Obituaries & In Memoriam

The two greatest moments in a person's life is their birth and their death. Or as in Zen it would be called, "the Great Matter". My passion for honoring our beloved dead came first with composing the obituary for my Granny, my closest grandparent.
 
It was such a delight to bear witness to the stories of her life as told by her family and friends. And, the sacredness of holding space for those left behind was was so clear that I was moved and guided to offer this to others in service. For me, the love of stories and the healing of our families and communities through ancestral lineage work both energizes me and leaves me ironically speechless.
 
I look forward to holding your stories, to celebrating and telling the perfectly human truth of the person(s) you love. You can find several of my own, below. Thank you for this honor, and your trust.

If I can assist you in this process for your loved one or yourself, before, during, or after death, please consider visiting my relevant sister site, Dignified Words, by clicking the button below.

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Obituary: Carol "Granny" Jefford

Whether over-tipping her server at a restaurant, or saving wild turtles from mowers, Carol Jefford moved through life with a universal kindness and grace. The essence of her light was simply who she was, what she gave, and how she treated others. One of her final acts in this life was composing a graduation card for her daughter's gardner's son's graduation. She always held others in the highest regard, having great faith in other people's character.

Carol had a quiet and humble yet powerful gift of presence. That is, until she was not quiet. She was also outspoken, obstinate, and unapologetically herself. Whether it was staying out until 8AM playing cards at the 500 Club, or drinking more coffee than water and continuing to smoke into her last days, you could count on Carol being herself. She was finicky and gullible, and liked things in a certain way. And. What you saw was what you got—a refreshing genuineness in our world. A chief part of loving someone is acknowledging, honoring, and loving all of them. Carol both did this for and demanded this of others through her fierce authenticity and self-acceptance. She could readily laugh at herself.

Carol Jefford,  or “Granny,” was born 3/3/45 in Torrance, CA. to working class parents and was the second eldest of four children. At 15, her mother died unexpected and Carol dropped out of school  to work and parent her two youngest siblings as her father traveled for work. This experience reflects her strength and tenacity—a quality everyone in her family associates with and learned from her. Whether it was taking on this early caretaker role or facing substantial health challenges such as the loss of one of her legs, Carol always showed up for the tasks of her life with commitment and perseverance. She never felt herself a victim, and approached life with positivity.

Granny cherished family more than anything else. You could count on her being at any and all softballs games, awards ceremonies, and events. The impetus behind her deciding to proceed with chemotherapy was to live long enough to see her youngest granddaughter graduate from high school. She was steadfast and present. The work she leaves her descendents is one of continuing her humanism, though she may not have called it that—to love others unconditionally, to treat all beings with dignity and hold them in high regard, and to be fiercely authentic and unapologetically yourself. Her example and instruction that was her life, her greatest teaching. She passed in the company of her family on June 5th, 2019.

Services will be held at 6PM, Thursday June 13th at a daughter's home in Clovis, 2903 Ashcroft Ave., 93611. We heartily invite you to come share stories and celebrate Carol's life!

Creative Non-Fiction: Granny, and I

The last time we saw one another, we shared a cigarette. Well, you had one or two in the van on the way to lunch since you hadn't had one in ages. Ages, as in like, a month or something. I'd lost track of your days of all the times you “quit”.

I'm pretty sure it was Basics, red. Or was it silver? It's hard to differentiate what you smoked then and what you hot boxed us kids with in your minivan. Junked 7-seater lookin' like Snoop Dogg's ride, cloud plumes leaking out after latchkey.

I bought my first pack of cigarettes that day—American Spirit, originals. I felt 17 or something, truly your grandchild in spite of being in my thirties with kids of my own. I'd bought coke and heroin and booze, but never a pack. And yet, I felt more nervous about that than any of the other stuff. Of course I didn't get carded. Having a cigarette after chemo, you were just as nervous at first. Afraid of what The Girls might think.

The toxic “medicine—more liable to kill you outright than those cells of yours on overdrive—finished pumping into your port. The confused Hungarian nurse to whom you said I was your grandson stared perplexed at my tits before removing the med line. We'd just woken up from a co-nap, passed out in the oncology clinic room with blaring beeps. People in our family always gave both of us shit for napping. It was a relief being in like company. We wiped our eyes, I asked what you wanted. You said you didn't know. I suggested we have a cigarette. You looked at me, sheepish but excitedly, “really??”

“Yeah, fuck it. You know, you can have one. Doesn't mean a god damn thing what you daughters do or don't want you to do. You're fucking dying, you can do whatever the hell you want. You always could”.

You said you were dying for one when we left the hospital. Funny words. Funnier still, that you didn't die of cancer, nor was your cancer directly related to your life profession of smoking. I mean, maybe the smoking—plus drinking more bad coffee than water, eating like shit, and playing poker til 8AM. Basically the life of a bad ass.

We had lunch. Thai. You'd never had Thai food, I don't think. Beforehand, we sat outside, me on my heels, which I learned in Thailand or China or someplace. You in your wheelchair. Passing a cigarette back and forth. Societal outlaws. Family outlaws. Closest grandparent and first grandchild. I didn't finish my cigarette that day. I do these days.

