Yesterday rolled out in a series of intense scenes, almost like a movie. It was a long and tiring day--sad, but not depressing.
EARLY MORNING: Dark and grey, rushing around getting dressed, Doug getting out the suit we were married in 12 years ago, me looking for something with pockets so that I could stuff them full of Kleenex. Doug's shoes, highly polished, waiting on top of the spare room bed. Doug's suit jacket, its wooden hanger hooked over the linen closet door. Dogs looking wary, knowing this was not the usual getting-ready-for-work routine.
And then people began arriving, and each time someone walked in the door it was like a little jolt to my heart; the kindness of people means a lot on a day like this.
Oh, Lord, my mother! Braving that freeway-to-freeway-to-freeway route to be there for us. Dear friend PMiller, who interrupted her vacation to drive up from Lake City. She, like Doug now, has lost both parents, and she knows that unmoored feeling that loss creates. Our friend John, who drove down from Duluth, wearing his duck-hunting tie, walking in the door with our friend Chris, who drove up from Savage. They met in the parking lot and John joked that they were going ice fishing right after the service. Lynette, slipping in a side door, warning us that she'd be the loud voice we'd hear during the Lutheran hymns. She lost her mother two years ago; she knows how hard this is.
All those game old ladies, pushing their walkers, hunched and slow, come out from Copperfield Hills where Mavis lived, and Colonial Acres, the nursing home where she had been staying. How did they get there? Did they drive? (Scary thought.) And how kind of them, and how ominous, too. They must know that their turn isn't far off.
But there were little kids, too, Doug's cousins and nephews and their toddlers, decked out in funeral finery (Shannon's baby, in his carryall, was wearing a tiny tuxedo), and their laughter and the sound of their running feet in their patent leather shoes (there was a lot of slipping and falling) was a happy sound.
DURING THE FUNERAL: I did not cry during "Amazing Grace," and that was amazing all by itself. I nearly cried during the eulogy but steadied myself and read on, wondering if my deaf mother could hear anything I was saying (she couldn't), happy that the Mavis and Vi stories made people laugh, especially the one about the hammer and power drill.
Doug's cousin, who had driven here from Milwaukee, played his guitar and sang, and his voice was beautiful, but it reminded me of Mavis telling me just last week, "The next time Greg comes to visit, he's going to bring his guitar," and feeling now that it was somehow prophetic.
And oh dear, I had no idea that that pretty wooden box with the rose on the side contained -- well, contained Mavis. Her ashes, anyway. I had thought it was meant for donations (there was a similar box at the entrance, by the guestbook). But when the minister spoke of Mavis he laid his hand on the top of the box and I felt a chill go through me.
AFTER THE FUNERAL: Walking down the church aisle with Doug's family and seeing a familiar man standing in the very last pew: My brother! Paul! He had somehow gotten someone to take all his classes for him and had driven all the way up from Mason City, Iowa, in a driving rain to be here for us. The sight of him standing there, quietly, in a tie, almost did me in.
THE LUNCH: So Lutheran, in the church basement, church ladies in the kitchen bringing out bowls of cole slaw and platters of brownies and little rolled up slices of deli ham. Doug's sister had baked peanut butter blossom cookies, in Mavis' honor. What, no Jell-O? All the round tables had been set with pots of coffee and sensible plastic placemats with scrolled edges. The minister made the rounds, stopping at each table, saying something kind and soothing to every single person.
THE FREEWAY: Hell, I am telling you, is U.S. 169. And that's all you need to know.
THE CEMETERY: Spooky Fort Snelling, row upon row upon row of those small neat identical white markers, veterans all, and their loyal wives. Mavis was laid to rest with her beloved Eddie, the WWII pilot. We stood in the raw November chill under heavy gray skies, and we each laid a yellow rose by the little wooden box, and then we got back in our cars and drove home.
Today it is snowing hard.
note: google pictures