We buried my grandmother this weekend. Hundreds of people stuffed the pews at the church she helped found decades ago when she and my grandfather started their life together in the small community where I was lucky enough to grow up. In the parish hall after the service, M. ran around in her sparkly new Mary Janes with her cousins, sneaking all the cookies she could stomach from the silver trays lovingly set out by the church ladies.
I spoke at my grandmother’s memorial, and remembered aloud how accepting and nonjudgmental she had been. I didn’t specifically mention the fact that she had supported my transgender daughter without hesitation, but everyone knew that’s one of the things that I was referring to. She was just as accepting with the rest of us, and of all our quirks and foibles.
It was a lovely day – we mourned, we celebrated, we hugged a lot. There were beautiful spring flowers everywhere, in vases set on every flat surface in the church. My grandmother adored flowers; maybe that’s why she picked the springtime to leave us.
She’s the closest person I’ve lost yet, and something strange is happening: I’ve started chatting with her. I wonder if this is common? I feel her with me throughout the day, and I sort of run stuff by her – at work when my boss is being difficult (“Well, HE sure is being ridiculous, isn’t he?”), or when I see some beautiful spring flowers blooming by the side of the road (“Now aren’t those just lovely?”). I hadn’t expected to feel her ghost hanging around, but I do.
I think she’d like how I finished the weekend. I got together with a woman I’ve met a few times who has a kid like mine. We met for an emergency glass of wine a few months ago when her 5-year-old child – a boy who loved dresses and “girl stuff” as much as M. does – had just told his mom that she was actually a girl. This courageous mom was kind of freaking out, but she is one tough and loving parent. She and her husband knew their kid was not going through a phase – just like M. wasn’t. They got on board – told their families, helped Lucas switch pronouns at school. And then they set about helping their new daughter find a name. The name took a little longer than the pronoun switch. At first, Lucas apparently thought that she could switch names as often as she felt like it, but her parents said this would be pretty confusing and she’d need to pick just one and stick with it.
Last night, as we sat chatting in her living room, Lucas’ mom told me how they went about changing their child’s name. They announced to close friends that there would be a party to celebrate the new name. Before the party, she was Lucas; but once the party began, she became N. Everyone was asked to bring a flower. Out-of-town relatives had bouquets delivered to their house in time for Lucas’ party. Surrounded by flowers and friends, Lucas – now N. – told her mother: “Now, I feel like my real self.”
Isn’t that nice, Grandma?