On November 7, my mother suddenly passed away at the age of 54. When I was sitting here thinking of a blog topic, the running thought in the forefront of my mind was to dedicate this to her. I could speak on her life; what an amazing woman she was. I could go the opposite way and dredge up her personal demons in an effort that others suffering through similar issues might find comfort or solace. But seeing as most readers of this didn’t know her and I’d prefer to have a day of not crying, I decided to turn my focus slightly towards sharing a few of the things I learned through this process.
People will amaze you.
My mother was a very well-liked individual who did a lot of work with various non-profit organizations to better her town. With that in mind, it was no surprise to me that a large outpouring of people gathered for her visitation. (Heck, I’m one of 27 first grandchildren. Even if just family showed it would be at capacity.)
What I didn’t count on was who would come out of the woodwork to support me.
I haven’t lived in Kentucky in eight years. I knew a few close friends would be there; they told me so. But I could have been knocked over with a feather to see friends from high school I’d not seen in nearly 15 years arrive, and even more surprising, friends I had not seen in 20 years. Femme Wonder’s cousin even showed up. People drove over an hour to pay their respects and show support for me and my family. I will forever be grateful for that and remain awestruck that it happened.
On the flip side, some people shocked me in a not-so-good way. I have one friend back home who I had really expected to step up to the plate and be like glue. Well, that’s what she told me would happen anyway. Adding that she worked with and knew my Mom well, it seemed a no-brainer to me that this would occur barring a small act of God or work keeping her from being there.
So when I was blown off twice before the visitation, I was mildly miffed. Her short 15-minute appearance at the visitation sort of solidified that ugly feeling in my gut. I would have been fine except for her closing remark as she left. Apparently the visitation “wasn’t her scene.”
Wasn’t her scene? Well, I think I can safely wager unless you are a mortician or work in the funeral trade, spending time in a funeral home isn’t really “your scene.” It’s a visitation, not happy hour. It’s one of those things you just do because it is what is expected, not because you intend to have a good time.
A few blogs ago, I touched on an observation of society switching to the need to Facebook every life event, no matter how trivial, and the general lack of compassion. I got a first-hand account of this phenomenon as well. A friend of mine I’ve not seen in roughly eight or nine years showed up at the visitation and funeral the next day. He’s a bit hyper and a bit of a chatterbox, but he means well. Trying to make me laugh, while a bit annoying at times, was a heartfelt attempt to lighten a darkened occasion. Grabbing me around the neck for a half hug before entering the funeral home would have been fine, had he not chosen that moment to take a “selfie” of us and then post it to Facebook.
Really? There is a time and a place for everything. Call me old-fashioned, but you don’t take a selfie at a funeral! You don’t need to update your Facebook status in the funeral home! Holy cow. How could this be considered acceptable behavior?
You bring food to a family at a funeral, at least where I am from. As Annelle in Steel Magnolias would say, you bring something from the “freezes beautifully” section of your cookbook. You send cards. You send flowers or make a donation to the deceased’s cause of choice. You offer your condolences. You don’t take selfies. Repeat it with me: you don’t take selfies at a funeral.
None of it matters except for family.
My family is loud and boisterous — and that’s putting it nicely. If there are any Big Brother fans reading this, my cousin is Chef Joe from season 14. It runs in the family. Being the often loud, and more often opinionated, stubborn bunch that we are, conflicts happen fairly regularly. It’s usually a toss-up as to who is speaking to who which week. However, tragedy miraculously brings people together.
Under penalty of my wrath, my warning of “no drama” preceded me as I drove in from Iowa. Amazingly, it was heeded. Everyone got along. If one positive can come from this whole thing, a few beefs were quashed, at least for now. I see that as a triumph and something my Mother would have been proud of.
Going through my Mother’s things brought my brother and I closer than we’ve probably been in years. Mom was always complaining we needed to spend more time together, and now, I can honestly say we are. I’ve never been more proud of him than watching him step up and take care of things, namely me. I love you, Shane.
You have to laugh.
My brother and I teased that we were planning one of the most irreverent funerals in history. That wasn’t entirely true, but we wanted to make our Mom’s send-off a time of laughter and happiness and less sorrow. Of course it is a sad situation and, trust me, my six-year-old niece left no eye dry in the house speaking about her Granny. But, you have to focus on the good times. At least we did.
Even this week, trying to unpack a few of the things I gathered from my Mom, I had to laugh. I opened up her cookbook. That alone was amusing, since the cooking genes went to my cousin and skipped Mom entirely. But inside were several folded pieces of paper which I assumed were recipes. You know what they say about assuming… it’s true. While I was expecting a secret family recipe I was greeted with the knowledge that my Mother had a clean bill of health at her annual exam in 2006 according to the Jessamine County Health Department. I was also glad to know she paid her rent in 2002 and still had the receipt to prove it tucked safely away inside that unused cookbook.
I love you, Mom. You have made me who I am today in a number of ways. I’m sorry to see you go. I won’t forget you. I’ll take care of Shane and the girls, don’t worry. I miss you Mom. Goodbye for now.