Tag: funerals

tears (as in drops from the eyes) and tears (as in rips of the heart)

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you met my mother here and here and here, now i know good and well that it’s mother’s day, but it’s not my mother i want to tell you about today.

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and it’s not my niece who had her baby boy last night at 10:49, even though you can bet your sweet patootie you’ll be hearing about him soon. isn’t he a beautiful baby?

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today it’s my cousin mary (the one who always makes sure we take plenty of pictures at every family gathering) i want to tell you about. that’s her there on the left. (then there’s my mother in the center. then there’s me on the right.)

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if you pay attention to my facebook feed, you know that 14 months ago mary’s oldest boy (that’s him – billy – there with the blue oval around his handsome face and that’s mary there on the left with the pink oval around her) was diagnosed with cancer. you know that he endured everything science has in its arsenal to throw at cancer, and you know that it wasn’t enough. mary buried her oldest son today – on mother’s day.

at first i thought that was an awful, horrendous, unimaginable thing to do – i initially felt physically sick for mary. but as i talked with her over the past few days, i tell you what: i’ve never loved her more or been more proud of her. that cousin o’mine really knows how to throw a good funeral.

she didn’t opt to have billy’s funeral on mother’s day to cast herself as a martyr. she didn’t want pity or attention or people fawning over her. you see, this wasn’t about mary at all. this funeral was a tribute to billy, and mary made sure of it in every way large and small.

friends were important to billy, so mary and her husband danny decided to have the funeral today because they knew a lot of billy’s friends would be in town visiting their mothers and could attend the funeral.

during the visitation that preceded the funeral when mary spied somebody she didn’t know, she walked right up to them and introduced herself and thanked them for coming then listened to their stories about billy.

she was right there every minute. she was so present.

she made sure people had plenty to eat. she asked if they had moved their car to the line that would go to the cemetery. she thanked people. she fed people. she hugged people. she listened to people. you might think she was distracting herself with busy work, and you’d be wrong. mary was there, she didn’t shy away from the reality of the occasion, she cried – she cried plenty – she just never lost sight of the fact that today was about honoring and memorializing billy.

when danny (billy’s daddy) cried, mary put her arm around him and patted him. when the preacher came to clarify what song would be sung, she directed him to danny because danny had selected the song. when the pall bearers (some of billy’s friends from college) arrived, she took them all into her house, and when they got upset, she comforted them.

she told the preacher story after story after story to make sure it was a fitting, story-filled tribute to the multi-faceted, multi-talented young man billy is . . . was (it’s hard to use past tense). in the past few weeks and especially today, mary exhibited every trait and characteristic that made billy the fine and good young man we know him to be.

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(that’s billy there with the orange oval with his hand on mary’s shoulder.)

as an actor and a managing director of a theatre, i see my fair share of drama queens, and as a woman of that certain age, i’ve dealt with a lot of women who desperately want to be seen, and i want to tell you one very important thing: mary focused that spotlight on her son billy, and she made sure it didn’t stray, not one little bit. and in her unfaltering selfless mother love, i saw her more clearly than i’ve ever seen her before.

i love her so much.

the janus approach

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we trekked to the cemetery, that stormy morning in april, in search of tombstones to rub, transferring their images to our cloths. as we pulled away from art camp with susan lenz two days later – i mean, we were literally about to back out of the parking lot – i got a call that my friend valerie along with her husband and their daughter had died when their house burned.

who knew cloth could commit foreshadowing . . .

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right on the heels of that, another call that my 32 year old cousin billy – who, over the past 14 months had endured everything science had to throw at his cancer and was waiting for tests in june that would determine the success of those treatments – was not doing well. in less than 2 weeks, he went from eating a bowl of grits at the kitchen table to back in the hospital for more tests. that was saturday, 4/26. on monday (4/28) came the news that the cancer had spread to his brain. on tuesday (4/29) came the news the cancer had spread to his spine. a week later on sunday (5/4), billy was moved to hospice. last night he took his last earthly breath.

“come make him laugh,” his mother mary said when she called me. my husband, mother, and i spent that wednesday afternoon at his bedside telling the old familiar family stories. legends, really. i told the same ole’ stories – even used the same ole’ words – and we still laughed till our sides split. stories are like that.

days later, his mother pulled her chair up close to billy’s bed and let the memories spill right out of her heart. for more than two hours, she told billy good memories she has of him. “i just wanted him to go out with lots of good memories,” she told me. i don’t know about you, but i can’t think of a finer send-off.

he’s only 32. billy is only 32 years old, and i just want to go on record saying that i find it especially cruel that a mother has to bury a child (especially so close to mother’s day) and that a 32 year old as good and fine as billy should die in the spring.

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today we bury another cousin, a quiet man who served in the vietnam war. he didn’t raise his hand to go, but when he was called, he went. my last memory of theron is of him telling stories about our grandparents. i was throwing a family reunion in my backyard, and i’d asked everybody to jot down their memories of grandmother and granddaddy so i could include them with the cookbook of grandmother’s recipes i’d created. not much of a writer, theron called me and talked for more than 3 hours, spilling one precious memory after another. to this day, i cherish those hours spent sitting on the back deck, looking around at all that needed to be done in preparation for the reunion, but not even really seeing it as i trekked down memory lane with theron.

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it’s been an emotionally rough spring.

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that’s not the whole story, though . . .

i just got a text message from my sister-in-law, carole, that her daughter/my niece will not be having her baby today – her labor will not be induced, anyway. we’ll just have to see what mother nature has to say about things.

tomorrow we celebrate the anniversary of my beautiful, precious daughter’s birth. on March 19 of this year, she had a partial thyroidectomy. she’s an actor and a singer, so of course we were on pins and needles about someone cutting on her throat. but my brother-in-law donn steered us to a surgeon who did an outstanding job as you can very well hear for yourself.

later this month we’ll join in merriment and shenanigans when my son kipp married the lovely and long-necked marnie. you’ll surely be hearing more about this as the days roll on. (i’m “foreshadowing” over on facebook, if you’d like to connect there. you’ll need to be logged in for the link to work.)

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we have memories. oh good lord, do we have memories – and that’s something you just can’t buy, regardless of how much money you have. memories . . . stories . . . those are treasures far greater than any amount of gold or silver or real estate. greater than any fleet of planes or drawers of diamonds or walls filled with paintings.

stories are art. so let’s get on out there and make some art today, why don’t we.

(but maybe forego the tombstone rubbings.)

(just sayin’.)