November 20, 2006 is the day that my mum died. The way time warbles around that event is so strange. Now and then a sharp pang as if it were recent and other times it seems remote and far away, almost as if someone else lost their mum. Yet she isn’t here so I know it is me. I can still hear her laugh and see her smile in her eyes. Odd as it sounds we had so much laughter in the months after she discovered the cancer though I will admit we had a lot prior to, also. Gallows humour, pun humour, poking fun at whatever humour – before and after her surgery in March, through radiation treatments while recuperating at my house, later as the hospice papers were signed. Right up through the final days, when the last Sunday to Monday evening found her first able to communicate in her weakness and Monday found her mute save mumbles and groans. We quieted but did not completely cease our laughter. As hearing they say is the last to go to eliminate the laughter altogether would have been cruel.. That Sunday as she lay mostly silent and motionless (we moved the TV to the living room where we’d moved her bed for the end) we flipped on the television to the Steeler game. Death should never interfere with lifelong habits of love and she was raised on and loved football, especially Steeler football.
My mum timed her death to 4 days prior to Thanksgiving. When she had told me prior that she was "not doing the holidays" I didn’t realize how clearly she meant that. Because of the timing of when she took her last breath her wake and funeral would have hit right on Thanksgiving. That sounded like a Godsawful thing to do to her friends, have them choose between celebrating the holiday or coming to pay respects. So we held off until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I would not recommend this choice to anyone, ever. I would instead have a one day viewing and service on Wednesday. That week of limbo was a fresh kind of hell I’d be hard put to want for my most desperately loathed enemies. But hey – didn’t know it before I lived it and grieving rarely minimizes errors in judgment.
The Sunday she was first laid out there was another Steeler game on, so that was our "music" for the viewing and when the game ended we switched to the soundtrack for _The Phantom of the Opera_, one of her all time favourites. Both were so appropriate for her, both were received with laughter by friends and family. My family, we value the powers of laughter deeply.
We also value irony. My mum’s best friend had promised her many years before that she’d put a ham sandwich in her casket for her since it was a favourite. They had laughed over what they’d put in each other’s casket. The woman asked if it was okay and seemed fairly certain I would say, "no". Oh puh-lease. Me? I laughed. I thought it was a most excellent idea. It went well with the cigarette, double pack of playing cards, and Terrible Towel™. All her favourite things, completely useless to her now accompanied her into the ground. Amusing, yes?
All things considered it "went well" whatever the hell that means in this scenario. I guess "went well" means no screaming body hurls into the grave, no dropping of the casket in route to the cemetery, no vomiting or fistfights. Above the mechanics of it "going well" it was an event she would have appreciated had she been there for it. Really that is the best one can hope for in a funeral. May mine go just as swimmingly. *smile*
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