Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On the Other Side of the Desk

Yesterday, it fell to me to meet with the pastor of Mother's church and plan the memorial service which will be this Friday at 1:00 p.m. at East Dallas Christian Church in Dallas.  Although Keith and I have already buried three of our parents, for the other three times, we ourselves conducted the memorial services.  But for this one, the two of us will be family, not clergy.

It felt odd.  Normally, I'm the one asking, taking notes, learning more about this person, considering possible Scriptures, looking for the wholeness of the service.  Yesterday, this was all beautifully handled by Deborah Morgan.  We certainly worked together, agreed quickly on the Scriptures to be read, and pondered music options together.  I looked through an unfamiliar hymnbook, and also my mother's Sunday School class songbook, where I knew her favorite songs were.

We both agreed on the difficulty of actually singing "How Great Thou Art," although it is a beautiful piece of music.  I commented on the fact that the Disciples of Christ had not yet picked up the lovely, "Hymn of Promise," which has quickly taken a well-deserved place at funerals and memorial services.

Then we started talking about my mother, her life and heritage, her accomplishments, her generosity, her individuality, and some of the really funny stories about her.  There was the traffic ticket she received last January on the way to church (60 in a 40, and by the time Mother actually pulled over, there were four police cars trailing her!).  Then there were the infamous "Grandma's Shortcuts."  She felt strongly that no one should ever, ever drive on a freeway and was always offering to us creative ways to get places along side streets that would invariably take three times longer than the more normal way.

It was a good hour.  More, I left grateful that for this one service, I could just be.  I need that.

I returned to Mother's house and spent a couple more hours cleaning out some things as we will be having an open house for anyone who wants to join us there later Friday afternoon.  This will be a time for relaxed conversation, libations and toasts, memories and laughter, following the service and reception at the church.

I was deeply relieved when I got there to see that the hospital bed and all the other equipment we had needed at the end of her life had been removed.  That empty bed had been a difficult reminder of those challenging last few days, and it was good to have all that gone.  

My brother left in the late afternoon to take care of some computer problems at my sister's house.  My sister and I sat on the patio for a while later talking about the details of Friday and what all we need to do to get ready for it.  And then she left.  I sat there for quite a while longer.  In the twenty five years since my parents built that house, and in all the many hours, days and weeks I've spent there, this was the first time I'd ever been alone in that place.  

Although I was not lonely, I was suddenly very aware of my aloneness.  Her presence was such a constant in my life--I always knew I'd find her when I wanted her.  And she was gone.  I wandered through the house as I was getting ready to leave, turning out lights, swimming on a tide of memories.  I locked the front door when I left.  That was the first time I had ever done that upon leaving their house.  

I am grateful for the numbness that pretty well encapsulates my emotional life right now. To have felt it all yesterday would have been way, way too much.  There was just enough to acknowledge my sadness, but not so much that I could not function, or make the long drive home.  It was a great gift from God and from the prayers of the many who have offered them for me.

Today, I take her clothes to the local clothes closet and trust this act will be a continuation of my mother's never-ending generous life.  What a great legacy!


Anonymous said...

Aunt Christy,

Grandma does leave an incredible legacy. Only a few months ago, I found a paper I had written in high school (18 years ago) about the Thomas family, and their/our migration from Elberfeld, Germany to Elberfeld, Indiana. Grandma had given me all the history and research to complete this project. I loved that she kept track of our family's history, and I find that in creating my pregnancy journal for Aiden, I am very nostalgic about her and all that she has created in this lifetime. I am excited to have the Thomas name carried on through our first born son--Aiden Thomas Stewart will know his Grandma Eileen through pictures and stories.
Thank you for all you have written, and for opening my Dad's softer side throughout all of this.

Jane Daughhetee said...

Having walked the path you are walking I wanted to share the words of this beautiful old hymn.

"It Is Well with My Soul"
When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrow like sea billows roll; What ever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Tho' Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. My sin- oh, the bliss of this glorious tho't: My sin not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend "Even so," it is well with my soul.

These words have brought me comfort, I hope they will do the same for you. I pray that all is well with your soul, knowing you were faithful to the end.

Love, Jane