitting at an enormous table, cramming your pie hole with macaroni and fried chicken?
Of course not! I will be cramming my pie hole with pie. I’ll get to the macaroni after I tire of anything that’s loaded with sugar because it’s heaven and Wilford Brimley can’t tell me what to do. And if anybody dies and comes looking for me, tell them to just follow the trail of movie theater popcorn butter and it’ll lead ‘em right to me. Because heaven.
I started to think about all the other things that will be available to me, but nothing, other than Jesus, interested me. I think I mostly look forward to chewing delicious morsels of heavenly goodness, followed by swallowing said morsels and having them disappear into space without being bad for me.
And then, because my mind won’t let a thing go very easily, I started thinking about the one thing other people might be looking forward to when the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.
Again, don’t write me with your opinions about whether any of the people I’m about to mention will go to heaven. This is a comedy piece, not theological, as you can already tell. So quiet, you!
I imagine The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, is snuggling up to the biggest crocodile you ever laid eyes on, giving it a noogie, and flossing it’s teeth, while wearing a necklace made from live baby cobras.
Perhaps Lady Gaga (she’s still with us - don’t panic) will have a bathtub full of never ending feathers and eyeliner pencils and all the Elmer’s glue in the world to put together her next outfit.
My literary muse, the late Lewis Grizzard, may well be watching reruns of the Run Lyndsay, Run play from the 1980 Georgia/Florida game. He will have a typewriter close by and, because it’s heaven, everybody up there will agree with everything he said in his latest article.
Comedic actor, John Candy, will .... well, I guess he’ll be cramming food into his pie hole with me at the huge food table.
Funerals are a weird experience. This was my daughter’s first time. Luckily, she didn’t have to endure watching too many people cry because we were all happy Grandma had moved on to what we believe is a place where she’s young again and perfect and eternally happy. And we believe we’ll get to see her again.
At one point, during her last days, dementia had set in pretty aggressively and she began to think she was once again cooking biscuits from scratch. I told my mom they had missed a golden opportunity. They should have brought the ingredients over a;long with a big bowl and let her go to town. It’s been years since any of us have tasted Grandma’s homemade biscuits. She got too old to bother messing with them, but there was a time when she made them at every meal. I never knew one way or the other whether or not she enjoyed making them all those years or if it was a chore she was glad to be rid of. Something tells me she didn’t mind not having to make them, but there at the end, they must have been a reminder of a happy time for her to go back to them like that. She was surrounded by loved ones that had passed on during those last hours, too. She talked to her sister and brothers and my Grandpa. While we gathered around her and tried to keep her comfortable, she was in a different place in her mind - a different time. Back then there were few shows to choose from on the tv and very little, if any color in them. There were children and grandchildren and great grandchildren still to be raised and nosey outside cats to shoo away from the laundry basket while she hung clothes on the line in her bare feet. There were several of those mouse catchers over the years, but they all went by the same name … Kitty Tom.
In the last days before she passed, I reckon she might have visited a Christmas or two when the family was all together and none of the dramas that filled our lives later on had happened yet. The tree in the corner would have been a real one, a bushy cedar, cut down by Grandpa’s own hand from the woods behind the house, and it would have been draped in stringy tinsel, and those huge colored lights that used to get so hot, it’s a miracle there weren’t more Christmas house burnings back then. There would have been Gene Autry playing a lonely cowboy tune on the cabinet stereo, or maybe a laugh track behind a black and white screen featuring Red Skelton on a television way smaller than a lot of people nowadays can remember.
And I’m sure she could smell the biscuits cooking in the oven. That glorious aroma of fresh, golden brown bread.
Yeah, that’s where I think I’ll be. Sitting at that table in front of a plate piled high with Grandma’s biscuits, sharing a meal with her one more time. One more of an eternity of times to come, and listening to her tell me her stories again.
That’s where I’m gonna be.
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