Thoughts From A Wake

This past week, the mother of a friend of mine passed away. It was rather sudden, and consequently hit her family pretty hard. I bought a card for my friend, but thought I should also attend the calling hours for her mom, as well. Not having much experience with deaths and funerals, yet, I am not sure if participating in the services would be expected of me, since I am not a very close friend. But my sister in law once told me that if I had any feeling at all I should go, I should go. So I did.

I told Luke when I was leaving that if it was too crowded, I would drop off my cards and leave. But when I got there, I could see how rude that would be to do- it was crowded, but the line of people wove in and out of the funeral home’s rooms, and most everyone could see everyone else. I got in line.

The first room the line crossed looked like the administrative office. Papers were strewn across the desk, including copies of the video of family pictures that was playing in the foyer. I thought it was strange to have the people walk through here, then inappropriate that the family’s personal things were laying out. Since I was alone, it was a challenge to find things to do with myself. I didn’t feel I could strike up a conversation with my neighbor, a hippie type, or my other neighbors, an older couple. It just didn’t seem right.

Once into the hallway, the line actually came round to the end of the family receiving line. Many at that point were giving a small wave or smile to those they knew in the family. One lady was not paying attention, so advanced in line to shake hands with the family, not knowing the line switched back. She ended up behind me.

For some reason, at this point I felt I could start talking to my new neighbor. I found out how she was acquainted to the deceased, and how my friend’s mom actually died. The Facebook posts were vague, and rightly so, so I didn’t have much information. Seems she was feeling tired, and at some point ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. Then, about two weeks later, she passed away during the night. The doctors didn’t know exactly what was wrong with her, were going through a series of tests, but the thought of death was far from anyone’s minds, so no one was prepared for that to happen.

A bit after talking my new friend pulled out her phone. I had noticed, and was appreciatively surprised, that NO ONE in that long long line was on their phones!!! What a testimony to the solemnity of the occasion. And an honor to this woman’s family. But she was not being obnoxious on hers, and I realized I should check mine for messages, so I told her I was glad she had hers out. Now that I was not the only one right now, I wouldn’t appear as rude, ha ha.

As we advanced, another lady joined our quiet conversation about death, what we’ve experienced with it so far, who we’ve lost, how we’ve dealt with the children it affected, and so on. I was heartened to hear their perspectives and theology mirrored my own; this woman who passed away was active in her local church, but also worked in the school system, so I could have been standing beside someone with a completely different faith background. But instead, we were able to encourage each other. Funny how the second half of my time in line went faster than the first, as we talked.

We got to talking about our stuff we keep around, knowing our kids won’t want it, but still we keep it. I told them I had 13 children, and back for our wedding we had registered for the plates with a setting for 12, thinking the 16 was too many (!) The one lady interrupted me- “You have thirteen children?! I have thirteen children!” What’s your name…” And we began to trade big family stories until we reached the family. What are the odds of being in that line with another mother of 13 children? Not odds, but God, for sure.

My bereaved friend was in shock. And all cryed out (for now) and so angry. But she still looked lovely. She told my new friend in line that she was done with life, that she just wanted Jesus to come and have it over with. I’ve been there, too. Read any of my posts about Micaiah if you want a sample of my feelings there. And then, I recalled another funeral (in this same building) I attended, for a newborn baby my friend had had, with so many medical problems he only lived a few minutes. I will never forget the way she looked at that tiny casket, with tears running down her cheeks, as if to say, this really hurts. I hate that this had to happen. Why do I have to say goodbye to someone I just met? Let me die, too.

It is good that my friend was being honest with her thoughts and feelings. And she realized that the funeral was only the beginning. Soon she would return to life with a new emptiness. Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas. And her young children, needing reminded of where Grandma was. She had just posted on Facebook weeks before about how her mom was her rock. Now it would be those left behind to be her support, but ultimately God. Though she is probably upset with Him now, she knows He can take it. That He’ll always be there listening.



Don’t Forget

Carol has a sort of game with our young children whenever they part. She says to them, “Don’t forget!” If we are in a place where others are ignorant of the game, they may shrug their shoulders and wonder, forget what?

My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. It has been a slow process so far, and God has been so gracious to allow for that, and have my dad be able to care for her for the foreseeable future. She recognizes all of us, even all of my children (at least I think she does;)), and the things she forgets are not matters of the heart, not yet. But because her mother had this, and because her sister just died and had this, I know a bit about the progression, to a state where she may not know who I am. Dad prays for a slow deteriorating; she is old at this point so a slow fade would take longer than she has years on Earth. This is not something I have prayed with earnestness. I’m not sure if that is God’s plan or not.

We used to joke (halfway) about “shoot me when I show signs of getting Alzheimer’s”, but in recent years I have realized how horrible a thought that is. For one thing, who knows how early in my life I will start to forget.

Just in this past week I have had two very disturbing experiences. The first I can’t explain in detail, but I neglected to do something in the right way, and when thinking on it later, I had to admit that I completely forgot. I quickly tried to think of a way I wouldn’t do that same thing again, especially if I had no recollection, a next time, and cam up with a fitting act of repentance. Good for the mind and the soul.

The next day, I pulled the pork roast out of the oven from cooking overnight, put it in the crock, and tucked it in the fridge. This was to be dinner; I only needed buns. I was to take kids to work at the grocery store later, so I knew I’d have a chance to get them. Later came, and as I went in Stoodts, I walked back to the cheese case, making a mental list of what I needed to make pizza, for dinner, that night. Not until I was home did I realize I already had pork done and planned!

I know we can shoo away each of these blunders, saying, it happens all the time, you’re stressed, you have mommy brain x 13. I get it. But these were different. It was like going to a cupboard and opening the door and that thing not being there. But actually, it is like I didn’t even think to look in the cupboard in the first place. So how would I remember to look for the thing in the cupboard for next time? Me and Mother Hubbard. Think that’s her trouble?

I would love to end this with the above line. That was so clever. I love my mind, and how much it does for me each and every day, day in and day out. God has been so good to me. But if I were to start to lose some ability there, it would be very disturbing. I must remember what is important, though- the thing Grandma Carol never wants our kids to forget- I am loved.