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Absolute and Unbroken ContinuityJune 23, 2008

The memorial for Mom was so hard. But it was pretty great, too. The church was full of people, many of whom I didn't even recognize. Others I knew by sight, but would never have been able to put a name to. I was way more emotional than I thought I'd be -- I thought I'd gone through the range of emotions and had sorted the first bits of stuff out, but I almost wasn't able to read the Henry Scott Holland piece that I wanted to. I know how to project, but my voice shook, and I hated that. I wanted to be clear and strong. My father closed with his eulogy, and I swear there wasn't a dry eye in the house. The church was quiet as he started, but the sniffs started to ripple as he spoke about his best friend, his wife.

It just kilt us all.

[An aside - this is my new gift to the environment: Handkerchiefs. I've been using them all month, and there have been a LOT of dribbly nose blows. Allergies and grief is an ugly combination. I always thought using a handkerchief would be gross, but as it turns out, it's comforting in a way that Kleenex never could be. If you think you have to blow a lot, carry two, but one is really enough. I keep one in my pocket, use it when I need it, and I wash the used ones with my clothes. If I forget one in a pocket, no biggee. No Kleenex bits all through the dryer. And I am Kleenex crazy -- used to be OBSESSED with always having a box near me. One in every room. Now I'm not. Saving the world, one little piece of paper at a time.] [See? I mitigated that last sad bit with a soapbox bit. Whew.]

Then we went to the parents' house (I should move that apostrophe, but I don't want to), where we held a lovely cross between a reception and a wake. It was a potluck musical gathering. People brought food and instruments, and we set up chairs all throughout the huge backyard. Groups of people gathered in small clumps -- older men talking about wars they'd fought in, older women talking about church/book matters, the old-time musicians playing serious fiddle tunes in one area, kids smearing themselves with dirt and strawberry juice in another.

Later, we non-serious musicians kicked the serious ones out by joining the music circle with our ukuleles (okay, MY ukulele) and a particular fiddle-tune-killing request. If you know an old-time musician, just try it. Demand a Kingston Trio song. A the mention of the Kingston Trio, it is truly hysterical to watch them remember their pots on their stoves as they scramble backwards like crabs, reaching for their gig bags. So we musicians who like lyrics took over the song-circle and we sang every Kingston Trio, Woody/Arlo Guthrie, John Hartford, Pete Seeger song we could think of, throwing in all the lyrics we could remember, sprinkled with a good dose of "bah-di-bah-blooo-bahs" when words failed us. We sang our family anthem, the Washing Machine song, twice, once in our circle, and once in the room where my sister Christy was lying. She liked that.

Christy'd been feeling really ill the whole day. She was a trouper that morning, vacuuming and cleaning, setting things up, and she made it to the church, and walked around the reception, smiling when people hugged her, even though she felt so sick. Then she took to bed, letting the party swirl out in the main room. And later woke up WITH APPENDICITIS! She had to have her appendix out yesterday morning. Seriously, how much does your day blow, if you memorialize your beloved mother and then have to go for immediate surgery? Dude. She's due to be released this morning. Our poor thing.

Some pictures. Just because I want them here.

Lala is cute; I might be a little manic here.


Dad's the one in black, La's got her back to us.

Gaynelle, part of our family.

One of the more serious circles

Babies and beer!


Father-in-law Tony Hulse (he and mom-in-law Jeannie came all the way out from Boise!) and my Dad. Little sister Bethany sticks out her tongue like Dad does when she's concentrating.

Lala's pride and joy: the 1957 Gibson her dad gave her last year for her birthday.

For Mom:

  Death is nothing at all. It does not count. 
   I have only slipped away into the next room.
      Nothing has happened.
        Everything remains exactly as it was.
          I am I, and you are you, and the old life
            that we lived so fondly together is untouched,
           Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
          Call me by the old familiar name.
       Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
    Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes
  that we enjoyed together.   
   Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
     Let my name be ever the household word
       that it always was.
        Let it be spoken without an effort,
          without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
           Life means all that it ever meant.
           It is the same as it ever was.
        There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
      What is this death but a negligible accident?
    Why should I be out of mind
   because I am out of sight?
    I am but waiting for you,
      for an interval,
        somewhere very near,
         just round the corner.
           All is well.

