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Thursday
Feb132014

The Music Box

I stood in front of my grandfather's dresser. Grabbing the corners of its top, I hung my head low. I could not let go of the image of Cabernet snow with fixed hair still clinging to shattered bone. The outline of my grandfather' body still pressed into the white like an abandoned crime scene.

My grandfather lived too many lives for one man. He was a man's man with a lumberjack build. Vermont ran through his veins like syrup from a tree. There had been talk that the farm was too big for him to manage alone any longer. With my grandmother's stroke and living in a facility, forty acres of gentlemen's land and a house he built with his hands, it was all too much. At eighty-four, the thought of his life chipped away to one room with Bingo at 5 o' clock was too much for him to bare. So, went out on his own terms outside his office door where the screen slammed against its frame for one final time.

My oldest daughter was six months old. My only reprieve from grief was into her breath. The rest of the hours were spent going through my grandparents' belongings and reminisce. But the one thought that stalked my mind was whether or not Grandpa was ok. Was he finally at peace?

Growing up Catholic leaves one with many concerns. One of the greatest sins in the church is to take your own life. It only results in purgatory or an eternity in damnation.

I had never lost someone I loved. My grandfather was a father to me as my brother and I spent every summer on their farm.

The previous few days had been a rolling tide of tears. Then calm would set in, and we would laugh at a thought that passed too quickly through the air. At times we all swore we felt my grandfather in the room. A thickening of the air. I found myself lost, wandering from room to room. Then I stopped in front of the glass cabinet where Grammy had kept her china. Next to the plates was a music box. I slid the glass and gently held the box in my hands. It wasn't actually a box. It was solid wood with a rounded base painted in blue with white stars around its side. On top was a table that turned when it played. A Christmas tree stood in the middle, with little wooden angels dancing around the edge. I fell in love it and asked my mother if she would mind if I brought it home for my children. She said of course, and that it was the most meaningful gift Grammy had ever received. It was from dear friends who had gone to Germany and brought it home for her. But it was broken. It had been broken for over thirty years. But Grammy loved it so much that she kept it in the china cabinet for all to see.

I set the music box on top of my grandfather's tall dresser in his room where my mother and I were sleeping. I closed my eyes with hands wrapped around the base of the box and prayed with all of my heart to my grandfather to please, please let me know he was ok. To please make this music box play, because it was so broken, there could be no other possible explanation other than it was him. I even tried the crank and all it did was clunk. I prayed so deeply tears welled in my eyes and my face filled with the pressure of will. But nothing happened.

---

The casket was closed at the wake. Loved ones filled the parlor, but the only one I could talk to was God. A slit of light peeked through a door to a vacant room where I sat in numb isolation, confronting Him. My pleas to accept my grandfather through the gates of Heaven fell into tissues stained with regret; That I hadn't called enough. That my life as a new mother on the west coast took precedent over communicating with this beautiful man who taught me so much about life. I asked for a sign. Just something, anything, just to let me know my grandfather was ok.

We arrived home with dragging spirits and crawled into our beds. My mother slept on Grandpa's side and I laid where my Grammy would fall asleep to Johnny Carson and her tiny black and white television on her dresser next to perfume bottles and bobby pins untouched by time. We slept.

At one in the morning I awoke to the most wondrous sound. Startled. I jolted up in bed. The music box was playing the most beautiful music I had ever heard. It was him. Grandpa was there. He was making it play. I shook my mother to wake. We heard it. We cried. We knew.

The music played its song two complete times all the way through. Every chime was perfect, as though orchestrated by angels. Every note filled the room. As I stared into the darkness, a silhouette of a crowd of people walking toward a light played before me like a film. The air was so alive the cells in my body raged with belief, with faith, and the knowing that I will never question again if life goes on.

The family's priest came to visit the next day. We shared Grandpa's visit with him. In my humming of the tune it played, he told us the song was a sacred hymn sung in honor of the blessed mother Mary. We hung our heads and prayed.

The music box is tucked away. It has not played a single note since. Not that I haven't tried, or turned the crank only to be answered by a clunk. But one thing is for sure, the music box was truly the most meaningful gift to ever be received.

Listen to 'The Music Box' http://www.cdbaby.com/m/cd/micaelabensko2

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