Saturday, April 17, 2010


Mom's funeral yesterday went about as well, I think, as it could have gone. Liz, Lloyd, my nephew Owen, his girlfriend Kim and I arrived about an hour early and hung around downtown Englewood for a while. We bought a guest book and flowers for people to leave in the grave, and -- without having planned this -- met up with Mom's brother, two of his sons, and another son's daughter. Then we made our way to the cemetery, where we were joined by Ken, Claire, Gary's mother Doris, my mother's dear longtime friend Doris (who still lives in Englewood), and several other relatives by marriage. My cousin Val and her husband Bruce couldn't come because Val came down wiht a stomch bug.

We were very lucky: it didn't rain during the service, although the day was generally damp.

The priest had gotten there before anyone else. He did a brief, lovely service, and then Liz and I handed out a tulip to each mourner who wanted one, and people had the chance to put their tulip in the grave and say goodbye.

I say "grave," but it was a very small hole, just large enough for the ugly brown plastic temporary urn. The urn looked better covered with tulips -- and Mom wouldn't have wanted us to spend money on a fancy urn (and wouldn't have much cared what we did with her in any case) -- but when I put my flower in, I started sobbing. I got a lot of hugs.

It was very hard for me to walk away from the hole. We'd brought Mom back to her parents and back to the town where she, and we, grew up, but it was hard for me to leave her there. Even though I knew rationally that the contents of the box weren't her, exactly, and that I wasn't abandoning her, I felt like I was.

We all wended our way to a restaurant my uncle had chosen, which we had to ourselves and which had excellent food. Liz and I handed around two photo albums we'd put together the night before (skimming through thousands of family photos to find good ones of Mom), and I gave out the small packets of jewelry I'd put together for the women. I think people appreciated that. I gave one to the priest for his wife, too, and he kept saying, "She'll love this! She loves jewelry! This is a first!"

I hope the men weren't offended that I didn't have anything for them, but as Val put it when I spoke to her on the phone today, "Your mom collected jewelry and cats," and I didn't think the guys would want cats to take home, even if my sister had been willing to part with any of her furry herd. In any case, my attitude was, "I'm one of the chief mourners here and I'm going to do what I want," which may have been selfish but seemed to work out fine.

It was a nice party. I loved seeing everybody, even though I hated the occasion.

After the meal -- truly delicious! -- immediate family went back to my uncle's house. We chatted for a while, and then the Philly van headed south again.

By now it was pouring. Riding home, I realized that my irritability before the funeral, when I was snapping at everyone I talked to, had been replaced by complete exhaustion. I cried some in the van, picturing Mom's tiny grave without anyone there to keep it company. (As you can already tell, my Zen-like equanimity of the previous day or two had definitely evaporated.) When we finally got home to Philly, I had some tea and went to bed fairly early.

Gary and I slept about twelve hours last night. When I went downstairs, Liz was lying on her back in the middle of the living-room floor. I asked her if she was all right, and she said that she was fine, just unable to focus even after three cups of coffee.

I packed. We ate a large lunch. I packed some more. We left for the airport. Liz and I had a long hug goodbye, and she touched my memorial pendant and said, "Take good care of Mom." (Having the necklace slightly eased the pain of walking away from the grave.) I'm now blogging from the departure lounge, where there's free WiFi. Gary and I have a very long trip ahead of us. By some miracle, I was reassigned to an aisle seat, rather than a middle one, for the Philly-San Francisco leg, and I'm going to try to use the time to get some work done, since I have nine-plus papers to grade before Monday.

Time to get back to real life.


  1. you don't know me. i wandered into your blog by accident, from something unrelated.

    there's nothing i have to offer you except prayers for you and your family.


    there's that.

  2. Anonymous10:11 AM

    Thank you for sharing your stories of the funeral day for your mother, Susan. It sounds as if the service itself was lovely, and I am glad your priest was as wonderful in person as he was over the phone.

    Safe travels,


  3. Good heavens, Susan, I am so sorry--I have been poky reading blogs of late and did not know any of this was happening. Prayers are rising for you and Gary, your sister and BIL, at this time of loss. May you all be given exactly what you need to make it through, and may memories be as a blessing to you.

  4. Thanks to all three of you. Prayers mean a lot!


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