We gathered in a carpeted room filled with folding chairs. The table in front held flowers and candles. The table in the back held fresh veggies and fruit: strawberries, cantelopes, grapes. We looked at photographs that stretched back to the era when pictures were black and white. A thirteen-year-old boy played some lovely piano music, and two adults played several duets on Appalachian dulcimers. One man tried to read a tribute he had written, but choked up, and stood in silent grief while his sister, Poet Woman, read what he had written. Towards the end of the service, Poet Woman read several poems about her mother.
The afternoon gathering was a Memorial Service for my friend Poet Woman's mother, who died this winter. She had been ill, Poet Woman knew that she was going to die, and yet it was unexpected. I don't think any daughter is ever ready for her mother to die.
Poet Woman is a scientist, an artist, a photographer, and a poet. She is not a singer. But she led us in song anyway, singing an old spiritual that her mother loved. And of course, she told stories. She talked about how her parents encouraged her to do all kinds of science experiments when she was a kid: she once kept 1,000 white mice in her bedroom. One time her grandmother saw a baby carriage on their front porch and pulled up the covering, expecting to see some sweet little dolls: she jumped when she saw several snakes curled up in the carriage. Like many nature-loving kids, Poet Woman couldn't resist catching snakes and bringing them home.
Neighbors talked about summer afternoons at the swimming hole. Granddaughters reminisced about the great food their grandmother cooked: lasagna, pie, and honeyballs. I talked to a couple of poet friends I hadn't seen in ages; I met some of Poet Woman's extended family. Several bloggers I know were part of the gathering: we talked, like bloggers do, about some of the details behind our most obscure posts, filling in the spaces between the lines.
After a last round of hugs, I drove home in a quiet car, thinking about Poet Woman, sending her warm energy. The words of the spiritual were still going through my head.