What was in Grandma’s purse?


The conversation switched from weddings and funerals to purses at our Sunday evening family dinner.

I flipped through a stack of 1986 wedding pictures that were sitting on the table. Not one gray hair, not one extra pound, not even a single winkled face or garment. I made a comment as I viewed the family members. “We look so different from how we look today. What will we look like in another 20 years?”

We laughed, made fun, and marveled at the then and now. Our son said, “Look at that picture of Grandma Slade. She’s carrying the purse she insisted we bury her with.”

“Did anyone dare to look inside that purse before they closed the casket? I’m curious as to what she took with her in that oversized white leather purse.”

Years ago, when my children were still young, I insisted that there be rules in the house. Rule No. 1: “Don’t get in my purse.” I was teaching them not to take things that didn’t belong to them. The rule stuck. Even today as adults, my children will bring my purse to me before they would open it and look inside.

Grandma Slade had rules, too. Her rule No. 1: “Do not bury me without shoes.” Of course, she also had rule No. 2, rule No. 3 and so on. Not only did she make my Sweet Al promise to bury her in her white sandal-strap, 3-inch heels, she had a white pantsuit and specific pieces of costume jewelry picked out for her interment. And yes, she insisted that she be buried with her white purse, the one with the leather fringe.

What’s with women and their purses? My mother’s purse never left her side. She hovered over it as if she was guarding Fort Knox. She left this life with Jesus in her heart, but without her purse. I think she will be just fine.

Grandma Slade was determined to leave this life in style. Life for her was always about how she looked, even if it meant wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

I would imagine that most people leave this world in bare feet and maybe even a bit ill prepared. Not Grandma Slade. After she gave instructions about her shoes, she told my Sweet Al which lipstick and eye shadow she wanted to wear.

Heavens. I’m more concerned with how many pallbearers it’s going to take to carry me out of the church. I guess it’s all how we perceive this life and life after death. Al’s mother and I were as opposite as could be. I was a country girl from Conejos County, Colo. She was a southern belle from east Texas. Our only commonality, we both loved our Sweet Al.

Unlike my mother-in-law, I will leave it up to my children to decide what is appropriate for me on the day I say goodbye. I would tell them not to dress me in yellow, but they have selective hearing. If they decide to bury me in shoes, I hope they are comfortable.

Back at the dinner table as we shuffled photographs back and forth, the subject of Al’s wedding suit came up. Al pointed to a photo of him walking one of our daughters down the aisle. He was wearing his prized, pressed dark blue, striped suit. He said, “I had planned to be buried in that suit, but it was in the suitcase I lost several years ago. Now I have nothing to wear.”

“We will buy you a new sport coat. Besides, I hear they only dress you down to the waist.”

At this time of our life, it seems like every day is another day that we aren’t prepared for. What can we expect from this journey we’re on and where we end up? For me, I plan to carry Jesus in my heart and wear comfortable shoes. Al’s mother insisted she carry her leather purse and wear her sling back heels. Maybe we are not so different after all.

Final brushstroke: Not one of us escape this journey. And for certain, there will be a day after. God himself only knows what the kids will do with me and my Sweet Al. Surely, they won’t bury me in yellow. I don’t want to go through eternity looking sallow. Besides, black is more slimming. As for my Sweet Al, he will likely be walking around heaven in a new sport coat, but without his trousers. Purse or no purse, never more have I been thankful to know Jesus accepts us as we are.

Readers’ comments

Send your comments to betty@bettyslade.com