***Published in Sasee Magazine, December 2019
by Melissa Face
“Don’t you eat my apple bites!, Mammie hollered, referring to her most favorite treat sold in stores. For years, apple bites have been a staple on her grocery list. She enjoyed one per day with her morning coffee, and sometimes she shared.
I joked that I was going to eat them all. We both laughed, I hugged her, told her I loved her, and headed out the door.
That was my last conversation with my grandmother. She passed away one week later, suddenly but peacefully. And though we were all deeply saddened, Mammie’s children and grandchildren came together to remember her in a way that was authentic and true to her life.
Several of my cousins sang beautiful hymns she had requested months earlier, and many of us shared stories. Although there were many heartfelt and touching moments, it wasn’t a typical funeral service. But Mammie wasn’t exactly a “typical” grandmother.
Mammie had four children, ten grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Somehow, she managed to maintain unique relationships with all of us, which was not an easy feat. She knew our likes and dislikes, frequently prepared our favorite foods, and shared private jokes with us.
Naturally, many of those stories were shared at her service. We talked about how much we would miss her fudge, her chicken rice soup, and her homemade meatloaf. We shared stories about her favorite sports teams, beach and mountain vacations, and her favorite tv shows.
Nearly everyone’s story had an element of humor in it. And while it certainly was not meant to be a comedy show, it would have been unfair to not address that part of Mammie’s life. She had a hilarious personality, and she loved to laugh.
My cousin, Brandon, approached the pulpit for his turn to honor Mammie. He cleared his throat and began reading from his phone.
“By now you have probably heard about how much Mammie loved her doll babies,” he said. (Mammie referred to all of her grands and great grands as doll babies.) “What you may not know is how diverse her doll babies are. There are doll babies who inspire through writing, through teaching, and through singing.”
Brandon took a long pause.
“I am none of those doll babies, which is why I was not asked to sing today,”
“There are doll babies who are kind and gentle to animals and there are doll babies who are skilled in hunting and fishing,” he continued. Again, I am not any of those doll babies.”
The congregation laughed a bit louder.
“I am, however, the doll baby with a unique nickname Mammie gave me that has stuck throughout the years and will continue for generations. There are so many things I will miss about you: your laugh, your smile, waking up to thirty facebook notifications, and your ability to bring the family together. But most of all, I will miss your inappropriate advice…which I cannot share in church.”
Then, to illustrate Mammie’s nickname for him, Brandon leaned toward the microphone and made a raspberry sound with his mouth that echoed throughout the sanctuary.
The entire congregation erupted into laughter. The preacher wore a shocked expression, and I’m pretty sure that church will never be the same again.
In the end, we honored her in a way that we felt would truly have made her proud. We could have kept the service somber, but it wouldn’t have felt right for Mammie.
Since her death, I have thought a lot about my last visit with her and replayed our conversation in my mind. At first I wished we had talked about something more meaningful that day. I could have told her again how much I loved her. I could have thanked her for supporting me throughout the years and for always encouraging me and helping me feel better about myself. We had said all of that before, though. I knew she loved me, and she knew how much she was loved by every single member of her family.
And though I will always long for one more conversation, our last one was representative of our relationship: one of laughter and love. What more could a person ask for? Aside from another apple bite, of course.