So, I’ve been going back and forth about how much to share.
On the one hand, this blog started out as a document of my kids and life in general and all of those pithy, amused observations that I was frequently making for the people around me that weren’t getting a whole lot of response. I figured if I could make them here, at least they’d be out of my system and I could stop boring people with them.
But it grew, and I get a few hundred hits an entry, and then there was that whole “You can’t talk about your old job” thing that happened when I was let go from Natomas, and I got good with compartmentalizing, and eventually I learned a thing that my nearest and dearest could never seem to teach me: Some things were not meant to be shared publicly.
So my family has been grieving and my husband has been grieving, and I’m not sure about how much of that I want to broadcast on the internet as it happens–but this thing, I think it’s okay to share.
So one of my biggest complaints about services is when the pastor or reverend or whoever speaks, because so often, this person seemed to know the absolute least about the deceased, but suddenly he gets to dominate the floor and talk about how much luckier that person is to be away from all THESE tacky people and up in their heavenly home.
I haven’t been to a single funeral when the pastor had anything to say that sounded like the person I once knew.
But my MIL had recently found a church she really loved–one where she could be quietly of service, and much beloved. I was hoping this time, we’d have a winner.
See, the poor man–he was very young–was feeling super super bad about not getting to see Dee the day she passed. He’d gone two days before and she’d just moved so he’d missed her, and had made time on Wednesday, but he called her and she told him she was enroute to the hospital, and of course she passed Thursday morning.
So, his first words were about how bad he felt that he’d missed the chance to visit her, and for a moment I felt hope. Hey–this guy at least knew her, knew her personally, had been to her home.
And then he seemed to notice Dee’s grandchildren–who had been featured a few times in Mate’s lovely and touching photo montage. (He’d set it to Simple Things, because, like me, he’d found the song lovely, and thought it represented her life in a touching way.) But suddenly he saw the four people under thirty in the room, and he knew they were special to her…
And he pulled out his YA Bible Study skills and oh my God, we were in the book of Timothy and Revelations…
And a rather lurid retelling of the story of Lazarus.
Mate and I stared in horror as he started leg two of the sermon, and I had a sudden thought. Our kids were sitting in the row next to us, one row back. They were not church kids. Big T was filming the service, so he was mostly out of trouble, but… but the younger kids.
Quietly, I craned my neck to see what they were doing.
Squish was wiping a spot from her pristine pink boot. ZoomBoy was in full sprawl.
Big T and Chicken were staring at the poor pastor with ginormous eyes, and Chicken did a slow pan toward me and mouthed, “Zombies?”
I tried not to respond, because church! Respect! A service! But my eyes got big, and she later said, “You pursed your mouth like you were trying not to laugh.”
The rather odd eulogy finally ended, and I stood up to thank the congregation. I noted that there were people from all moments of Dee’s life there–the people who knew her when she’d been the smiling little tot in the video montage, her family who knew her best, and Mate and I and her grandchildren and nieces and nephews, who knew her as a full and productive adult, and her spiritual family who gave her such comfort in her last years before she passed. I told everybody how grateful we were that so many people had appreciated the woman with the quirky smile and the sly sense of humor and the hidden determination that we had loved, and how her grandchildren got to see a little bit of her, from child to grandmother, in their stories of her during the service.
As I was finishing the final thank you, I was surprised by a sound from my peanut gallery.
Squish had broken as I was speaking, and Chicken and ZoomBoy joined her, and as everybody left the room to have snacks in the foyer, Big T draped himself over them and we had a big group hug of devastation.
I was reassured.
For a moment as the pastor had been speaking, they’d lost sight of why we were there–but once they connected with the woman they will miss so much, they were able to grieve.
I managed a moment to console the kids–and then poor pastor. Like I said, he was young, and I told him to please forgive himself for not being there on her last day. Like I’ve said, she hadn’t demanded care or attention, and if her sister and the hospital hadn’t called us, we wouldn’t have known. He’d done his best to take care of his parishioner, to give her solace and kindness, and I fully believe that counts.
But in the minivan afterwards, after we’d taken the flowers to the family plot in Auburn and then joined the caravan from my parents’ house to Wong’s (where many of our family moments are celebrated, from birthdays to graduations) Chicken and Big T were in our car, while Squish and ZoomBoy rode with my parents.
“So,” Chicken said after we’d started. “Was it my imagination, or was he really talking about zombies?”
“Oh my God!” Big T said, “I mean he brought up Narnia, but I was wondering when the Walking Dead started to figure in!”
I swallowed and looked at Mate, to see if he wanted to reprimand the children or adult or anything of the sort and he let a bewildered smile break. “Seriously, all I could think about was Batman and the Lazarus pit of Ra’sh alGhul (sic).”
I burst into laughter, because now I could say it. “The X-Files,” I said promptly. “They had that episode…” and by now, we were all laughing too hard to breathe. “The one with the bowl?” I howled. “Remember?”
“Oh my God! Yeah! I remember that one!” the kids said.
And together we got it all out of our systems–mostly–before we got to Wong’s.
My parents paid for Wong’s–Mate offered, and he said, “Uh, I was going to let my mom take care of it,” because that’s what funeral expenses were for.
My mom said, “Yeah, my mom took care of our dinner after her funeral. But we want to do this for you.”
And for a moment, I almost lost it, when we’d all managed to keep our shit together, because if it’s ever my turn to take everybody out to dinner on my parents’ dime, I’m going to be in bad shape too.
Today, Chicken came by to do her laundry, and I gave her the now-common warning: “You know, if I have to look down from the Goddess’s meadow to hear some asshole talk about zombies at my funeral–“
“Yeah, I know. You’ll haunt me and I’ll deserve it.”
“Damned straight. Your father knows it too.”
“Dad wants to be cremated–“
“And spread over the ocean. I know.”
“Yeah, but we were both thinking we might want some of our ashes put in a rock, you know, like Chiquita? So you can set us outside and sometimes come out and say hi.”
Her lower lip quivered. “That’s sweet.”
“It seemed to give ZoomBoy comfort after the dog died.”
“I like that. I’ll make it so.”
Just no zombies. I think as a family, that’s all we ask.