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.
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