Henry Scott Holland


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Oh, that's a lovely sounding wake for your Mom. Thank you for the photos. My thoughts are with you all...

And you don't need to move the apostrophe.

Tears and hugs. The poem is beautiful and true, but hard to remember to do at first. Remember the love and to love, that is what matters. Love you.

Sob. That poem means the world to me.


Dearheart, of course it's your parents' house.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

I'll have to read the poem later, since I'm at work and your posts of late tend to leave me in tears.

I can only hope that the soundtrack of my wake is one of banjos and ukeleles. It's all one could want, really.

My best to you all. Go with grace.

I can't think of a better way to remember a loved one and celebrate life. Music, laughter, memories, and love ....
that poem? I could really use a Kleenex or handkerchief.

Henry Scott Holland says it all really! I hope your sister gets well soon - I had appendicitis on my honeymoon and it's pretty awful at the best of times and worse when you really needed to be well so I send her gentle hugs!


Thank you for sharing and I'm still sending hugs right toward your house!

i think this looks like a wonderful reception for a wonderful gal. i love seeing all of the musicians gathered around.

also, that piece is just beautiful.

take care, sweets.

Hi Rachy-Pooh!!!!

I just wanted to tell you I love you! And I'm soooo very sorry for your loss. I'm sure it doesn't help, but I know exactly how you feel. Call me when life calms down, we should get together for lunch or dinner or something. XOXOX ~Nichole

Wow, that sounds like an amazing memorial for an obviously amazing woman. The music sounds so great - singing along to a bunch of songs that I know always makes me feel a little better. You and your family are incredible, dude. Poor Christy! Hope she's feeling better soon. More hugs and good thoughts heading your way from Athens.

(and, um, HOW CUTE is that picture of your dad and Lala's dad? Srsly.)

Holy cow, girl! Have y'all been on the roller coaster, or what?

Hugs to EVERYbody, including the pets.

Oh, that Holland piece is lovely. Very moving. You know, the apostrophe doesn't have to be moved anytime soon, or ever. It can always belong to both. I know it was a tough day, but you've survived it.[[hugs]]

I had to skip the poem because well, 15 years later and I still can't read things like that. I'm off to email you my number in case you think you can swing by seeing me.


So beautiful. I don't have words just now. I love you.

Perfect. Take care.

I had to use MY hanky to make it through the poem, but I sure do love that Washing Machine song.

It sounds like such an honoring, and such a celebration. Sending loving energy your direction.

O, girlie...now THAT is a Mr. Holland's Opus. Janette is so lucky to have all of you in her life and after and all of you are likewise blessed. I can't think of a better tribute to an amazing woman and an amazing group of family and friends.
hugs and hugs.

Ok, maybe you look a teeny bit manic but you're cute too.

Sounds as if you all did your lovely mom proud. I'm a bit teary - and considering switching to hankies instead of tissues.

Thank you for sharing the Holland piece - what a gift...to your Mom, your family, to us.

What a lovely memorial for your dear mom. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos.

I'm going to go dig out my hankies now. I need 'em. My thoughts are with you. Also with Christy. What a day!

what a lovely special dear tribute to your lovely special dear mom!

sniff sniff on the beautiful poem! and sending your sister hugs and healing energy ( and painkillers!) xox

It sounds like a wonderful memorial to your mother. I've taken some comfort from Angel Band's version of "Do Not Stand at My Grave."
Be well and feel better (poor Christy!)

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

-Henry Van Dyke
This helped me tremendously with the passing of my dad. I *heart* you Rachael and miss ya lots.


