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March 18, 2010

I have never been to as many funerals as I have during my time in France.  In the eight years I have been here, I think that I have personally attended four, maybe five funerals.  The French have a very traditional set-up when it comes to burying their lost loved ones.

My husband’s paternal grandparents died within a few months of one another.  His grandmother went first, and this was my first up-close and personal experience with death in France.  I felt like I was in some old Italian movie or something of the sorts.  The grandmother was brought back to her home and placed in her bed.  Friends and relatives would stop by and ‘visit’ with her for the two days preceding her funeral.  I, personally, didn’t go to see her.  I would rather remember her alive, thanks.

On last Thursday we were at my husband’s great grandmother’s funeral.  This time there was now viewing, the other side of my husbands family does things differently I guess.  She turned 100 years old in August 2009.  She was actually in very good physical shape up until the end, and was one of the only mobile people in her nursing home.  When they played music once a week after lunch, the cook would come out and take her for a spin on the dance floor.  It is hard to believe that she was born in 1909.  She was alive when the Titanic sunk, when the nuclear bomb was created.  She lived through World War One, World War Two (and if I am remember correctly she was in Paris when it was liberated), through the creation and commercial use of cars and planes, periods of hunger and other difficulties that we don’t even imagine today.  She lost her husband in the 60’s and lived the equivalent of a lifetime as a widow.  I didn’t know the circumstances of his death until just recently, and I am amazed that she did not become a bitter old woman due to this.  He died because he was in need of dialysis, and it was just the beginning of this in France.  From what I understand, there was only one spot for treatment and 3 people were vying for it.  Suffice to say, he was not chosen for that spot, and died shortly after.

I have never spent tons of time with her.  She was already in a nursing home when I arrived in France.  The times that I had seen her she always would open a “secret” drawer, where she kept her alcohol stash (because all the “mamies” at the nursing home had a secret stash, she never gave up on her cocktail hour), as well as her sugar cube stash.  Every day at the nursing home during the coffee break she would pocket a few sugar cubes and hide them.  Before leaving all of the girls would get a handful of sugar cubes “to make jam with”.  We always just gave them back to the coffee corner of the nursing home.  Thriftiness wasn’t a fad, or a lifestyle choice for her.  It was something that had to be done.  I am going to try to think of her when I want to buy something new, or when I am going to throw something away.  Is this a need?  Or a want?  Am I really going to use this?  Why am I buying this?

To start off I am going to replace my big garbage bags with little ones.  I hate taking the trash out, and I am hoping if I have small bags, I will think more about what I am throwing away, and if there is any other way I could use it.  It’s a small step, and it is not going to change the world tomorrow, but if everyone made the same small steps, I can’t help but think that the world would be a less wasteful place.

Here’s to hoping she is in a better place now.  And thanks for the lessons learned.

A little photo of the Grandmère Suzanne’s Great Great Granddaughter…

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