A View to Goodbye

The laughter was a much needed segway that softened what I needed to hear next.

In my attempt to stay on-path with Jeff’s wishes, I completely failed to recognize some somber facts. When Roger told me that he’d asked the funeral home to prepare Jeff because he wanted to see him, I was shocked.

How could it never have crossed my mind that his parent would want to see him one last time. Or that his sister was still waiting to see him. Or that his brother needed to say goodbye, as well as everyone else there.

It certainly wasn’t an intentional blockage of family or selfishness. I was honestly disconnected, from everything and everyone. Disengaged, I guess, until I found myself raising my hand.

Jeff’s father explained that I didn’t have to go in to see Jeff if I did not want to. That I could go into the room but not approach if I did not want to. Or I could, if I wanted to.

Roger held my hand and we stood in the back of the room, as others made their way upfront. I expected a casket. I don’t know why.

Instead, though, the man I thought I would never see again, lay on a well-disguised table. Jeff, tucked beneath a lovely quilt, looked just like himself, asleep.

We moved closer and stood in front of the few seats that had been assembled.

Jeff’s dad asked me softly if I wanted to say goodbye. I didn’t. I didn’t want to say goodbye and hadn’t expected I’d have to. If would have been much less painful to not.

But gently lead, I did. I touched Jeff’s shoulder, his brow, told him I loved him. I cradled his face, kissed his cheek and took the hardest walk of my life, away.

It may seem odd to explain it this way, but Roger’s arrangements were a most compassionate gift. I understand it was something he needed. I understand it wasn’t intended to serve only me.

So, while the image of Jeff, deceased in our bedroom, remains vivid, I also have that last time; peaceful, unexpected, important, comforting, real. All, that I didn’t know I needed.

Quote for the Week:

2020 03 10 There is no shame in self-focused grief jakorte

The Last Laugh

 

I’d been dully sitting there, only half-listening to the murmurs. It seemed most everything had been wrapped up, and I was wondering what the etiquette was for what came next.

Do we go to lunch? Do I go back to Adrian? Do I go somewhere else?

I couldn’t tell you what time it was or even who was sitting to my left.

But, I know who was on my right, and I can tell you exactly when the pandemonium began.

Jeff’s step-mother had been delayed waiting for a pre-scheduled plumbing appointment.

Among her first words, directed to Jeff’s father were, “Your sons!”

“My sons?” Roger baffled back.

“Yes, YOUR sons! The plumber found a girlie magazine when he went behind the wall, to get to the pipes.”

“Behind the wall?” Roger puzzled, pushing back a bit. “How do you know it was one of my sons?”

“Because,” Nevie reasoned, “none of my sons would ever do that!”

Roger looked across to Jeff’s brother. “Did you do that?” he asked.

By the time I processed what the discussion was about, rapid succession flustering moments were piling up.

“No,” he incredulously denied. “I didn’t do that!”

With fast-forward film speed, I’d run through a conversation Jeff and I had rather recently while watching ‘This Old House.’

It seemed they were always finding odd things behind walls. That time, it was a baby shoe.

“That’s so weird and kind of creepy, ” I’d commented. “I mean, how did a baby shoe get behind the wall?”

Acutely aware, I needed to interrupt. Quickly.

So, I called on my grade-school training and solidly raised my hand.

I had to wave it around a bit before I garnered some attention.

“I know,” I announced.

Up until then, I hadn’t spoken much, so, I cleared my throat and announced again to be sure everyone heard me.

“I know who did that.” The room quieted down.

“Jeff told me.” It got a little quieter.

“Jeff told me,” I repeated. “He told me… ‘If Dad and Nevie ever decide to remodel the bathroom, they’re gonna get a big surprise!”

It was Jeff.

For convenience, he’d explained, he’d hidden his late 70’s, misappropriated and highly inappropriate periodical in a conveniently narrow slot between the fixture and the wall.

“Then, one day,” he’d laughed, “It got sealed up!”

In the history of funeral planning, I doubt there’s ever been a session that ended quite like Jeff’s did.

