Last night I spent a couple of hours with some friends at the funeral home. The little old white haired lady sleeping peacefully in the casket belonged to one of my high school friends. She was mother to my friend and his siblings, five of them total, I think.
Only the grown baby, a girl walked around puffy-eyed and sniffling. Tissue in hand she’d dab at her leaking eyes every so often. The others seemed to be okay with things. Or they just hid it well.
My friend gathered with me and a gang of us from school. We shot the bull, told a few funny stories, and I for one was happy no tears were shed.
I’m not good with that. It makes me very nervous when people cry. My own mother always seems to know just what to do when someone starts with the waterworks. She draws the poor suffering soul up into arms and gathers them close. “It’s okay honey” she says patting their shoulders “shhhhh, let it out, let it all out”. This is all it usually takes and within seconds the subject of her warm embrace gives in fully to their emotion.
Me, I want to say “ohhhh no, please don’t cry, please don’t, don’t cry, please”. I don’t say that, I just pretend I’m my mother and try to comfort like I think she would.
I don’t remember ever having laid eyes on the woman in the casket before walking in the door to the funeral home last night. And I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t go up to her and kneel at the little bench beneath the casket and say a prayer and take a closer look.
I’m happy when I go to funeral homes with my sister, she kneels, folds her hands and while she makes no sounds her lips move as she prays. I can’t tell you what a comfort it is to have her lead me. When I’m kneeling my mind often starts to wander, is there something stuck to the bottom of my shoe? I hope it’s nothing stupid like a sheet of dirty tissue or a blob of neon green bubble gum. It is especially uncomfortable to me to be so up close and personal with the person laying still in front of me. Like a creepy voyeurs’ my eyes are places they shouldn’t be, like gawking at the person’s tightly sewn lips. Or their swollen hands.
I’m so thankful when my sister finally does the sign of the cross and we get up and move away.
My friend talked about how hard the last several months have been with his sick mother. He said that one of his sisters’ went to the rehab center to visit every single day for lunch. And that he and the others took turns having dinner with their mom. To me that said a lot for the kind of people they are.
He pointed to some books sitting on a table near us. The books were all over the funeral home. Most all had the same jacket. Photo scrapbooks his mother had made for each of her children, her grandchildren and even the great grandchildren. He showed us his book. It was meticulously put together. Each child from newborn to just recently. Her precise handwriting adding details to each photo. He said his mother gifted the grandchildren with their books on the occasion of their weddings.
A loving mother and some good kids. Some good kids and a loving mother.
My kids will miss me when I’m gone, I know this to be true. I sure hope when it happens (when I die young of old age) that they can mill about a funeral home surrounded by good friends. I hope they tell funny stories and pour over old pictures.
It seems to take some of the burden off.