We think nothing of videoing weddings. They are all over Youtube. But what about funeral videos? Personally, I love funerals. It is a gathering of family and friends who tell funny or endearing stories and remember only the good of the person they’re saying goodbye to. It is a celebration of a person’s whole life, not just a single moment in time. And it is just as emotional, if not more, than other rites.
In preparing for my mother’s outdoor interment of ashes, I remembered my son’s outdoor wedding and laughed. His wedding was on the lawn of the Terry House Mansion in downtown Little Rock. As we all watched, teary eyed, the newlyweds say their vows under a big oak tree, a drunk passerby broke the spell by yelling, “Don’t do it,” then “Start saving for your lawyers now,” and last (to garnish more attention) “F…Trump.” That wouldn’t happen at a funeral. Everyone has respect for the dead.
I also think about how mothers are often the glue that holds the family together. Since Mother’s passing on February 8, 2018, I’ve seen little of my siblings and their families. With mother’s ashes still sitting in my living room, I decided it was time to put together a family event for her interment. This equated to action and decision making.
First, I made an appointment with the cemetery. There, I chose a funeral date that I hoped would work with everyone’s busy life, paid my money, and last, with a limited amount of characters, wrote the inscription for her tombstone. It is a good thing they gave me a pencil because I erased and rewrote three times. I mean, how do you sum up the productive life of a woman who has lived 94 years in 3 lines and 48 characters!
The Day of the Ceremony
The day came and we were blessed with beautiful weather. Everyone but my brother Rick from South Carolina gathered at the Arkansas Veteran’s Cemetery pavilion. I’d asked Father Stuart Hoke, a volunteer priest at my church, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and a guest on Up In Your Business, to preside. I had loosely put together a service: son Matt sang Amazing Grace, son Gray chose Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” for his song and, towards the end, we all joined together to sing “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” My granddaughter, Evelyn, did the first reading from the book of the Wisdom of Solomon, and my daughter, Meghan, read the Twenty-Third Psalm.
A year before mother’s death, as we saw Mom begin to fade, my sister, Kristin, wrote a cathartic, heartfelt letter to Mom, just as she had done for Dad at his passing. The letter was one of appreciation and gratitude for their parenting and, as she jokingly said, “good genes.” Kristin’s purpose for the letter was to bury it in the box with Mom’s ashes. But before doing so, we asked her to read it at the funeral. Through tears, she declined and so her daughter, Jordan, read the letter to us all. I think it was the sweetest part of the whole ceremony.
At the end, Father Hoke blessed Mom’s ashes and we all sent her on her way. Afterwards, a brunch was held at my house. As everyone left and I sat alone visiting with my sister and her husband, I felt truly relaxed around my siblings. I realized that all the tension felt from the managing and care-giving of Mom was gone … buried. All the decisions had finally been made.
Rest in Peace, all of us. Love you Mom, Dad and family.