It was a gorgeous day here in the valley on Friday. Beautiful, pure blue skies...a few pristine fluffy clouds making the blue even more intense ...soft sunshine and soft cool breezes.
Steve and I drove through the congested traffic to share memories and sadness with our friend and her beautiful family.
The radio was playing softly...the sun made the interior of the car warm and cozy...my arm was tucked through Steve's and my fingers traced patterns on his wool jacket. Cars and miles and mountains fell away and we traveled closer to a church we had never been to before. We both sat quietly, wrapped in our own memories and thoughts
Funerals do that, don't they?
They make you dust off all the memories you have placed into safe-keeping. Memories so precious and painful that if they are not locked away can startle us when we least expect it. Those oh-so-painful memories that make you close your eyes and replay the sadnesses that you have put on “pause” so you can get through days, months and years at a time without ripping your heart out.
But funerals also make you remember lovely things. Moments of silliness. Memories of laughter. A remembrance of embrace or shared intimacy.
The first thing I saw walking into the large vestibule was our friend. She was looking small and lost in the echoing space…standing alone…looking almost dream-like. Behind her was a picture board collaged with photos of her son and a guest book and a beautiful gilt box filled with candy.
Her eyes focused on us and she came toward us with a lovely smile lighting her sweet face. “Oh, thank you for coming,” she said in a strong, clear voice. I hugged her perhaps a bit too long. I tried very hard to keep my own sadness to myself. This was about her. Her son. Her loss. Her day of grieving and closure.
She looked at the picture board with us. The baby pictures. The birthday pictures. The silly pictures. The pictures showing a healthy, sturdy child and a young, dream-filled man… the pictures showing the sickness creeping in.
We signed the guest book. Both for ourselves and for a precious group of friends that could not be present.
My husband and I each took a memorial card and a piece of Werthers gold-wrapped original candy. The metallic wrapper seemed oddly cheerful in such a somber setting. The candy, apparently a favorite of her sons, a sweet gift in the midst of such a solemn occasion.
The church was peaceful and quiet with only the sound of a water feature bubbling away accompanying the occasional sound of a sob or a whispered word.
It was a beautiful church. Jewel-toned stained glass clearstory windows lit the altar area with rich illumination.
Shortly after we were seated someone started a slide show presentation...the baby pictures, the birthday pictures, the silly pictures and the pictures showing a healthy, sturdy child and a young, dream-filled man…
Steve wrapped his arm around me and we held hands, tightly, the warmth a comfort as we intently watched the pictures showing the passage of a life.
The service started. The Priest was joyous. The music was beautiful…the guitars and vocals soaring to the very rafters of the church in celebration.
At the very end of the Mass, our friend went to the pulpit and shared little pieces of her life with her son. She reminisced about making wine, canning peaches, gardening and fishing. She spoke of her son's acceptance of his illness with grace and dignity. She spoke of his faith. And his joy.
She was strong. Composed. Sure in her words. Sure in what she wanted to convey.
Her plaintive cry at the very end was painful. “Oh, Michael,” she cried, “I loved you so much!”
The long silence after she returned to her seat let us all regain our composure.
Only to lose it again when Mike’s nephews attempted to sing a final song. Their muffled sobs into the microphone were sobering. And tear provoking. For everyone in the now solemn Church.
We waited quietly in the church foyer after the service. We looked at the picture board again. Oh, how quickly life goes. Here was a picture going to prom with a girl in a wide southern-bell hat.
And here now was our beautiful friend. Standing looking slightly puzzled but being her gracious and lovely self in the midst of all this emotion.
Everyone gathered in the church hall to share a potluck the ladies of the Church had provided. Food lined long tables…ties were loosened...talk became more relaxed.
Steve had taken his camera along to take photos if our friend wanted them. My Mom particularly treasures the photos from my sisters memorial lunch and we thought perhaps this was a small gift of remembrance we could offer.
Steve took photo after photo of laughter and hugs and tears and reflection. The aftermath of an emotional event.
The last photos Steve took were of the family gathered today. In strength. In remembrance. In love.
We said our goodbyes and drove home. Quiet again. Reflecting on the grace and courage we had just seen.
Reflecting on how quickly life goes and how important it is to live every moment.
Saddened by the loss of someone so young with so much courage and grace and example to offer.
And that is really what last weeks little series of gifts was about for me.
I wanted to share a little joy in what can often be a sad world for so many of us.
And what I learned was much greater then what I gave away. I learned that by turning outward and sharing it does diminish the loss. Somehow when we turn in it magnifies our sadness and isolates us from the people that can help us through. It truly and honestly does. At least for me.
So I thank you sincerely for letting me share a bit of happiness with you on what could have been a very sad time.
And in Mike's honor I would like to do one final giveaway.
This man loved the outdoors but lost his ability to be out in it and enjoy it often. His illness took that from him.
For this giveaway I would like to share a ZippyStrippyQuilt I made - it is a simple little cotton rag quilt but it is cozy and warm. The patterns on it are of the outdoors: camping, fishing, and picnicking! Something I feel is so appropriate in memory of this man.
To enter to win you must be a follower of my blog and your comment to this post is your entry. Please don't be sad in your comment, just tell me something you love doing outside with your family.
You can post a comment today, Monday, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday for three chances to win.
If Mr. Random Org isn't busy I will do the drawing on Wednesday night around 8 pm MST, right before I put up the Alphabe-Thursday link!
Thank you for helping me celebrate a life well-lived!
And thank you for coming to visit my blog.
I was so worried that just telling my stories would not be enough. And it gladdens my heart to find that it is.
Bless you all for that!