Working the funeral of a friend

This was not my original plan but it worked out for the best. I knew my husband would be “working” but I thought I would attend as a mourner. That status changed after I was handed my name-tag. There was a badge down at the funeral home with my name on it. I used it when attending funerals in a more professional capacity. Didn’t think I would wear it last Friday but I pinned it to my jacket.

So, it was official. I was “on the job”. Rode in the lead car with my husband and one of the assistants. The church was beautiful with magnificent stained glass windows. As far as I remembered, this was my first Catholic funeral. I walked in behind the casket and watched the preparations for the viewing in a room just off from the sanctuary. Time for one more goodbye.

Climbed back into the lead car to get the family. I stood next to the curb between the two limousines and watched the family members fill the cars. Then (what seemed like moments later), I watched these same cars empty. There was that wave of humanity again. People instinctively moving and I was one of them. I kept looking for somewhere to be (the outside door, right outside the sanctuary, just inside the church, near the viewing room).

Mourners streamed in and out of the room deeply moved. Selfishly, I wished time would slow just a little but it just kept ticking away. Watched one of the funeral directors and a couple of the assistants approach the casket and I averted my eyes. Did not wish to see the casket being closed that last time.

I stayed just outside the sanctuary with my husband during the service. Could see and hear everything and, once again, I experienced mixed emotions. To me, funerals represented a loss (a parting) but also a celebration of life and an acknowledgement of things to come. Now, one final destination and this journey would truly be over.

When I climbed out of the car at the cemetery, I felt a little lost and needed something to do. I asked my husband. He suggested moving flowers so that was what I did. I walked to the back of the van, grabbed arrangements, and placed them upright on the ground. I then picked one and walked across the grass. Kept looking up at the tent over the grave and down at my feet. Seemed like I traveled there in only a few steps but it must have been more than that. Walked back to see the pallbearers with the casket preparing to move forward.

Everyone flowed toward the grave. The family was seated. Time kept ticking again. The priests were finished. It was over. I walked back to the car with my husband.

This had really happened. I was never going to see my friend ever again. Time does not stop nor does it even slow down slightly. Life is so short.

——————–

Related Posts:
Saying goodbye at the funeral home
That last phone conversation
Attended my first Episcopalian funeral a couple of weeks ago…

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Posted in Death, Family, Funeral, Funeral Service, In my brain, Life, Mind, Mind & Spirit, Mortality, Personal, Religion, Spirit. Comments Off on Working the funeral of a friend

Saying goodbye at the funeral home

Did I mention my husband’s business handled the funeral of our friend? Since the funeral home was only about 5 minutes from the house, it was no big deal for my husband to swing by and get me. Remembering the optimistic squirrel I witnessed just moments before, I chatted nervously in the car but sounded upbeat. My husband parked and we both entered the funeral home through the side chapel doors.

How many times had I paused at the open casket of someone’s loved one and said words out of respect? Hesitation this time. I purposely avoided the visitation on Thursday evening because I couldn’t deal with the thought of my friend in this new context of death. Now, it was Friday morning. I was so sure that the casket would have been closed by now but it was not. My husband passed and turned the corner. I slowed my stride, took a deep breath, and approached. Many mixed emotions. Satisfied that those who prepared her body had done a good job. Angry because whenever I needed to fuss at my husband about something, it would now be on my own. Happy that her beauty was still evident even after death. Sad that I would truly miss her.

Breathed deeply a second time and touched her hand. It was cold and suddenly my figurative “blurred vision” of the past couple of days snapped into focus. Still touching her hand:

Okay, sweetie. This is it. It was a joy to know you. I will miss you. I promise to take care of your friend [my husband]. Rest now.

I joined my husband in his office and talked until it was time to go to the church.

——————–

Related Posts:
That last phone conversation
Ever wonder about the optimism of squirrels?
Attended my first Episcopalian funeral a couple of weeks ago…

Posted in Death, Family, Funeral, Funeral Service, In my brain, Life, Mind, Mind & Spirit, Mortality, Personal, Religion, Spirit. Comments Off on Saying goodbye at the funeral home

Attended my first Episcopalian funeral a couple of weeks ago…

My husband is Episcopalian but I am not. A bit of a mixed marriage. Will probably convert in the near future. Right now (and I’m sure part of this is because of my geeky nature), I enjoy being an observer. It’s interesting to compare and contrast what I see with what I experienced through my upbringing. Mostly, quite similar. Every now and again, there’s a difference.

