Mom’s Gone – Part Five
(The following account is true. Here were two very lapsed Catholics and a Buddhist sitting around the dining room table discussing Mom’s funeral service with a lady from the Church Bereavement Committee. When I first wrote it, I did not have any humor in mind. It was only after I read it for the second time, did I realize how unintentionally funny the essay turned out. I hope these pieces have brought some comfort to those who are experiencing grief as I am by knowing you are not alone, heals some of the open wounds for those who have walked through the nightmare and helps prepare those for the unimaginable yet to come.)
The van drove up from the crematorium and a gentleman carried Mom home in a shopping bag – the paper ones with the round white handles. Inside was a white box. I could barely look at its contents.
The man also balanced a three-tier coconut cake, compliments of the funeral parlor. We set it on the kitchen counter and then took Mom upstairs and placed her next to my girlfriend’s Buddha altar. As good a place as any, I thought.
The cake looked mouth watering delicious. But from a funeral home? All of us eyed it for a few a days. Dad kept asking where it came from and I told him.
“Why the hell would a funeral home send us a cake,” he wondered.
“I have no idea,” I replied.
Later Dad forgot (he is 90) to ask its origin and requested a piece. My girlfriend and I looked at each other and sliced him a hunk. (A slice of a three-layer cake has to be called a hunk.) Then all three of us sat down and ate. We quickly forgot where it came from.
I had promised Mom that I would arrange a low Mass. I contacted a priest, secured the date and persuaded the local newspapers to hold space for the obituary. Ocean City does not have a daily newspaper, just two weeklies, and we had to get the announcement in that issue. The papers both gave us extra time to make arrangements and held space right up to the very last second before deadline. I am thankful to them for that courtesy.
The next step was meeting with the lady who helps us arrange the service. We were to select a few hymns and passages to read. She came in, sat down and asked us if we had chosen any hymns.
I had called my sister-in-law, a devout Baptist, and asked her to help me out. I suggested Ave Maria but that could only be played not sung. I didn’t ask why.
From my list I chose the old favorite “Amazing Grace.” That was okay. Then I had to select three more. My sister-in-law wanted the old Baptist favorite “How Great Thou Art” and the lady went along with that.
I was at a loss for the next two and let the church lady pick them saying I wanted something up lifting. She chose a couple and I nodded knowingly and said they would be fine, when in truth I did not have a clue what music pieces she was talking about.
We next had to choose the readings. The lady handed us a book with appropriate Pope-approved selections. I read each one and they were awfully depressing. I asked if “To everything there is a season” could be read. I had known it from Joan Baez and others singing it in the 60’s. She said it was okay.
My Baptist sister-in-law found a good one from Sirach that I liked. She said she got it from a Catholic web site and I said that should be okay. I had never heard of Sirach and goggled it and I also found it was something Catholic. The church lady had never heard of it, either.
Then she asked who would do the readings. I looked up in surprise and asked if she didn’t already have someone. She replied the family usually does it. I said okay I will read one and my brother will read the other. Jeff is on Ski Patrol duty in the Rocky Mountains and I haven’t told him yet.
She then asked who would sing the hymns. I knew my brother and I couldn’t master that, and I asked whom she would suggest. She said she sang and I grabbed onto that lifeline and asked her if she would do it.
“You haven’t heard me sing,” she said. “But I would like to have someone we have met and like to do the honors” I smmmooooched. She said okay.
The lady next asked who would bring the gifts. Dad and I looked at each other blankly. “What gifts,” he asked, with both of us thinking we need to make another trip to Boscov's.
Then she knew, oh, she knew then. “The wine and Eucharist” she replied. It finally dawned on me. Usually two people bring them to the altar, she explained. I volunteered my brother and myself again.
“Who’s going to drink the wine,” my father asked.
To be continued