Monday, July 26, 2010


We know now that there will be a viewing for Ken in Phoenix on Thursday evening, followed by a graveside service in Flagstaff on Friday. Liz, Gary and I are flying into Phoenix on Wednesday and leaving Saturday. We're going to share a rental car and hotel room to cut costs.

Meanwhile, a friend from my parish also died last week. He'd had brain cancer for three years, and faced it with tremendous humor, aplomb, and intellectual zest. Tim was a dear man who made a point of attending all of my literary readings, something that meant a great deal to me. I'll miss him, and I grieve for his wife and children.

His funeral's on Saturday. I can't be there because I'll be flying back from Ken's funeral.

Meanwhile, today I got the Coast Guard certificate about Dad's burial at sea on July 17.

Are we sensing a theme here?

I called Carol today. She'd just secured a burial plot and firmed up the schedule, but didn't have anyone to do the service yet. She asked very tactfully if I could do such a service, and if I'd be willing to. Our side of the family's pretty solidly atheist (except for yours truly), but her folks are Methodist and Baptist and need Christian comfort, and another cousin's wife and their children are Jewish and need comfort that isn't overtly Christian.

Mindful of the lesson I learned from trying to do Dad's memorial myself, I told her that this was probably too close for me to handle, and that I'm not clergy anyway -- which might be important to her Methodists and Baptists -- but that I'd be happy to make phone calls to try to find someone. One of Ken's brothers had suggested that she talk to me about this; I've evidently become the go-to person for funeral arrangements in the family.

She said she'd like that, so I got on the horn to Flagstaff and, after leaving messages at a hospital pastoral-care department and an Episcopal Church, called a funeral home where the director -- who laughed pretty hard when I said we needed somebody who could do a service that would suit atheists, Baptists, Methodists, Jews, an Episcopalian, a lapsed Quaker and a lapsed Unitarian -- gave me four names. The first person I called, who'd been at the top of the funeral director's list, laughed at the hodge-podge of traditions too, but said that since he's a hospital chaplain, he's used to dealing with situations like this. (He's Lutheran.)

Go, hospital chaplains!

This process brought me right back to making calls to find someone to do Mom's service. Hard to believe that was only a few months ago.

So he's going to call Carol. His time on Friday is a bit limited, but he's available in the early afternoon, which sounded plausible to me. I'll call Carol in an hour or two to see if the two of them connected, or if I need to keep making calls. In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out what I can do for her and for Tim's wife here in Reno. The best thing anyone did for me after Dad died was to buy me a massage, so I've decided to do that for both of them. Tim's wife and I go go the same health club, so that will be easy. I Googled massage places in Phoenix, but I don't know which ones are a) good and b) anywhere near Carol's house, so I'll wait until I get down there and talk to one of her friends about it.

I also ordered some books for Carol: Joan Didion's memoir of her husband's sudden death, Louise De Salvo's book about writing and healing, a blank journal, and a pen. I'm sure she has pens, but I wanted to send a complete set. The items will arrive via Amazon, albeit in three or four shipments. I told Carol that I know she may be not be able to look at any of the stuff for a year or two, if ever, but that I wanted her to have it.

This all feels like trying to light birthday candles in a hurricane, but it's better than nothing.

Oh, and speaking of journals -- and given the frequency of funerals lately -- today I started a new blessings journal, in which each day I'll write down a list of good stuff that's happened. This sounds simplistic, but it's a quick and handy way to maintain perspective. I kept a daily list of blessings for almost ten years before stopping in 2006 or so, and this seems like an excellent time to resume that discipline.


  1. You are sounding extraordinarily calm and organized in the eye of the hurricane....too much experience perhaps. Please God let this be the last for a while. You need somethng else in your life besides sadness.

  2. Anonymous5:03 AM

    "Lighting birthday candles in a hurricane" strikes me as a hopeful image, acknowledging that life goes on and needs to be celebrated even (or especially) in the midst of storms that threaten to snuff out the candles. I think the persistence of hope is essential for spirit to live - the loss of hope opens the door to despair, methinks.

  3. Anonymous6:59 AM

    Susan, it sounds like you are doing so well. I'm sure your efforts are a great comfort to your whole family as well as Tim's. I have a lot more to say about all this and hope I'll have time to write separately. In the meantime, you and all the mourners are in my thoughts.




Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.