If you've read the prior entries, the story til now, then you may be experiencing a mixed bag of reactions and thoughts. That's alright, really, and who am I to say differently? Especially given the entire macabre tale. This will wrap it all up, the death of my grandmother being far more amusing (and useful) to me than her life. Sad and horrible to say, perhaps, but oh so true.
At the viewing, my cousin (miz drama-sin) was a bit put off by the rose, my rose, in the coffin. It was an affront of sorts. After all, everyone knew that while my brother was the favorite grandchild, I was the most abhorred. The one who was merely tolerated (at best) when the family gathered; the one who was constantly berated to the others, at least they were much better than me, they sniffed and all was well with the world.
My grandmother had a certain soft-spot for elephants (not a huge stretch of the imagination there) and collected them in all shapes and forms. She had small delicate glass ones, large china ones with red and gold paint, wooden ones made of jigsawed pieces that fit in 3-D. She had plush ones, stuffed ones, cute ones, realistic ones. She had Dumbo and little trains of them, trunks twisted around the tail of the one in front. She had ones that had little carts balanced on their backs and ones who appeared ferocious, their tusks sharp and dangerous. She had gray ones, and pink ones rearing up as a mouse scurried by. She had elephants on teacups and carving platters and mamma's with their babies. She had elephants everywhere, on the walls, in the shadowboxes, under the coffee table, on counters, dresser tops, above the door. It was impossible to miss the rounded figures; every where your eye rested, there was one or two, or even more.
My cousin had stolen into my grandmother's room and whilst her mother took piles of whatnot, my cousin took the small plush toy that she'd given my grandmother. It was a gray furry thing with delicate pink inner ears, white felt tusks, and cutely widened eyes. It's mouth was slightly open, and it would squeak when squeezed. Well, it had when my cousin first gave it as a gift. It wheezed now. Age attacks even stuffed toys, you know.
My cousin brought the ratty tattered thing to the viewing, cradled in her arm, tucked under her elbow when not being bandied about as though it were a badge of pride. When she saw the lone rose, central to the reposed figure, my cousin asked my grandfather if she mightn't put the elephant in the coffin with grammee (after all, she adored the creatures in life, wouldn't she want its company in the here-after?). He agreed, and she waited til the very end of the viewing, having informed the funeral director that the elephant had a place of honor with the deceased (this the same cousin who attempted to show me pictures of both of my grandparents in their coffins, holy shit woman, have you no sense of properity? apparently not), and inserted the elephant into the coffin, tucked in for infinity.
The morning of the funeral, my brother arrived via bus from quite a distance. He was to be a pall-bearer and was much respected. After all, he was the favored one. His eyes red rimmed from grief, from sleepless bus travel, from a little recreational therapy...quite possibly all three.
I'm standing grave side, behind the row of her children; standing behind my seated father (I think I am safe from giggles now, besides, he cannot lean down toward me, now can he?). The ground is so wet that we are all sunken, squelched into the mucky mire. There had been some confusion at the hearse, as men jostled into position, like jockeys primed. They heaved the coffin up, surprised at how light it was (she was a big woman, short yes, but heavy) and they began to come toward us, under the tented freshly dug grave, finding their stride, settling into the rhythm of their own walk and the others'.
As they draw near, my brother falters, sinks to his knee (is it the mud? the grief? the weight of the moment?) and then I hear it. An asthmatic wheeze emitted by the shifting bulk inside the coffin. I see no reaction from anyone, anywhere. So I question, did i really hear it? Then as he regains his footing, my brother rightens his burden, and I hear it again. This time there is no mistaking the dry tired wheeze of the damned stuffed elephant trapped, needing more space from its accompanying occupant. Glancing around, I see bored stiff expressions and slackened numbed cheeks and jaws. It doesn't seem to register with the others, but this time I know I heard it.
After the graveside words are said, I feel the surrealism of the whole affair coming to a point; as the crowd and family has left, and I am standing to the side, not far from the grave, waiting for my father to finish speaking with his brother. They have begun to lower the coffin into the grave, a half-hearted drizzle has hastened the job. I hear the faintest protest of a wheeze coming from the cut bowels of raw heavy earth, streaked with coal, one last time as I turn toward my father, with a faint smile on my lips.
There is nothing left to say.