This past Wednesday I attended a funeral and it was at this celebration of a life well lived that I found many things for which to be grateful.
First, there was the woman herself. Arlein died after a long, long bout with aplastic anemia and breast cancer. She died in her home; friends and family, knowing the end was near, took advantage of the opportunity to share some last moments with her. I'm sure there was very little left unsaid when she passed away on February 14, 2007. Her husband requested that her body not be removed from the home until after midnight so that she would be home with him for at least some part of their 49th wedding anniversary, February 15th. (Every time I think about that, my heart scrunches up a bit with the ache and the beauty of it.) She was a woman of special grace who always looked to God for help in her troubles and for answers to her questions. It sounds trite but she was truly one of the nicest people I've ever met.
I'm grateful to have known her.
Arlein was one of a group of four friends which included my Aunt Margaret. Through my aunt and because I also worked with all the women at the same church, I became friends with each of them. My aunt was the first to die, almost nine years ago. Her death came at a time when I was overwhelmed by life and consequently, I didn't grieve her death well. Life got in the way. Arlein's funeral brought back memories of Aunt Margaret. Welcome memories. Warm memories. Bittersweet memories. I could experience those memories, pause for a moment while I did, and then move on. I still miss her but...
I'm grateful for my funny, opinionated, passionate, clean freak, vulnerable aunt.
The funeral was held at the church I worshiped at and worked at for years. It was a mini-reunion of sorts. My aunt's and Arlein's friends, grieving at this latest loss, nonetheless took up position in Room 215 to serve food at the reception which followed the service. I found myself at the back table with them and we chatted and caught up while filling pitchers with ice and water, laying out sandwiches and setting out desserts. Although I am young enough to be their daughter, I feel like one of the girls. Before I left, we made plans to get together for lunch soon.
Although I don't get to see them often, I am grateful for the warmth and companionship these amazing women give to me.
Of course, I also saw several other people I knew from working at the church. Inevitably, they asked about my children, the one they knew firsthand, Colin, and the one they only knew about because I didn't have her until after I stopped working there, Marley. Colin was a fixture at the church office from about two years old to six years old. These also happened to be some of the years I was most challenged by He Who Wishes Not To Be Mentioned. My co-workers heard and experienced many HWWNTBM stories and a couple of them came up at the funeral.
There was the couple who remembered Colin and his uncanny way of saying things which seemed beyond his years. They also remember his love of the Lion King, especially the story I told them about the day my son, around 2 1/2 years old, attacked me as I sat on the living room floor. Grasping my throat in his hands, he knocked me on my back and kept repeating, "Tell them the truth!" I was at a loss until I remembered a certain scene from the movie and was able to reply, "I killed Mufasa!" Having responded with the correct dialogue, my son released his choke hold and went on about his business.
Another woman, who no longer works at the church, started to say that she remembered something HWWNTBM said once. Before she could repeat it, she stopped herself thinking she had confused my son with someone else's. This son had once rolled down the window while her friend was driving, stuck his head out and yelled...
"That was HWWNTBM," I stopped her, mid-sentence. I refreshed her memory as to the details of the story. HWWNTBM and I were on the way to picking up his daddy at the airport. He was five years old and he and I had had a very rough week. This rough week continued in the car as we drove along, at which time he rolled down the window, stuck his head out and started screaming, "Help me! Help me!" I was completely in a panic thinking he was going to say that he was being kidnapped or some such dire circumstance. No, my darling boy continued, "Help me! Help me! My mom's an idiot!" I pulled over and gave him the never-stick-your-head-out-the-window again speech. Half-relieved that I wasn't having to explain to a policeman that I had not, in fact, kidnapped this kid and half-stunned at his outburst, I continued on my way to the airport so that daddy could relieve me from my post. By the next morning, I could find the humor in his outburst as did my co-workers.
In the last week, for what am I least grateful?
Hmmm... writing about all the lovely things I have to be grateful for in the last week seems to have created a thick fog over the things for which I wasn't grateful. I have some vague memories of headaches from needing a chiropractic adjustment and some challenges getting Marley adjusted to school after a week of sickness. But hey, that's nothing compared to the good stuff, is it?