The wake was Wednesday night. Hundreds of people came, crowding into the small funeral parlor, everyone standing in line to talk to the family. I hugged Shiny Personality, and we both cried. She told me that on the last day, her mother tried to hang on, she did not want to leave the people she loved even though she was in pain, and she finally said to her,"Mom, let go! You've had enough, go to heaven." Her mother died moments later.
Her mother, Generous Hyper Woman, had been an excitable, energetic woman, given to loud exclamations of emotion, the kind of person who never sits still. How strange to see her lying in the coffin, with no movement, all that energy gone. As we drove away from the funeral parlor, driving home in early evening, a double rainbow stretched across the sky ahead of us.
Thursday morning, we gathered at an old stone church for the funeral service. When she was alive, her family and friends always teased Generous Hyper Woman affectionately about the crazy, funny things she did. And her death did not change the telling of those stories. Almost everyone had a story to tell about her generosity, but the stories also included things catching on fire and ridiculous escapades that thankfully had happy endings. One time, for instance, Generous Hyper Woman was walking downtown, and a man snatched her purse. She ran after him, yelling and screaming hysterically, and chased him for three blocks. He eventually dropped the purse.
The cemetery is on the main street of Traintrack Village, a place I drive by every single day. I stood with my brother, who had driven in from Camera City, and my parents, and a big group of people in the beautiful summer sunlight, and listened while the pastor prayed. We put pink roses on the coffin as we left, one of her sons kneeling down to kiss the casket before he walked away.
When we gathered at Shiny Personality’s house, where trays and trays of food were being rapidly unwrapped by family and friends, it seemed strange to think it had been less than four months since we’d gathered for a party, with Generous Hyper Woman still healthy enough to talk and eat and scream excitedly when someone gave her an autographed copy of a photo of one of her favorite baseball players. I talked to people I’ve known my whole life, and some friends I’d gone to school with from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
When it was finally time to drive home, I hugged Shiny Personality and told her how much I admired her for the way that she took her mother into her home and cared for her so patiently, so cheerfully. I hope some day when it is my turn to care for a dying parent, I can do so with the same unselfishness and grace.