Monday, April 12, 2010
Everything's coming together. I made the funeral arrangements this morning: on Friday, Mom's cremains will be buried in Brookside Cemetery in Englewood NJ, the town where she grew up. She'll be with her parents in a family plot. It's a beautiful cemetery, a few blocks from where we lived when I was a kid, with a lot of old trees and a realio trulio babbling brook. My friends and I used to play there; my sister went there sometimes to do homework. So we all have associations with the place.
On Wednesday, Gary will fly in from Reno and my cousin Ken will fly in from Phoenix; Gary and I are on the same flights going home on Saturday, which will be very convenient even though we aren't sitting together. Gary's mother wants to come to the funeral if possible, so I'm working on transportation for her. We'll have the service in the early afternoon and then all go out to a nice restaurant.
One of my tasks, as the only currently religious person in the family, was to line up clergy willing to do a funeral without talking about God, or at least without talking much about God. I called the church in town where my mother went to AA meetings and was referred to a pastoral associate who told me, with what sounded like real regret, that he'd love to do it, but Friday was the one day he couldn't, because he was attending a conference. I told him I'd try other folks: I'd gotten several names from the Pastoral Care Department at Englewood Hospital.
But a few minutes later he called back and said, "You know what? I'd rather do your mother's funeral, so I'm going to cancel the conference."
"But you've never even met us!"
"No, no, it's a clergy conference, and you have no idea how boring those are. I'd much rather do your mother's funeral. It would be a privilege." Turns out he's in AA too; he was tremendously moved by what I shared of my mother's story and asked me all kinds of questions about her and about the family so he can personalize his comments as much as possible. He also promised to be brief! I told him that he was more than welcome at the restaurant afterwards and asked him what he charged.
"Oh, sweetheart, I don't charge anything."
Jeez! We're going to give him something anyway, but I was blown away by how warm and kind and generous he is. If only all clergy were like that! He was also very accepting of the "BCP lite" concept, and laughed heartily when I quoted some of my mother's remarks about religion, like, "How can anyone believe that nonsense?"
"Oh," he said cheerfully, "she might fit right into the Episcopal Church!"
It felt good to be able to make myself useful by getting all that set up. Meanwhile, my sister found some places to donate Mom's medical equipment and supplies. We're still looking for a place in Philly that will take partially used meds, as the homeless outreach clinic in Reno does. If anyone has any leads on that, please let us know.
I'm wearing some of Mom's clothes today. I know she'd be happy to see me in them.