Raucous laughter, table slapping, the shaking of many heads, and one fist aimed amusingly up at heaven.

“That Jeff…” Roger mused. “I guess, he got the last laugh, didn’t he?”

Quote for the Week:2020 03 03 keeping track of weird things heard in life jakorte

 

Then and Still

 

The others whom Jeff left behind supported and needed support. Each at the table had at least two dedicated decades of love; some had the full 42.

I was acutely aware I was the one with the least of his lease on life.

In my mind, then and still, the foundations of long-standing years made their loss more severe. I imagined, then and still, the burden of that type of pain surely surpassed mine.

My heart hurt, then and still, for all who had the fortune of Jeff, longer. I only had him for 8 and I was lost.  If I had had him just a moment longer, I would have hurt one more moment worse.

Somehow, some things were already settled. I wasn’t aware of anyone else’s desires, nor did I ask.

My insistence on cremation was the echo of Jeff’s desire. I didn’t want that or not want that. It was what he wanted; therefore, honor worthy.

Surrounded by an invisible buffer, pressurized, cocooned in an observationist air pocket, though not physically isolated, I felt alone. And that was not a reflection of anyone present.

In my seat, I was alone. In my specific type of grief born of my specific role, I was alone. I was just as alone as the other roles represented that morning. None of our grief was the same; couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, would never be.

When we got down to business, the first task was verbally gathering family history and personal information – the sort you need for an obituary.

I was immensely grateful my brother took over proof-reading and corrections. Multiple re-writes and edits later, I felt a bit bad for the funeral planner kid. Which isn’t a derogatory statement. He was young; 20’s-ish.

Whenever asked a decision-required question, Jeff’s father would, in turn, ask it of me. Though deferred to, my choices considered heritage.

Like purposefully choosing the funeral pamphlet featuring a semi-silhouetted blue-hued barn, silo, and field. There couldn’t have been any other choice worth considering.

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 18 Unless we allow others the opportunity to prove jakorte

 

 

 

The Literal Grief of “I”

 

I’m getting tired of saying, “I.”

“I don’t remember…”

“I don’t know…”

“I think…”

You might be, too. I need to drop those I’s. Literally.

*

Don’t know which day it was: Monday, Tuesday?

Know my brother picked me up and took me to the funeral home. Don’t remember the drive.

Do remember arriving, entering and standing in the foyer of Handler’s. Think it might have been raining, or maybe the umbrellas and jackets are snippets from another family funeral.

Think the meeting room was downstairs. If not, it was still in what I thought was an unusual location. Not that I had any experience in usual funerals.

Remember being surprised and touched by the number of people around the table. Sorry, don’t recall everyone there, but I know the family group included one brother, one sister, Jeff’s father, at least one Uncle, my brother and me.

Fuzzy on whether or not there was an Aunt, non-step-brother or exactly how many cousins there were or if I am erroneously conjuring the other end of the table; same side, not in my direct line of vision.

Contemplated this on my walk home this afternoon. How wonderful it was to have the support of so many people to help me through, and how very touched I was.

A stride-stopping, startling thought smacked me – a whip-branch snapped back from those who should have been traveling the grief trail ahead of me. Slapped my mind – after 12+ years – my tunnel-visioned grief-blur ended today, on this revelation.

All of those people weren’t there for just me.

A bit shameful really.  Unfathomable, as well.  Can’t apologize for my thoughts because I’m not even sure what my thoughts were or if I even had any.

Benumbed, appropriately or not, the blinding spotlight on my grief was, singularly, “I.”

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 11 There may not be an I in teamjakorte

 

 

 

to be happy with the memory

 

when the barriers say “don’t go there.”
when the filters don’t make it better.
when cold morning colors hard stop the norm.
when the wind denies still life capture.
when edits are not improvement.
when the shot delays arrival and it doesn’t matter.
this is the thing worth knowing –
time stopped for a reason, true and unknown,
sometime later, sometimes much, a slipped swipe
a thumb-hold too long, a scroll too far, percolates a path
for pictures, dropped from above, gathering thunderous steam
landslides lose landmarks, boulders block intentions,
revisits are hard to resist.
temptation to tamper that
which does not require change, for comfort
is unneeded. it’s just an accidental detour, a temporary stay
to be happy with the memory, only requires
the desire
to be.

