Friday, October 19, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Funeral - Nonfiction

It was during the drive to the cemetery; I was scrabbling for a purchase on the limo seat as we slalomed through traffic, the fossilized cigarette smoking driver (who had yet to utter a word) gently humming under his breath.

No, wait.

It could have been when I answered the door, and hysterical laughter burbled up as my husband's ashes were delivered in a cardboard box within a glorified shopping bag, emblazoned with the company's name. (They were kind enough to enclose a coupon for $200 off of my own arrangements, should I need them.) You see, in making all of the other arrangements I had forgotten to order an urn.

Perhaps it was while I was ejecting some relatives who were snooping about the house, looking in closets and wondering out loud about the deceased's personal habits.  Or threatening a "friend" with physical violence after he was warned not to take pictures of the coffin, but slyly tried to do so anyway.

Nope. It was definitely when someone's eyes traveled slowly over my outfit and stopped, gazing fixedly at my shoes. Trainers, actually.

In throwing together some clothes for an unexpected emergency, I hadn't packed any dress shoes.  And after slogging through days of arrangements, I hadn't the emotional or physical resources left to go shopping.

Hence the casual footwear.

I obsessed over it, believe me. I felt tired, embarrassed, angry and heartsick. What kind of person was I?

That's when I remembered the granddaughter re-telling a favorite story about her grandma. When Grandpa died, Grandma (who was always very careful with her appearance) had arrived at the funeral with two different shoes:  same style, but one was black, the other blue.  It became a treasured family tale. 

It would be lovely to bring forth children in a pastel nursery with no muss, no fuss, the mother perfectly made up and smiling the whole time, surrounded by a picture perfect husband, children with scrubbed angelic faces and the family dog, also smiling benignly.  It would be equally charming to live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life, then pass away quietly and painlessly surrounded by the same loving and perfect cast.

It doesn't happen that way.  Life is a messy business; family can be the lifeline which keeps us from drowning or exasperating to the point of wanting to shove them out of a fifth story window.  We live, we love;  laugh, cry, scream, pull our own hair out (or secretly wish it was someone else's). We fight and we forgive, support and regret, speak and leave things unspoken. We can only try our best, and minimize the damage as we go. Death will come, sooner or later, to us all, and then it is up to the living to continue as best they can, cherishing memories, eventually putting guilt and bitterness aside as unneeded baggage.

It isn't the shoes, but the path which really matters.


Author's note: all of the incidents related are true, although cobbled together from a few different events.






15 comments:

  1. I'd say at that point, who cares about the shoes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, but reason isn't always at the forefront during times of crisis. :-)

      Delete
    2. Kinda missed the whole point of the story, Alex.

      This was all real, and for some, every proper moment is important..or leads to family stories.

      This was a trying/is a trying time.

      Delete
  2. Wow. Amazingly touching. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Thingy. I don't normally post essays of a personal nature on the blog, but a cherished friend's Mom passed away this week and my creative fiction well ran dry. I'm glad it touched you.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful last line! And a great story overall. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, Li. {{{{{{{{Hugs}}}}}}}}}}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, of course. Big Hugs back! :-))

      Delete
  5. Where have four years gone? Thanks for making me laugh and smile - Daddy (+) had me doing it all day. Thank you, Bob, hello ... Goodbye.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very nice sequence of disparate hypothethicals in the opening paragraphs, Lisa! Cuts a strong impression of personality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks John. I was wondering whether it worked or not.

      Delete
  7. I can relate to this. Funerals suck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary. Yeah, they do, and they also seem to bring out either the best or the worst in people. Perhaps the place to meet the sort of people you'd like to know would be at funerals. Wait! There's a story there! :-)

      Delete