It snowed on the day of my grandmother’s funeral. Big fat flakes. I wore the full-length wool coat I left behind when I moved to Los Angeles in 1995. The boxy shoulders dated its style, but it kept my legs warm, and besides, my Nana was dead, so who cared?
I insisted on being one of the six pallbearers. She would have loved that. Or maybe not. She was the firm matriarch of a traditional family, but her drive to take matters into her own hands made her a role model for women, like myself, with the desire to become leaders, to make positive changes in the world around us. It seemed fitting to have a girl’s hand to carry her that day.
The funeral director was a girl, too. Young, with pale skin and long dark hair. She guided us, the people who don’t often carry coffins, in shifting the load into and out of the hearse. She had quiet command of our captive audience. Maybe I’m the only one who worried about it at all. My male relatives had done this before.
Our funeral procession was escorted by several police SUV’s, with sirens and lights and blocked-off intersections. A heroine’s parade.
By the time we got to the cemetery the snow was coming down fast and thick, stilling the cold air and the usual city sounds. We got there first. As we waited, we learned that the young funeral director had attended the same college as my aunt.
“Of course,” said my aunt. “Because of the funeral program.”
The funeral director nodded. And the others walked away but I couldn’t stop staring at the girl. We stood there, just the two of us, as the family met the hearse pulling up to the site of the freshly dug grave.
“Why did you decide to pursue funeral home management as a career?” I asked. As if we were at a cocktail party or a job interview.
She paused for a moment, and I swear I watched her go through a decision-making flowchart. I wasn’t the one to tell.
She looked at me, as serious as death itself, and said “It’s a long story.”
Then she walked through the snow and began lining up the pallbearers for the last walk with my grandmother’s coffin. I hurried to take my place.