A Celebration of Life

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Mom always believed that death was a natural part of life and not something that should be feared.  So the last thing she wanted was some kind of somber funeral ceremony with someone droning on about loss and grief while her friends and family cried.  No, she wanted people to celebrate her life and share funny stories.  How do we know this?  Because she wrote it all down in great detail.  As a grieving family still in shock, I can’t tell you how great it was to not have to be bothered with making decisions since Mom had covered all the based and paid for the funeral.  The only thing we had to decide was the date.

The visitation had its rough moments.  There were friends and neighbors I knew from before they retired and moved.  Meet and greet and small talk isn’t really my specialty but I did what I could.  The weird thing was that the smallest thing could trigger some strong flood of emotion and I remember having to basically run away right after meeting someone so I wouldn’t be a crying mess.  I had several people come up and tell me how much she raved about us kids and how much she loved us.  Mom was never really one to display that kind of emotion with us (my only real complaint is that I think I needed to hear more of that) but it was nice to hear people say that.  One of her neighbors told me how much Mom always enjoyed the flowers we sent.  I knew that because she would always thank us but I didn’t know she was talking to the neighbors about that.

But the room was full.  They even had to open up some sliding doors and we had overflow seating in the main reception hall of the funeral home.  One of Mom’s causes was working with the local human society.  At one point, she was the board president and she started doing a weekly spot on the local radio station featuring an animal up for adoption.  She did that for fourteen years and she asked the DJ who’s program she was on to basically be the emcee (not sure that’s the right word) at her ceremony.  As he told us, he told her that he didn’t know what he would say and she said she’d have it all written down and she did.

Mom had traced parts of her family back to Scotland and I think had even had background on the particular clan.  I think to honor that and because she also like bagpipe music, there were multiple selections of Scottish songs playing during the visitation.  Then, in her own words, she had the DJ tell the assembled crowd that she was no saint and that she didn’t want people making her out to be one and so she wanted people to share funny stories about times when she messed up or when she made someone laugh.

Pop actually spoke first and he talked about how they met and shared a few other stories. And then people started raising their hands and taking the microphone and sharing stories of her life.  I won’t go into all the detail but all four of us kids shared something.  (Yes, I was the last to go – sorry it was a little intimidating)  Other family members shared stories and then we had multiple people talk about her work on the causes she loved – which included politics (where we didn’t agree) and her support of AAUW and education and her work with the local humane society.  The funny thing was that Mom was a teacher first as a substitute in elementary and then later at a Community College but she hated teaching.  She had really wanted to go into nursing but she married Dad and it didn’t work out.  But she was a big supporter of education and also women in education.  As her sons, we’ve always kind of laughed that all three of us married strong, independent women so I’m sure there was some influence there that we didn’t even realize.

As we neared the end of the stories, her instructions were to play Amazing Grace (bagpipes of course) and that was the only song we were allowed to cry during.  At the end, everyone was offered a choice of single malt scotch, Drambuie, white wine or Ginger Ale for those who didn’t drink.  Mom tended to stick with wine but she would drink Scotch and it fit the theme.  Then, we were to drink a toast to her while “Scotland the Brave” played.  And, as she wrote, “THERE IS NO CRYING DURING SCOTLAND THE BRAVE”.  After that, her instructions were “that’s it”.

The family hung around for a bit but two had to leave right away.  The rest of us went back to the house for a bit but my brother and I had to leave because we had driven up and there was some nasty weather coming in this morning so we needed to get out that night.  That made for a very long day.  I do have to say that for a funeral in January in the snow belt, the weather was better than could be expected.  It was rainy but well above freezing.  Pretty sure there was a reason for that because it made it easier for everyone to get out and help say good bye.

It is weird the things that pop into your head.  I supposed this is kind of normal but on the drive back, I’d pass some landmark and remember Mom talking about it from one of their trips down to see us.  There’s an apple orchard at just past the halfway point and they used to stop there for lunch.  So who knew passing an apple orchard could bring some tears.  Then, today, it just hit me out of the blue that I’m never going to hear her voice again.  Stuff like that.  There was just so much going on during the week dealing with Dad that there wasn’t really time to think.  Now there is and this stuff comes up.

I’ll leave you with one other thing.  Right now, my parents have three cats and two of them are pure black.  One was a stray but they’ve adopted all their cats from the local Humane Society and a great number of them have been black cats.  Well, the Humane Society is going to waive all fees for anyone adopting one of their black cats in the month of January.  Now that’s a tribute.  As my brother said, she wouldn’t have wanted the attention but if it gets more homeless animals adopted, then it is well worth it.

Sorry if I’m going on too much.  There’s just a lot to process and get through and this helps me do that.

 

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