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The next morning, I had an appointment with the cemetary at 9:30, to take care of that whole real estate biz before going to the funeral home in the afternoon.



Paul and I got there, and as the cemetary lady went and got us each a cup of coffee, I looked around her office and saw all the samples of plaques and such, and I thought, oh, geez, how am I going to make these decisions by myself? I looked at Paul, and I could tell that the same thoughts were going through his head.

The woman came back in and said, "You know, we really don't have much to do--your mother took care of everything, for both her and your Dad."

I boggled. "Everything?"

"Yes, everything is taken care of. The opening and closing of the grave, the marker, the vaults, everything."

I looked at the papers, and saw that mother had been arranging this since my sister passed away, and that the whole thing that was finalized on September 1, 2001--eight years to the day before she would actually carry out that plan.

I was so relieved. All I had to do was sign the papers and drink my coffee.

We got into the car to go down to see the site, and I said, "Thank you, Mommy."

And as distinctly as if she was sitting in the back seat, I heard her say, "You've got enough on your plate."

We went down to the spot, and there was my sister's plaque. We said hello to her, Paul introduced himself, and we saw that mother had actually chosen a space to the right of the one she had chosen for my Dad. So when his time comes, he will be flanked by his girls, to the left and the right. And that gives me a lot of peace.

When we got back to the house, Dad was very not good. It was clear he was in shock, and he ended up actually having a fall, after which he ended up sitting on the floor for a long time, catching his breath and drinking a glass of water. By that time, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Ruth had arrived as well, and we sat a bit with him as he recovered. He told me that he couldn't understand what was wrong with him, why he felt so weak. And I told him what I myself had learned--that grief is just as physical a thing as emotional. Just as he wouldn't expect himself to dance out of a hospital the day after he got hit by a truck, so he shouldn't expect to walk away from this with no physical ramifications. He looked at me blankly, as if I were speaking Venusian, but I think he got it.

He was supposed to go with us to the funeral home that afternoon, but after that, it really wasn't feasible, so I took Paul, David and Uncle Tom with me, and that's where the decisions came in. Embalm or not? Open casket or not? Which casket? Which service program? Which and what and who and how? And you know, I knew that these decisions were actually courtesies--that the funeral home was performing the ultimate service, asking us our wishes. But dear Goddess, those courtesies were painful.

And expensive--how to deal with this without wiping my father out financially was at the forefront of my mind, as well as doing right by my mother.

And the whole time, I'm thinking, I'm never putting anyone I love through this. Never. Burn me up in the fire and toss me to the wind, to the water, to the earth. Send my ashes to the Mother and my soul to the Summerland. And then, feast and drink and make merry, and not to worry--it isn't a party I'll miss.

I'll be there.

But I couldn't help but be amused, because I'm sitting there, looking at the funeral director, thinking that if someone had chosen a character actor to play a Dickensian undertaker in a movie, this man in front of me would have been the perfect individual to cast. With his long face and wire-rimmed glasses and mournful eyes and respectfully drooping mustache, he was absolutely perfect. He did everything but wring his bumpy-knuckled hands and straighten his cravat above his Edwardian waistcoat.

Nearly $5000 later (and we got away frugally at that--$300 just for the obituaries alone! Astonishing!), we walked out.


We stopped at the market to pick up Dad's prescription. One of the orders I had barked at my brother while driving up to Bethlehem was to call Dad's doctor to let him know his situation, and to request something for him that would help him out a bit. To be honest, I feared for his heart, and I thought he could use something to help calm him a bit. So I went up to the pharmacist's desk, and asked for the prescription.

He said, "That'll be two oh six."

"TWO HUNDRED AND SIX DOLLARS????", I yelled.

The pharmacist smiled. "No. Two dollars and six cents."

I apologized profusely, and explained that I had just spent the last hour at the funeral home, where all of the figures had considerably more zeros behind them than the two dollars and six cents required.

And I went to my father's house and explained to him what these pills were for. He looked askance at me at first, but then I said, "You take them as you need them. And you may not need them, but we have them if you do. And you might on Tuesday." And the skeptical look went away and he put the pills on the bookcase next to his chair.

So many, many phone calls. To the restaurant where my parents had celebrated their 80th birthday, just a little over a year ago, for the "post-game" (*shudder*), to far flung relatives and friends, to work, to so many places. Phone, phone, phone, phone, phone--for someone who HATES the phone, it was a special hell. But to be honest, people were so kind, and so helpful, and so sweet, that I was constantly amazed, and constantly comforted, in spite of having to remember everything.


Through it all, Paul kept me fed and rested as best he could, and dealt with the life-things that I couldn't pay attention to. He drove me everywhere, so that I could make and take phone calls in the car without worrying about cracking my own self up. It was he who was here when I cried that first night, and who just held me as I did.

He was, as he has always been, my hero.

I could have done it without him--you do what you have to do. But I am so awfully glad I didn't have to. It would have been unbearable without his calm and his help and his unutterable goodness.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
nursemae
Sep. 2nd, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
I am sorry for your loss of your Mama, and I am glad you've had such wonderful support from your loved ones.

I've often felt helpless when families look at me lost and wide-eyed, asking "What do we do now?". There's such an amazing amount of complicated stuff when someone dies. I am thankful for the wonderful people who work at funeral homes - they really know their business. I'm sure there's some shysters, but overall I've had wonderful interactions with the staff at them.

May you and yours indulge in wonderful reminiscing during all the memorials.
bkwrrm_tx
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry.

katmoonshaker
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
I remember going through this when my father died. It was heart rending. My ex and Gran Alice Bitch Queen of the Universe were not asa supportive as your wonderful mate. You are indeed blessed. Just remember that it is okay to lean on him... oh wait, make that; it is okay for you to lean on him. Remember your vows.

Marriage is give and take. Just as there will be times that he needs to lean on you, there are times when you need to lean on him. And for those of us who have been in... interesting... relationships and/or had ... interesting... childhoods, this can be difficult. Don't be afraid to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "It's okay. My mother loves me. She knows that I will always do my best. My husband loves me. He will always be there when I need him so that I will not falter nor fall, but have a shoulder to cry on and a rock upon which to lean.

I love you.

For every post there will be hugs and purrs... and a reminder...

May the memories of love outweigh the grief of loss.

We love you.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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