Monday, December 03, 2007

A Time to Mourn, Part One

It feels strange to not have anywhere that I have to be today, no pressing tasks that must get done, no company arriving or leaving. I need to catch up on laundry and put my house back together, but I can spend a bit of time here first, recounting Saturday.

It is still so fresh, so raw, and when I think of the day, it does not automatically fall neatly into sets of easily organized words, as so much of my life usually does. The memory of it tumbles about my brain, a jumbled mix of emotion and strong sensory experience that seems to defy the structure of syntax and diction. But I feel that I must try to preserve it with the written word--and soon. I don't want to lose any of it.

The end of the day Friday was filled with the arrivals of several sets of out-of-town guests while we rushed to put the finishing touches on the next day's service. Each new arrival was bittersweet, the last one not arriving until 2:30 Saturday morning.

Andy and I sat up late, side by side in our bed, each scratching out our own private thoughts for what we would say at the service, neither of us talking.

After a grueling night, Saturday started early, everyone up and taking turns showering before seven o'clock. I had helped Andy and the kids pick out what they would wear the night before, to save the stress of it in the morning. I had even ironed. But I hadn't selected anything for myself to wear and was faced with that task in the hustle and bustle of the busy morning. I was not thinking too clearly and stood staring at the items in my closet for a long time, trying to make sense of them. We had decided not to wear black, but I generally tend to wear black when I dress up, so coming up with something nice that wasn't black was almost more than my tired brain could do.

After I finally picked out some clothing, I went to make myself some tea and realized just how tired and uptight and scatter-brained I really was. I placed a tea bag in my mug and proceeded to fill it with hot water, then walked away to do something else while it steeped. When I returned for the mug after a couple of minutes, I noticed with some confusion that my green tea had brewed up black, much thicker and darker looking even than a strong, black tea. I had actually filled the mug with hot coffee, not water, ruining both the coffee and the tea bag. It was comical and I relaxed a little as I laughed at my mistake.

At eight o'clock, we left for the funeral home. Family viewing would be from 8:30 to 9:30. I had been the family representative at the public viewing the previous afternoon/early evening, so I had spent three hours there with her already, most of that time alone. I was already familiar with the surroundings and the sight of her in the open casket. I reminded the kids again that they did not have to approach the body if they didn't want to, and if they wished to touch her, to be prepared for how strange a cold and lifeless body looks and feels. The presence of cousins emboldened them all and the four of them approached the casket together, hugging one another for support. It was very sweet.

I stayed in the back and helped Ginny, the owner of the local coffee hang-out and a good friend, set out pastries and coffee and juice. She had wanted to do something practical for the family, and food is what she does best. Her kindness was so touching and we were so grateful.

The rest of the family arrived and gathered around the casket.

It was hard.

I still don't have many words to adequately describe the scene, but I can say that Elli was a real source of comfort to her grandpa, refusing to leave his side and seeming to know exactly what to say and not say, and when to hug him and when to let go. God used her, the youngest, to comfort the oldest in a profound and meaningful way. There was a quiet wisdom to her manner that left me in absolute wonder, and Andy and I wept at the sight of it. The maturity she showed was far beyond her years--beyond even my years--and he was able to communicate his grief to her, both verbally and non-verbally, as if she were an adult. In return, she filled his aching, empty arms. It was of God. The weak things of this world, the foolish things...

The hour slipped by quickly and we went back out into the snow to drive to the church for the service.

To continue on with Part 2, click here.


AmberJ said...

Tough stuff. Thanks for sharing.

CML_Shearings said...

I am so glad you captured those sensitive & thoughtful gestures of Ginny & Elli. How precious! Louis & I wish we could have attended the viewing & service. We arrived back from Ca. about the same time your folks arrived back home. You've been so much in our thoughts & prayers.