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This chapter introduces us to Susie’s Grandmother Lynn who arrives for Susie’s memorial. The memorial had been the suggestion of the principal of her school, Mr. Caden. When Grandmother Lynn arrives, Susie is reminded of the time she made Susie’s mother walk with her around their block and attend the block party. Her cataloguing of the neighbors, Susie now realizes, was her way of trying to understand her daughter.
Grandmother Lynn does everything bad: she drinks too much, she tries to get her granddaughters to use drugs to stay thin, she is overbearing and obnoxious, but as Susie notes, when she arrives at their house, she brings the light back in. She makes Abigail sit down after dinner and uses her “bag o’magic” (makeup) to do a makeover. She also agrees to teach Lindsey about makeup. Even Jack comes in to watch and talks to Lindsey about her friend, Clarissa, who is hanging around Brian Nelson, a bad influence. Grandmother Lynn is so intuitive about her family that she even knows that Lindsey has a boyfriend. She then proceeds to make Lindsey look like “a grade-A ‘tute,” while she and Jack get happily sloshed. In heaven, Susie suddenly likes Grandma Lynn.
Later, Lindsey stares at the face Grandma Lynn has created in the mirror in her bedroom. Susie knows that her sister is beginning to see something different: an adult, who can take care of herself. She also sees the edges of her features delineated, sitting on “her face like gems imported from some far-off place where the colors were richer than the colors in our house had ever been.”
Susie also remembers in this chapter a character mentioned when she first came to heaven: Mrs. Bethel Utemeyer, who played the violin while Holly played the sax. Now she tells us that this woman was the first dead person she and Lindsey had ever seen. She had “lost part of her brain” and sometimes when they would come home, the old woman was standing under their dogwood tree and looking out at the street as if she were waiting for a bus. Susie’s mother would bring her inside and then call her son. While they waited for him, Mrs. Utemeyer would smile at Susie and Lindsey, touch their hair, and call Lindsey “Natalie.” When she died, her son had asked Abigail to bring the two girls to the funeral home, because Mrs. Utemeyer had been so fond of them. They viewed her body, fearful that she might speak, but all ended well. As a result, however, Susie is not surprised to see Mrs. Utemeyer in her heaven, walking hand-in-hand with a small blond girl she introduces as her daughter, Natalie.
On the morning of the memorial, Lindsey goes into Susie’s room. She is unaware that all the members of the family have come there at various times to “visit” Susie. She wants to wear something nice for Samuel and so she goes there to look in Susie’s closet. Grandma Lynn catches her there and helps her pick out a dress for the memorial. Susie is surprised when Grandma Lynn rejects Susie’s favorite dress in blackwatch plaid as a “sack” and then, holds up a dark blue mini-dress that actually belongs to Clarissa. She helps Lindsey into the dress and fixes her make-up and they go to the church.
At the church, Samuel is waiting for Lindsey with his older brother, Hal. They also see Detective Fenerman whose eyes linger on Susie’s mother. Susie is especially concerned about her father. He had awakened with a hang-over and watched her mother asleep on the pillow. He had wanted to smooth the hair back from her face and thought of her as his lovely wife, his lovely girl. Every day since Susie’s death, the day for him had been something to “get through.” This day, however, will be easier, because at least, it is honest. Unfortunately, when his wife had awkened, he could not really look at her the entire day, because she was no longer the woman he had known the day before Susie’s death.
At the memorial service, Ruth is appalled at Lindsey’s make-up and Clarissa’s dress. She doesn’t believe in make-up, because she feels it demeans women. Clarissa arrives with Brian Nelson and speaks with Susie’s family. When she asks how he and Mrs. Salmon are doing, Jack answers that they are doing fine. Susie thinks, “What an odd lie.” Her mother stares hard at Clarissa in anger, because Clarissa is alive and Susie is dead. Then, Clarissa realizes that Lindsey is wearing her dress, but doesn’t protest. She knows she could never ask for it back now.
Ray Singh stays away from the memorial, saying goodbye to Susie in his own way by looking at the picture she had given him that fall. He comes to the conclusion that the picture is not Susie. Instead, she is in the air around him, in the mornings he spends with Ruth or in the quiet times he spends alone between studying. He doesn’t want to throw away her picture, but he doesn’t want to look at it again either. He wants to set her free. He puts the picture in a book of Indian poetry which he and his mother used to press flowers.
In the back of the church at the end of the service stands Mr. Harvey talking to Detective Fenerman. Grandma Lynn points him out to Lindsey who stares hard, meets his eyes, and then passes out. Mr. Harvey slips quietly away through the graveyard while everyone tends to Lindsey.
Grandma Lynn is exactly what the family needs to help them begin to live again. She pushes them to face reality, somehow finding a way through their grief. Susie’s memory of Mrs. Utemeyer is related, because her only sense of dead people, before she herself dies, is Mrs. Utemeyer’s body at the funeral home. She suddenly sees her as a real person who grieved for her daughter who died as a young girl.
The wedge that Susie’s death has placed in her parents’ relationship is all too apparent by the fact that Jack aches for Abigail when she’s asleep, but can’t even look at her when they are awake. The fact that he thinks of the memorial as an honest day indicates that the family is being dishonest with themselves, especially he and Abigail. This is further emphasized by Susie who comments that her father tells an “odd” lie when he tells Clarissa that he and Abigail are doing fine.
Abigail has finally entered the second stage of grief when she focuses on Clarissa for being alive while Susie is not. Fortunately, Clarissa doesn’t comment on the dress Lindsey is wearing which, no doubt, prevents Abigail’s anger from spilling out.
Ray is very touching when he puts Susie’s picture into the book of poetry. He wants to set her free and in so doing, free himself as well. However, time will prove that she’s not so easily forgotten.
Mr. Harvey’s appearance at the memorial is the most arrogance he shown since Mr. Salmon began to suspect him. When he locks eyes with Lindsey, she passes out, because subconsciously, she must know her father is right. This foreshadows her willingness later to help her father search Harvey’s house.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version