Quote for the Week: 2020 02 04 finding formerly forgotten photos is one of life jakorte

 

 

familiar purrs and sleepy snorts

I am thankful I wasn’t there.

I don’t think I could have stood to see the indignities required.

Not that my imagination didn’t go there.

Still, I imagine it is best as an unsupported vision.

The real vision would have surely been far worse.

 

At the end of the day, or at least my end of the day with other people, I politely passed on so many sincere offers.

No, I don’t want to stay somewhere else tonight.

No, I don’t want anyone to stay with me, either.

No, I don’t want Sadie to go home with you.

No, I want Sadie here with me and Miss Fred.

No, thank you, I’m not hungry.

No, please do not order me food, even if you were going to order for yourself, anyway.

No, I don’t think I need anything.

No, no need to call me later.

No, I don’t want to call you later, either.

Ok, yes, I will call you if I need anything, but, no, I won’t need anything tonight.

I’ve lost the time between the fish sandwich and the goodbye questions; and the time between the goodbye questions and turning down the bed covers. I slept in our bed, on my usual side with Sadie and Fred.

Freddie took up her usual awkward spot on my knees. Sadie lay by my side as if she was still happily sandwiched in her regular space between Jeff and me.

“I know you won’t understand this,” I told them, scratching simultaneous circles on their heads. “But, it’s just us girls now.” Fred blinked, said something in her scraggly voice, took a turn and snuggled in. Sadie rolled over closer and uncharacteristically licked my chin.

I fell asleep surrounded by the warmth of beating hearts and the comforting rhythm of familiar purrs and soft sleepy snorts.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 28 animals are acutely aware jakorte

leaving home

Another snippet, someone asked me what they could do for me – maybe straighten up? “The kitchen is a mess,” I conceded, referring to the shambled breakfast I’d abandoned hours ago. “… and I wasn’t expecting company…” I sheepishly admitted.

Suddenly, there were dishwashers and a floor mopper, a dog walker and then the sound of someone vacuuming. And the suggestion that I should leave.

They were about to take Jeff out. The other ambulance that had arrived was solely for the purpose of extra hands to heft. They debated which door to use.

My feisty Oklahoma friend authoritatively spoke up. “She doesn’t need to be here for this.”

Then, to me, “You don’t need to see them taking him out, hon.”

There was a question about whether or not I had eaten that day. I hadn’t.

Someone herded me out to a car. I can picture myself in the back seat. There were two women in the front seat. I can’t say for certain, who those could have been. The people I knew best were still bustling around my home.

Another remembered oddity, the car I got into had been backed into our driveway. I think maybe the wife of the neighbor across the street was the driver, that would make sense. She’d have just backed across the street. Perhaps the other person was the slight neighbor acquaintance, one house past my next-door neighbor.

That one seems more solid because I remember taking the family cookies as a thank you. I don’t recall exactly what I was thanking them for. I think she was a bit touched and a bit appalled. “You made us cookies?” she asked. “Oh, my goodness, no! I should be making you cookies! But here you are…”

I know that in those few minutes it had taken me to get into the car, they hadn’t actually begun to take him. I also know I didn’t look back. In a way, we were both leaving home, in a similar time frame. Jeff going one way; me, another.

I was supposed to decide where to eat. I didn’t want to be gone too long, so I said McDonald’s. I didn’t want to eat, really, but went along with the insistence that it was the plan to feed me. I requested a Filet o’Fish sandwich. When asked if I wanted fries, I said, “No. I want to go home.”

“I think we still have to wait a bit…” was the reply.

“Ok,” I said, as I felt myself deflating. Of course, we’d all be going back, but I would never be going home, again.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 21 home is where the heart is jakorte 01 21 2020