Dear Rachel:

It is a great sharing experience to read your blog. I believe your mother has been celebrated and remembered with extraordinary love through her memorial. There is love, compassion, sincerity and friendhip in your family - biological and extended. I hope your sister will recover nicely from her surgery and I thank you for expressing yourself with such sincerity and gentleness. You are unique for many of your readers.

I too will have to read the poem later. Best wishes to you all, and thank you for sharing.

Poor Christy. Seriously.

Hugs, Rachael. Big hugs.

Your family is beautiful. That's the wake I want when I go.

(Thanks for the hankie tip)

Rachael, this is so beautiful, and so beautifully healthy. I can't explain how touching it is to read your story, knowing that you are doing the best things, and that the people around you are doing them too. Blessings to all.

I was thinking about you all the other night. I was thinking about your description of your family as a planetary system, missing its sun, and about how you all are getting on. I thought, based on everything I've ever read on your blog, your family really do seem amazing - individually and en masse - and that shows how incredible your mom must have been. So you all are the best possible testament to her life; she truly is living on in you. That's the most amazing thing anyone could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime. I know you're grieving, but because of this, I am really happy for you. (I hope that didn't come out wrong...)

Lovely. The poem, the musical celebration - you have brought me to the brink of ruining my mascara (I'm at work!) but the joy in your pictures saved me. For it is there, even if it has flopped over on its stomach and all one sees is grief. Peace and smiles and tears and hugs and gosh, I was even thinking about sewing my own hankies - you've clinched it. ;)

you have an amazing family; it is no wonder you turned out the way you did. *hugs*

Glad your and yours celebrated. Some forget to celebrate!!! Time eases the pain, just a little. Give yourself time, and don't try to explain or second guess anything. You and your family done good!!!

The poem says it all, sad and so true. My thoughts are with you and your wonderful family.

What a lovely poem. My thoughts are with you.

I'm a big handkerchief user too. They rock.

How weird is it that our paths of similarities have crossed in the most strange ways?

First, we are both knitters. Second, you rescued and adopted Clara when I rescued and adopted my dog, Claire. Third, we've both lost our Moms.........and Fourth, I was given that same poem when my Mom died in 1991. I have since passed it on to everyone I know who loses a loved-one. The only thing is that I never knew who wrote the poem.

How strange it is that I tuned in to your blog today to read about your sad news, but to also find the same poem that has brought me the most comfort throughout the years? I swear I will never cease to be amazed.

I also had endless conversations with best friends about the incredibly weird things people would say to me. Some well-meaning, but really crazy. (referring to your greeting card post)

I am so sorry that you and your family have lost someone so dear to you. I know from experience that no words can possibly make sense of the whole thing, but I also know that family and friends can make the journey bearable. It looks to me like you had a great send-off for your Mom. The fact that you've sustained these weeks is a great testament to her. Take moment by moment and don't expect too much of yourself. You will make it through this in your own way and in your own time.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.


I am going to need a sparkly hanky.

I love you immensely and my face is wet and your family is beyond awesome, your dad's face is so much in your own, and dude, I'm...

I am so going to need a sparkly hanky.

You're lodged in my heart, bigtime, lady. That is all.

Oh sweetie. You are doing a great job living through hard times.

It looks like it was a lovely memorial. I saw a ukeleler outside a coffee house in Hood River this morning (I am On A Trip right now) and thought of you... and now I'm glad to hear you were up for uke-ing yourself.

Rachel, Hugs to you and your beautiful family. That poem was perfect. I am going to call my Mom right now. Take care.

it sounds like a wonderful service and reception. I'm so glad your family was able to celebrate your Little Mama's life like that.

My thoughts and prayers have been with you (and her) since you first told us about her illness.

Blessings to you and your family. I know it probably seems impossibly hard much of the time, but she is still with you, and I'm sure you know that.

I hope your sister's recovery goes well! What timing she has!

Days like this are both hard and wonderful. Your family sounds amazing and your memories of this day will sustain you for a long long time.

Oh, that poem is so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I'm so sorry about your mom. I'll be thinking of you.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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