Because my husband is an undertaker, I often hear descriptions of various services. The processional, songs, readings, prayers. That sort of thing. When he explains Episcopalian funerals, I am always fascinated by the concept of a pall. Every casket is covered so he speaks of it as the “great equalizer”.

Always just assumed the pall he referenced was dark, heavy, and velvety. Quite surprised, during the funeral I attended, to see this was not the case. The casket was transported to the front of the church draped in a light-colored, embroidered, linen-like covering. If I had seen this cloth in isolation, I don’t think I would have ever associated it with a funeral. I was moved by the idea that every casket would be handled in the same fashion.

We live in such a competitive society. People strive for an advantage. Some fight or even kill to get it. Some relish the thought of being “better than” equal. For what? The outcome is the same. Everyone will eventually die. You can’t talk or buy your way out of it. That pall reminded me of that. I attended the funeral of a good man who lived a good life. He will be missed. I can attempt to be a good person and live a good life. Hope that I also will be missed but in the end, I will also die. Everyone will eventually die.

Both the pall (and death in general) are great equalizers.

Posted in Death, Family, In my brain, Life, Mind & Spirit, Mortality, Personal. Comments Off on Attended my first Episcopalian funeral a couple of weeks ago…

The story behind my 9/11 truth

If you are looking for something political or angry or exceptionally sad, I humbly ask that you move on. Those are all valid perspectives and I’m sure you will be able to find blog posts to suit what you seek. This is a discussion of personal discovery.

Backdrop: In August of 2001, I was fortunate enough to travel with a friend to the West Coast and see parts of the state of Washington (Ocean Shores and Friday Harbor both come to mind). Took in a little whale watching and even spent some time in Vancouver, BC. Everything was incredibly beautiful. The “better do this now before I’m chained to the lab” trip was right before I started graduate school.

Story: I was running late on 9/11. I know this because my same friend would normally drop me off at the subway station. He drove me to DC only if it seemed as though I wouldn’t make it to class on time. Jumping from the car, I scurried into the building and plopped down in a chair. Whew, on time again. After starting class, the professor was called away and left the room. I do remember him, at some point, indicating that we had to evacuate the building. Something about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone gathered up tangibles and streamed outside into the courtyard. There we stood chattering, reminiscent of a childhood fire drill until some lone voice broke through with the message – just go home. Don’t stand here. Everything was canceled. Just go home.

The crowd (this wave of people) began to move. Slightly confused, I moved with it. Part washed down the escalator leading to the subway (Foggy Bottom for those familiar with the DC area). Today for me, that was not an option. My friend, my ride. How would I ever contact him? I had a cellphone but he did not. Looked at my watch. Figured he was probably more than an hour away. Purely out of instinct, I continued to move with the crowd. As my brain focused, I could hear one-sided phone conversations. One plane had hit. A second plane hit. This was not an accident. Possible other targets. It was starting to sink in. I traveled a few more steps until I reached a bench. Sat down because, in that moment, I honestly didn’t have any other place to go.

I stared at the moving wave of humanity. Felt no panic from them. Not even a tremendous amount of confusion. Simply that they were all just trying to get home. I looked to the sky in time to catch a glimpse of fighter jets screaming overhead. Was this it? The end of the world? The end of my little piece of it? The end of me? I sat several blocks from the White House thinking this could be it.

Thought of my parents and siblings. Oh, and my grandmother. I so loved Mama Dear. I thought of them all. Quickly came to the conclusion that it would be okay because they all knew that I loved them. Thought of my lovely summer trip and smiled. Thought about getting back into grad school and accomplishing that goal. All seemed so positive. Then I thought:

If it is truly my time to leave this earth, I am ready. I’m not encouraging it but I am prepared. Tomorrow is not promised. Sometimes, today isn’t. I am at peace.

