This morning started with 9/11 memories.
And then the day changed.
Last time I sat on this side of the church during a funeral, the pew suddenly lurched hard upwards then down again as the other end rose, a single-use seesaw as the wave passed through. I looked up to see a chandelier swinging wildly right over the head of the oblivious guy just across the aisle and instantly gauged whether, if I leaped across to knock him out of the way, could I do it in time. Stay…stay…!
This time the earth held still while heaven was happy to move us. Shirley C’s children spoke. Did I hear that right? That her childhood nickname was Squirrel? Too funny!
My grandmother, who lived to be 96, told my mother years ago, Make friends with people younger than you; pretty soon they’re all you have left.
Shirley wasn’t about to wait–when she was in her 50’s she was already throwing parties to meet new young families moving into the area and I know because we were one of them. Games and homemade trifle, get to know each other: come, and know that you belong.
Always cheerful. Always helpful. Always welcoming. One friend who’d known her 39 years said that smile of hers that lit up the whole church every week said to him, I know you: and (he grinned) I like you anyway.
I learned something I had not known: she had wanted to go to medical school and she had worked hard to attain that, but her grade in organic chemistry–my biologist daughters can tell you how hard that class is–was not quite perfect, and at the time only two women in the entire country were allowed into medical school per year and she was not one of them. So she put that degree to other uses, and thus many students got to have Mrs C in their lives who would never have met her otherwise. They lucked out.
She was here and healthy three weeks ago, how could it be…
An infection and a reaction. It all happened in two weeks. Her children had time to come and they were with her at the end. Her granddaughter in Argentina got to talk to her on the phone. Love, all that had centered her in her life, she centered them with one more time and they her.
Her Paul had wanted bagpipes playing Amazing Grace at his funeral thirteen years ago and his cousin had flown into town and done just that.
I could just picture those notes sounding again as her beloved welcomed her home.
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