Wednesday, July 16, 2014

There’s gotta be a better word than bereavement...

What a dreadful word.  It sounds so heavy, so awkward on the foreboding, so archaic, so funeral parlorish.

Funeral parlor: another horrid word.  Doesn’t every establishment of this type look the same? You walk in... subdued very sectarian music softly spills out through hidden speakers.  The scent of carnations fill your nostrils as your feet sink into plush white carpet, leaving signs of your footprints each time you take a step. The lighting, oddly a florescent yellow, yet dangling crystal sconces line the walls sending small burst of “candlelight” effect on the walls.  Behind those sconces lies some muted shade-on-shade, slightly textured wallpaper, atop white paneled wainscoting.  Standing there to greet you in whispered tones that are barely audible, wearing an apologetic smile is some name tagged, suited stranger directing you to follow the signs with the “Bereaved Family Name" coupled  with the special name depicting the “Parlor’s Room.”  These letters are stuck into the grooved little black boards with plastic white letters that can easily pop right out to be replaced by the next family that will surely follow. Agh, bereavement!

We decided to forego the whole funeral home routine, and we simply had everyone come by our home the evening before Steve’s memorial service.  Steve's wish was to be cremated, with no big to do that would involve the funeral home services of any kind.  Bonnie and Ann were able to find a very professional funeral home that would cremate without all the extra "frills".  Bonnie had warned me that this facility was in a rather unseemly strip mall and encouraged me to have someone else pick up Steve's "cremains"  (funeral home's words, not mine).  I was insistent on picking them up myself, so my good friend, Cindy and I struck out about a week after the memorial to pick up Steve's ashes.  What should have been a very solemn encounter ended up causing both of us to laugh harder than was probably appropriate.

The funeral home was sandwiched between Goro's Sushi and Dad's Karaoke Bar, that alone was like something out of a Jerry Seinfeld episode.  You've all seen these dumpy strip mallsweeds peeping through the buckled concrete asphalt. Cinderblock walls, painted a sort of hospital pea green, with rusted metal awnings covering the walkways.  

Goro's windows were filled with chipped hand painted words meant to lure you in as your were driving past.  Dad's was even better, dark, tinted windows.  Red paint covering the bottom half of the windows, obscuring the view of car head lights, important for a karaoke establishment, as any lighting might potentially distract the "American Idol" happenings within.  

Leaving the store front funeral home, Cindy and I had to restrain ourselves from bursting into laughter.  As if the location hadn't been enough, we promptly ran straight into two women coming out of Goro's with to-go sushi boxes in tow.  Those poor women were trying as hard as they could to be respectful of our bereaved condition as they looked from one container to the next.  Yep, we each held a container (a long story for another time), but I'm sure these women were thinking, "Oh no, not only one loss, but two!"  These poor sushi-laden ladies went from laughing and chatting to deathly silent, their smiles quickly dissipated, their eyes dropped down to stare at their feet, as they hurriedly fumbled for the keys and made a bee-line to their car.  A pall settled over the parking lot. For some reason, this was just the last lick, the provocation that Cindy and I both needed.  We got in the car as fast as the would be sushi-eating women and burst out laughing.  Maybe you had to be there, but we still crack up today when we picture what we all four must have looked like with our arms full of Steve's remains shoulder-to-shoulder with the sushi to-go mortified ladies. We laugh even harder knowing Steve would have so enjoyed the moment, insisting we all join in for a round of drinks and karaoke at the bar next door.

So while we had a bit of a reprieve from what was traditionally expected of funeral-izing, we were unable to escape being the “bereaved family.”

I’m not sure there is any word to better describe “the profound absence of a loved one” (Webster’s).  Loss, sorrow, grief - they’re all pretty pitiful, yet a necessary process to walk through.

But, don’t stop reading, as this is not why I’m writing this blog today.  Instead, I thought I would write a list of the jumbled rambling thoughts I’ve had during this past year of bereavement.

The following are some of my pearls of wisdom, whether major or minor, they have helped me weather this past year.  Now these are very profound bits of advice so please grab your pencils and begin taking notes.