I stared at the crowd again. Noticed it was thinning. Then, something familiar caught my eye. My ride, my friend. How did he find me so quickly? I walked to the car as if our meeting was somehow planned, opened the door, and climbed in. He spoke of not leaving DC that day. He had stayed in the city for breakfast, saw everything on TV at a diner, and rushed back for me. We quietly listened to radio reports and entered the highway to join another wave of humanity just trying to get home.

Five years later, I reflect on that day just as countless others. I am sure there will be moments of anger or sadness but I know I’ll always come back to my 9/11 truth:

Tomorrow is not promised. Show love to those around you TODAY. Wake up and treat each day as special. Promise to (think, feel, act) do better that day. Be at peace.

How in the world do you stay married for 54 years?

I’ve been trying to post this since Saturday. Wanted to wait until I actually talked to my parents but that proved to be a bit of a problem. Called them (lost count) times between Saturday and today. Finally, reached my sister this morning and Daddy called this afternoon. Someone crashed a car into the big telephone box (what do you call that thing?) and knocked out the phones in the neighborhood. Whew! Yep, I freaked when I couldn’t reach them but then figured it was something crazy when “Mama Dear” didn’t answer. She’s my grandmother who lives next door. Glad everyone is OK. I’ll have a nice long phone conversation with my people later this evening but until then, here’s Saturday’s post…

A few days ago, my mother and father celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. The longer I am married, the more incredible I find this fact. Sometimes (a lot of times), I wonder about their secret. Is it commitment or love? Perhaps trust or communication? Faith, maybe? Growing up around them, I am certain of one ingredient.

I occasionally ask my father why he wanted to marry my mother. The answer varies slightly but here is the paraphrased gist:

You know I was in a car accident before I proposed to your mother. I hit my head and certain things are still fuzzy.

This is said with such a deadpan look from my father that I am chuckling now thinking about it. My Dad’s comedic timing is priceless. I am confident his sense of humor continues to hold my parents (and my family) together after all these years. How wonderful to have the ability to smile and laugh come what may.

Until I’m able to get on the phone and joke and act a little kooky:

Happy Anniversary, Mom and “dear old” Dad! 😀

Posted in Family, In my brain, Life, Mind, Mind & Spirit, Personal, Spirit. Comments Off on How in the world do you stay married for 54 years?

A post-Father’s Day observation

I fell asleep on yesterday until about 11PM. A little worried about it being too late to call my parent’s house to wish my Dad a Happy Father’s Day. The phone kept ringing. I just knew he was asleep and struggling to answer the call. Finally, a cheery voice picked up. It was my Dad. It took so long because he was watching the Miami/Dallas NBA Playoff Game. My father is such a huge sports fan and always sounds so gleeful when a game is on.

It is one of my wishes that I also will stay so young at heart and always find happiness in life’s little pleasures.

Posted in Family, In my brain, Life, Personal. Comments Off on A post-Father’s Day observation

Still learning from my Dad

Everyone around me knows I am a Daddy’s girl from way back. Although I recently turned 40, when I am near my father, I regress to about the age of 10. Love my Mom but I simply adore “dear old Dad”.

I mentioned in a previous post about an opportunity that ended abruptly. That was last Monday. I really needed to talk to a reasonable person so I whipped out my cell phone. Couldn’t reach my husband. The next number I dialed was to my parent’s house. I could always find a rational person there. Thought I would reach my sister to have one of those “Girl, let me tell you” sessions. Instead, my father answered in his usual calm, soothing voice.

“Hi, Daddy! I’m fine. Just needed to hear from someone sane.” I sounded just like a little girl. Had to adjust down about an octave for the remainder of the conversation. Told him what was going on and that I was learning a lesson on how to label success. It really wasn’t all about degrees and titles. I ended by telling him that the older I get, the more I appreciate the decisions he made in his life. I considered him to be a true success!

So, on this Father’s Day, I’ll pause and say thanks. Dad, I appreciate you being such a definitive example of spirituality. Thank you for humbly sharing your love, peace, and hope with everyone. We happily reciprocate.