I stuck my finger in the Easter bread batter last night, meaning to taste just a little of it to make sure I got it right.
While our mind holds all our memories, it is our senses that truly bring those memories forth. The taste and smell of the batter, all that lemon and sugar and butter, was like a one-two punch to my gut. Memories of my grandmother flooded my head. Baking on Good Friday, her hands covered in flour, deftly working the dough. The smell of the lemon zest, the squishy feel of the batter when she made me stick my hands in the mix as she would pour in the beaten eggs, then the flour, then more lemon peel, and I would whine that dough, at first, was gluey and stuck to my hands. The more I complained, the harder she made me work the dough until she threw enough flour in the pot for the batter to finally seem...doughy and it began to feel soft and pliant and I could take it out of the mixing pot to knead it.
Years of memories in one swoop, just from tasting that batter. In every single one of those memories, I am standing in Grandma's kitchen on Easter weekend and we're baking, watching The Price is Right. I'm small, in green plaid pants and a sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up. I'm a grouchy teenager afraid to get my band t-shirt crusted with flour. I'm an adult and I'm laughing at something Grandma said and I have no idea that it's going to be the last Easter she'll be alive.
I have a picture of Grandma on my fridge. After the memories subside I glance at the photo - she's standing in the kitchen with her sister, Aunt Jo - and smile.
The smile fades later when I open my email and it's kind of strange that today is the day I get this one particular mail - amid a flurry of many, many diatribes calling me many uncharitable things - that says "how does it feel to wish your grandmother dead? Did you smile when she died? Did you want her to die just to alleviate your suffering, you selfish thing?" And I know they are referring to this and I shake my head in disbelief.
I remember my grandmother's last days. I remember sitting in her hospital room in December 1998 and marveling at how her hands were fleshy and bony at the same time and how, even on her death bed, she still smelled like a mixture of cheap lipstick and burned garlic and that may sound terrible to you, but it was grandma to me.
I miss her. I miss her terribly. There are some days I think I see her in the supermarket and I have to remind myself she's dead. There are days I go to my mother's house, across the street from where Grandma - as well as my own family - lived and I think I hear her yelling at me to put a coat on.
Did I want my grandmother to die? At that particular time and place, yes I did. I wanted her to be free from suffering. I wanted her to be with her husband, my grandfather, which is all she wanted after he died, anyhow. I wanted her to stop needing so many wires and tubes to keep her going. I wanted her to have peace.
That does not make me a killer, a nazi, a bringer of death, a terrible person or any of those things I have been called. The fact that I said If I were Terri Schiavo, if I were in that situation, I would want to die, that in my personal opinion she's not alive so much as being kept alive, does not make me selfish or a bad person or spokesperson for the culture of death.
Who's behaving badly here? Who is making death threats to judges, throwing their kids out to the wolves to get arrested, sending horrible emails to people who disagree with them, calling us nazis and Hitlers and killers, claiming that we want to kill the disabled and meek and that only good Christians can understand what's at stake here? Or that if we disagree with you that means we must be ugly liberals at heart or you start attacking us in other ways, dragging people's sexuality into the fight?
I would like very much for my grandmother to be here with me today, baking Easter bread and watching Bob Barker together. But she's dead and I'm not afraid to say that I was relieved when she died. For her. Not for me. Not for anyone else, but for her.
I'm not going to read any more of these emails. I know, I said I wouldn't do that before, but this particular email was disguised as something friendly. What a lovely thing to do. What a Christian way to behave, my friend (and that is directed toward the emailer, not all Christians).
Happy Easter. May we all rise above this.