One of the people from Red River shared a Thorton Wilder quote. He said, “If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good.” I wrote two of the most difficult pieces of writing that’s not fiction or a blog post. The first was my mom’s obituary and the second was her eulogy. Catholics can do eulogies, keeping it to five minutes in my case, and that’s fine by me and my mom, a woman preferring the background while her daughter…
Well, you’re writing this online aren’t you?
I can’t knit, needlepoint, or cook. My expression happens with a pen or a keyboard, fed by reading everything and anything. An opportunity came up to celebrate mom’s life in words and I took it. She wanted a short obituary with no picture, I wrote a short eulogy for a funeral mass to help paint a picture of the person in the coffin. It also proved one of many hard parts after she died on September 12th, my new way of living after the death of a parent.
The next, next hard part.
It begins the moment the parent, or loved one, dies. The phone call came after 1 pm, leaving my brother to get my dad ready while he told me to go ahead. I parked the car, raced inside, zooming past staff, the hallway miraculouly cleared of older patients sitting and watching life go by in a ward. She laid still, the IV, the one we planned to take out on Saturday, standing off the side. My aunt, her sister was there after relieving me from my morning vigil. After hearing laboured breathing, mom’s chest reamined still and the next hard part began with the truth in bed, covers pulled up, and family gathering to take it in.
The next hard part happens with calling the parish priest and the funeral home. Mom and dad prearranged the funeral leaving us to do masses and visitaitons. The next hard part was going home to the apartment with dad knowing the absence in the place remains permenant. The next hard part involved getting up to this purgatory between moment of death and the funeral. Each moment has it own hard parts, subsections you might say, with the priest kind enough to visit dad and give communinion afterwards Roger and choose the readings for the mass. The next hard part involves signing paperwork at Cropo, the funeral provider, choosing the image and poem for the memorial cards. The third poem on the first page fits mom perfectly and I cry with my brother’s conforting hand on my shoulder. We have taken turns doing that for one another as he goes through his own next hard part. My aunt manages her next hard parts by keeping busy. She’s well-versed in death and its rituals with an ease that both scares and amazes me, a woman heading to places as fearlessly as me. She gathered mom’s funeral clothes, already picked out and in safekeeping for years by mom. My aunt patiently remains on the line for information on government documents needed after death. I nicknamed her ‘the beaucracy whisperer.’
The next hard part calls for choosing the clothes I will wear to mom’s funeral. I pick out a dress I wore to work, the black broken up by bits of pink pedal. It reminds me of a old picture of mom, taken one year before her wedding, clearly showing our resemblance to each other. She wears a pink dress, with black pattern, lines that look like twigs. I asked her once if I need to wear black for a year, the way she did for her father, mother, and brothers. She tells me no, deciding this is one old-school ritual from Portugal to do without.
The next hard part was seeing her body made up for the funeral, the next hard part was geting up for the funeral mass to get into the limo, the next hard part was the service. The next hard part drove home the finality of it all as I sobbed ‘this is it’ over and over as my cousins and Tia
Concepção gather me in their collective arms at Assumption Cemetery.
Now I am at the next hard part. It involves intergrating this universal yet singularly personal experience of loss-the grieving. As far as next hard parts go, it’s the hardest. I keep an eye on my dad who keeps waking up, having breakfast, and amazing us as a regular viewer of Say Yes To The Dress. A trip down the grocery aisle to get coffee stops me for a moment as I remember looping around to help fill mom’s shopping cart, while she stops to look carefully at the meat to use in a dish. Grieving, I learned in the book planned for a future Book Talk feature of this blog, is intuitive. Sometimes we withdraw, sometimes we need friends. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we remember without tears. Books, words really, gives meaning to my intuition while I take time off work to regroup. I don’t have children but I have the students to think about at the library. I get questions about articles and sometimes hints here and there about the stress of courses, whether or not it will result in a job at the end, or can they do it? The last question applies to me, during this next hard part. The answer is yes and it will take work. The next hard part will last a lifetime but I know the next hard part will also lead me back to joy.