My grandmother’s funeral has begun, I can picture all my male cousins in black suits carrying her casket down the aisle near the altar. The same mosaic stained glass image of Jesus towers over the back of the Holy of Holies.

We always attend mass when we return to this little town. In my early childhood, I grew up going every Sunday to this place, playing recklessly with my siblings around the huge Southern oak trees. If our parents talked too long, we knew where my grandparent’s empty grave plots were near the back of the church and we would gather there to climb on them and wait. Those grave plots have been filled over the past 30 years, as I lose a great grandparent or grandparent. Today marks the fourth and last grandparent on my paternal side. It seems finished and deeply empty to have this fourth and last tomb filled.

I know the funeral service will begin by the eerie silence of the massive space being broken by the organs blaring sound or the squeak of a kneeling bench being pulled down by the late attendee. I can hear the monotone voice of the priest as he begins the mass, the lingering smell of incense waved over her as she is prepared for burial.

It is all so clear because I have been there to bury my dead. I know the mechanics of a funeral procedure. Yet today, I am sitting 6,000 miles away from this service, encouraged not to fly because I am trying to build a life within me. It is heartbreaking to be separated from this event, yet I know I am being committed to my family’s legacy…to create life even in the face of death. And whether it is with pregnancy, laughter, or simply breath, I know my grandmother would be leaving us all with this wish: Live well and create however you are able; for what is life if it not fully lived?