  •  I do believe my brain was packed away sometime during Steve’s last days.  I still can’t find that boxed labeled “Janet’s Brain.”  I’m hoping it will turn up soon, but until then I’m simply relying on the goodness and charity of my family and friends to step in and pinch hit for me when necessary.
  • No matter where you are or what you’re doing, never miss the chance to dance when you feel the music lift your feet.  Whether alone or with a group...just go for it.  It is so fun, so necessary.
  • Never forget what it feels like to be knocked to the ground and smothered in the finest hugs and kisses of your grandchildren.  This is critical to feeling alive again.  If you don’t have grandchildren...grab a dog. 
  • Speaking of dogs, never forget the overwhelming sheer joy that your dog exhibits when you walk in your door.  Tail wagging, jumping up for pats, hugs  and belly scratching, and lapping you right in the face with all the love that is encased in one furry body.  Learn from this example, and start greeting everyone you love with that same enthusiasm, it’s contagious.
  • This is a biggie, never pass by a Marshall’s or TJ Max without going in, even if you only have a few minutes.  You will almost always find some treasure.  Never leave without walking through the children’s department.  You can fill your cart with the greatest of’s the best!  This little exercise has saved me during many a low moment.
  • If you have a clock that chimes, never forget to wind it.  Let those chimes fill your home. It’s so gratifying.
  • The best way to clean a bathroom floor is on your hands and knees. Use an old wet towel with a little Pine-sol mixed in and go to town.  It releases all kinds of pent up mayhem going on inside your body, especially when you get to corners and grouted areas.  It’s just all kinds of good.
  • On that same note, working in the yard is also a great way to spend this new what-do-I- with-myself time.  Take caution, use no ladders or power tools for the first year, I recommend planting, digging and weeding.  The frustration will simply seep from your pores, along with lots of Texas summer sweat.
  • Never let sadness or sorrow stand in your way of trying something new, tasting something different or going some place you’ve never been.   I’ve been on more trips this past year than I have in the past five years.  Each trip has brought me new joy, adventure and the ability to feel like I am still able to live.
  • Remember that Campho-Phenique cures everything! If it doesn’t fix what hurts,  just open the bottle, the smell will heal your soul.  (This is an old remedy of my grandmother, Minnie Mama's.  She used it to cure everything.)

  • Never own anything that would make you sad if it was accidentally broken.  Simply enjoy it for the time you have it and once it’s gone...let it go. Unfortunately, this only works on tangible items.
  • Never claim a pair of sunglasses or pair of earrings as your very favorite.  Inevitably you will lose them as soon as you think you could never live without them.  Especially when your mind is still packed away in some box...somewhere.
  • Never pass up a chance to recognize a stranger’s kindness. Then do your best to pay it forward.  You will be the one to receive the blessing and it will take the focus off of being sad.
  • Never miss the chance to cushion yourself with sweet friends when you know there is a rough road ahead. I was advised to do this during this past week and what a gift it was.  A group of dear and precious friends went with me to Port A for a few days.  While my emotions ebbed and flowed like the gulf tide, my friends were there.  They allowed me my space, they came to stand by my side and they enabled me to laugh, love and enjoy life.  Which brings me to my next epiphany.  
  • No matter how brown the Texas Gulf may look, if you look out far enough, you will find blue water.  A good life lesson for every dark moment in life.  
    The best friends any one could ever have!  (Missing a few that couldn't make it, but you were there in spirit!)
  • The final bit of wisdom I have to share with you is this: “Lean on Me” should be a hymn.  I have found that in order to survive this past year I have had to, needed to, lean not only on my friends and family but even more on a God that knows my every need before I do and He has proven faithful and constant at every turn of my life.

For what it’s worth,

Deuteronomy 33:12  “The Lord’s beloved rests safely next to him, protected all through the day, resting between His shoulders.”

P. S.  I don't know why there are so many font changes in this blog.  It seems to be growing a mind of it's own.