“Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?”
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Hamilton,” one of the central themes is that of legacy as protagonist Alexander Hamilton struggles with how he will be remembered. He goes so far as to surmise a legacy is an equivalent of “planting seeds in a garden you‘ll never get to see.”
After having written my granmom’s obituary, I understand that.
For 98% of my professional career in the media, I avoided having to write obituaries like creepy guys going house to house selling “roofs.”
But here I am in the midst of Jumanji 2020 and found myself telling the story of my granparents.
Now, Cousins, don’t get me wrong, I sit here remarkably honored to have this task.
I have no real marketable skills, however, I fancy myself a pretty fair storyteller and crafter of mental pictures.
But how do you clearly tell the story of two people who helped shaped me into the person I am?
I sit here and … for posterity … control the narrative of how people who don’t know my granparents will be introduced to them.
Three months ago, I sat in my mancave fighting through tears, trying to figure out the words that would adequately tell the story of my grandad’s life and his passing and the memories he left behind. Here I am again.
Another Sunday, another phone call no one wants to receive and another struggle to string the right words together to tell the perfect story that celebrates a life well-lived and the memories left behind.
That’s where music comes into play.
When I think of Granmom, the first thought that pops into mind, aside from the fact she had the same hairstyle for at least 39 years of my life, was she loved to sing and make a joyful noise as an alto in a choir or during a four-part harmony singing.
She’d try soprano once but would find a note she couldn’t reach and drop back down. I’d love to see her face light up singing “I’ll Fly Away,” “On The Jericho Road” and “Have a Little Talk with Jesus” as her sister Robbie Jean tickled the ivories on that old standup piano.
For those of you who are thinking I’m an unabashed atheist, I may not have the best relationship with religion, but I do know the songs in the Brown Book.
YouTube has been blaring Southern Gospel and quartet singing for the past three hours as I try to piece this together.
She also loved the beach but hated the sand, which that always cracked me up as I traveled to Ft. Walton, Florida with them for years and never once saw her leave the hotel room to go anywhere beyond the grocery store or out to eat. She loved seafood restaurants but didn’t eat seafood, choosing a steak or chicken fingers and a well-baked potato instead.
Another thing I never understood was why her house had a stove in it.
My granmom was great at many things but I was convinced it was an unused piece of furniture until I was at least a junior in high school.
She mentioned cooking something to bring to a family reunion and I had one of those cartoon moments where the sound of a record-scratch fills the air and I do a double-take: “You can cook?”
I asked with the earnestness of a prosecutor who just discovered a piece of testimony that wasn’t in the deposition.
Turns out she could, just chose not to. I can’t disagree with that philosophy.
She survived COVID-19 and I am deeply convinced Granmom got tired of living in a world where she was without her husband Donald.
Statistics, both real and those made up to further prove this column right, show in cases of couple deaths when one goes — after having been married at 50 years or more — the other soon follows.
Grandad died on Easter weekend. Three months later it was Granmom’s turn to go.
And I have no doubts about where she is or who was waiting at the table to greet her.
Griffin Pritchard is a longtime correspondent and columnist for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.