Time to say goodbye

EditorsJul 19, 2013

Time to say goodbye

On Saturday, July 13, I returned from a two-week whirlwind vacation to sad news: my grandmother, Anna E. (Rothart) Graff, had died.

On Saturday, July 13, I returned from a two-week whirlwind vacation to sad news: my grandmother, Anna E. (Rothart) Graff, had died.

I quickly unpacked one suitcase and repacked another, then caught a train out to a stop off I-80 in New Jersey, where by brother and sister-in-law scooped me up for the remainder of the ride to Pittsburgh.

On Monday, the day before the funeral, I had the opportunity to visit my grandmother’s house, where she lived independently until the last two months of her life, for the last time.

It’s the same house where I spent hours of my childhood playing 500 rum with her at the kitchen table, and where I spent all my Christmas Days until her house grew too small to hold our growing family and she became, in her children’s view, too old to handle Christmas for everyone.

I knew what I wanted to see in her house; the one thing, in my mind, that is the ultimate link between generations: jewelry.

We didn’t have enough time that day to look through everything--my grandmother had drawers and drawers of jewelry, much of it costume and still in its original boxes--but my mother has promised to put it aside for me so I can sort through it the next time I am home and divide it up among my cousins and their children, my grandmother’s great-grandchildren.

One thing I did take from her house was a very small plain band that I can only surmise was her original wedding band from my grandfather, who died long before I was born. There is no stamp on the ring and I can’t tell if it’s platinum, white gold or neither of the aforementioned.

What I do know is that my grandmother had long, slender fingers and the band would not fit most people. But it fits her granddaughter, because she has the same hands.

For my grandmother’s funeral, I was asked to do a reading. And by asked, I mean that my father shouted across the funeral home’s viewing room, “Michelle, do you want to do a reading?” in front of my entire family, leaving me little choice in the matter. (One of my aunts “asked” my cousin to do a reading in exactly the same manner. It’s just the Graff way.)

Not that I minded. I felt like it was the least I could do for someone who had shown me unconditional love since the day I was born.

Much to my grandmother’s chagrin, I am sure, I am not a particularly religious person. 

I don’t know what happens to people when they die: if there is some kind of system for dividing people up according to their behavior on earth (good people go to one place, bad people to another), if your spirit goes on to become something else, or if death is simply the end.

So I selected my reading from the New Testament carefully, avoiding any passages that involved damning people to hell.

What I ended up picking was from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, a letter in which he wrote, “We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”

My grandmother’s “tent” lasted her nearly 100 years, until her heart gave out at the age of 98. It was a long, good life but it was time for her family to say goodbye.

So, we say it: Goodbye, grandma. We’ll always miss you.

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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