I mostly ordered for us, but of course you wanted something with beef. Something familiar, distinguishable. Having lived in Thailand, I can say that the food we had was pretty awful by comparison. But you didn't know that. And you were happier for it. As with most things. Delightfully and willfully ignorant. But well intentioned. Bless your heart, it was all okay, because you're fucking Granny, and I love you.

That same visit, the last visit, at least in person or in this life, you said you felt like we were so close and could ask me anything. You were right, of course. I always held your strange questions in respect and irreverence. You asked me if, as a trans person, my partner and I had sex.

“Granny, we're partners. We love each other, we're attracted to each other. We're adults. Of course we have sex. Why wouldn't we have sex?”

“Well, I don't know. I just didn't know if, you know, everything worked...”

This was kind of like that time when you asked if I was gonna have “the surgery”. Or the time right after you met my partner for the first time, and I went to the bathroom, and you asked them, “he's not gonna have that surgery, is he?”

Obvious tits and still the “hes”. I never could understand your obsession with my body. It kind of didn't matter, but it was pretty fun pressing you on it and getting you to think a little bit more about how weird that is. Like after the Hungarian nurse thing, and you said you felt uncomfortable when I took off my sweater and my tits were ablaze under my shirt. I asked you why you felt uncomfortable. You said something like you were worried about what the nurse thought after you had said that I was your grandson.

“So let me get this straight, Granny...you feel nervous or embarrassed, about what someone else whom you don't even know, thinks about my body?”

“Well, yeah...”

“Granny, that's weird. Just sayin'. Why do you think you're uncomfortable about all that when it's not even yours?”

“Oh, I don't know...I guess I just am”.

And that was okay. I mean, you were fucking 70-something, dying whether others would admit it or not, whether you would admit it or not. A descendent of a long line of caffeine and nicotine dependent poor undereducated oakies. Maybe under other circumstances and with more time we could've dove into that more, but it didn't really matter. It was just kind of fun.

And you're fuckin' Granny. That made a lot of ridiculous things okay, and endearing.

Remember when you couldn't get my pronouns right? Just couldn't, wouldn't, whatever. I'd had enough of the “hes,” and decided that in good spirits, you just needed a good old-fashioned wake up experience to get it into your noggin. Nothing like a brief traumatic experience to sear something into your brain. And besides, we've always been on good and light hearted terms. 

You did the he-thing again. I walked up to you, you looking up from your wheelchair. I said, “Granny, I'm going to do something, okay?”

Your eyes were pretty big. I guess you expected something pretty ridiculous from me. You weren't wrong.

“Granny, next time you think he, I want you to think of this,” and I pressed your hand into my tit.

“Oh my god!” you said. Mission accomplished. You never he-d me in front of me again that I can remember, though you did it when talking about me to others in the family. Oh well.

The others, one of your daughters and your original youngest grandchild until the other came around ten years later, they liked to play pranks on you. I wouldn't do that. That being said, it was pretty fucking funny to see you startled. This one was for your own good, though. And mine. 

 

***

 

My partner and I asked if you wanted to come live with us while you died. You said you appreciated it, but I know you couldn't actually give yourself that. I mean, fuck, you had to give up your own life at 15 to take care of your siblings when your mom died. Then you had two kids of your own by the time you would've graduated high school, had that still been in the cards for you. But it wasn't.

I'm glad you died the way you did—fast. That way you didn't have to realize that your care was mediocre, and folks didn't respect you enough to let you live your own life.

We said you could be yourself and we'd give you no shit. You could smoke, go to the Native casino down the road. We have kids who were waiting for you to show up and teach them how to play cards. Our middle kid said, “when's that lady going to come and teach us how to take other people's money?”

I'm sad they won't get that experience. They're sad they never got to meet you. I played it up pretty hard, because you are important to me. You're one of the few I could count on your unconditional love. And could count on you just unapologetically being yourself. That taught me a lot.

You were a hopeless gossip, but never in malice or bad spirits.

“I'm sorry, but I just can't keep my mouth shut,” you'd say. And I'd say, “I know, Granny”. It was always okay, because you are Granny. I just learned not to tell you anything that I didn't want anyone else to know. And that worked. 

You wanted me to be a lawyer, you wanted me to still be a dude. I never wanted those things, even if you said I was “good at them”. Not sure what that means for the latter. I could see that the former was your vote of confidence. I could see the spirit in your projections.

Working class shame, poverty mentality. It's okay. That wasn't yours either. I just don't really want to carry it beyond you, or my parents.

In this same way that you get to rest now, your life work done, let's let that rest too. That's the eternal silver-lining of death. It begets rebirth. And allows for an end of that which no longer serves.

I take with me all of you that serves. Science says that I was an egg inside my mother who was once a fetus inside you. I am part of you and you or me. Thank you for helping birth me, so I may do my work, and help complete the inherited liberation that you participated in.

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