Friday, April 07, 2006

Getting Ready For the Service

Another emotional Mixmaster of a day. (On one hand as I blog I think, "Oh, good grief, how much of this stuff are you going to subject people to?" On the other hand, I'm hoping that for people who have not yet gone through the death of a parent, my own gut spillage might be a way to let you know, ahead of time, that you're going to have all these experiences and reactions and feelings, and that it's okay; that you will be treading down a road that others among us have already trod.)

I found myself throwing away more things today: A really hideous secondhand coffee table, a relic of my father's enthusiasm for recycled furniture, that's turned into a catchall for catalogs; a mudroom coatrack literally held together with duct tape up at the top; an ugly old kitchen chair next to the coatrack whose only practical function, other than serving as auxiliary coatrack, is to give you a place to sit down to put on or take off boots in the wintertime. I found myself wanting to move things -- move around the living room furniture. I am seriously considering moving into my mother's bedroom, because it's bigger and lighter than mine, and turning my bedroom into some sort of multipurpose office/exercycle space, or throwing away the decrepit 70's era furniture (which I have been planning to do anyway) and adding a daybed or futon or something. I found myself wanting to put more houseplants around the place; my mother (possibly concerned about the indoor horticultural detritus that a friend of mine calls "plant poop") disliked the idea of more than one plant per room, and in fact kept the plants limited to a Norfolk Island pine in the dining room and a philodendron in the living room. I went into the Cheap Crap of Dubious Origin store today for some practical purchase and left with a pretty celery green soap dish and lotion dispenser for the bathroom, which I have decided is going to be green and lavender. I saw myself, some summer weekend, stripping the horribly degraded bathroom sink cabinet and restaining it so it doesn't make me want to throw up whenever I look at it. (All advice on this proposed project cheerfully accepted, because my home-repair skills are more like Red Green's than Martha Stewart's.)

As I'm idly thinking these things, or hauling stuff out to the garage, part of me is saying, "Good for you. You're moving forward. You're taking responsibility. Mom would be proud," while another part is saying, "Your poor mother isn't even in the ground yet, and this is what you're thinking about? Can you even wait until the interment to tear up her house and take over her room?" And part of me is saying, "Why didn't you do all these things while she was alive? Maybe she would have appreciated it." And yet another voice is saying, "Why did you leave me with all this stuff to do? Why, Mom and Dad? Why did you treat this place like a disposable house? Now I'm stuck with it, and it's falling apart, and I don't know how to fix it, and I don't even know if I want to live here anymore." All of these things are simultaneously roiling around in my head.

I had to pick up Mom's funeral flowers today; our local florist doesn't deliver out to our church. (One of the pitfalls of commuter churchgoing.) That was hard; I cried when I came home and set up the tripod.

The funeral director had mentioned something about putting up an easel with a kind of memorial montage of photographs of my mother. I've been pondering this since Monday, and it would be interesting for our church people, who've only ever known Mom as an elderly woman...but the thought of being creative is overwhelming me: For God's sake, now they want me to do a craft project? I might play with this tonight, but I don't think I can do it. Or if I do it'll look like crap.

My pushy aunt called to ask if my cousins should send flowers or money to our church building fund. I told her that either would be fine. "But which one do you think your mother would prefer?" she pressed, with a note of impatience in her voice. I wanted desperately to say, "Dammit, woman, I just told you; flip a fucking coin." (On Monday morning, when I called to break the bad news to her, she proceeded to relate to me, as I was weeping and sniffing into the phone, all her own health problems. Hello! My mother just died!) I realize that in large families relatives like this come in multiples, so I should be glad I just have one to contend with, but...sheesh. And I'm sure that she and her posse will be taking notes on how fucked-up they think the memorial service is, especially since my mother left their congregation and church body to start going to church with me. (I'm keeping a buffer of church friends around me for the duration of this ordeal.)

I dropped off my other aunt's outfit at the nursing home. She'd just come out of the bath; they were lifting her onto her bed. "See?" she said. "I told you she'd bring me my clothes." God, I thought, now I'm not moving fast enough for the nursing home staff? I didn't arrive according to their preferred timetable? Hey, everybody, is there anything else I'm doing wrong? Someone keeping score?

As you can possibly tell, I am just about ready to go full fetal under my desk right now. But I keep telling myself that by this time tomorrow this stuff is going to be all over.


Ladybug6472 said...

May I please be so presumptious as to give a little advice. Go slow on throwing things out right now. Even if you are very sure it should go into the discard pile. Hang on for a little while and do the sorting/discarding a little later up the road when you will be a bit more able to look at things realistically.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Connie said...

My dear LC, I believe with all my heart that the function of the days immediately after a loved one's death is to get one through the days immediately after a loved one's death. When my dad died, I was utterly zoned, poking through this, dealing with that, sometimes in hyper-efficient mode and sometimes, in all sincerity, going full fetal under the large table that serves me for a desk. So you're in good company. The one piece of (unsolicited) advice I would offer is, if it can be let go, let it go. You do not need to put together a photo montage--you can do it in another six months if the thought takes your fancy, and people who are curious now will be curious then. You do not need to talk to the pushy aunt. (I am hopeful that you have an answering machine and are screening your calls.) You do not need to get your hair cut or stairs for your dog, unless you want to, and it sounds like you did.

For the next three weeks, I, with all the power vested in me by the state of Confusion, hereby release you from all obligations except to do right by LC. End of story. Except for the hug.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

I'll be praying for you tomorrow!


P.S. (an after-thought) said...

If you don't have anyone to share the photo montage duty with, maybe let it go. If you can share this with someone, it may be a good and helpful thing.

Mata H said...

I understand the activity. It is "space filling" until the actual memorial service happens. My Mom died in winter in New England and there were several days between her death and her burial as they had to thaw the ground. I was frantic to keep occupied. Plus I needed a kind of proof-text that my life could go on. "Look at me being productive, see how well I am doing?" (All that caught up with me later.) I am glad you do have that buffer of church friends, because that memorial service will be lovely I am sure. It really doesn't matter what the "chronic cluckers" think. Take a deep breath and let all our prayers uphold you today and through tomorrow and beyond.

Rev Dr Mom said...


LutheranChik said...

I'm sitting here at 10 pm polishing my shoes, and I'm finding that it's a very therapeutic activity. These shoes are black with white topstitching, which is a bugger to polish around, so I have to focus really, really hard on my task.

(For those of you following my saga...I'm wearing a favorite black suit, not the skirt; who am I kidding?)

I made an after-dark run to Rite-Aid for a new photo album, and made up just a little collection of Mom photos. I had no idea where the family photos were -- we've never been a family that looked through them that much -- and had to dig around in the basement until I hit upon a Rubbermaid bin that had several old albums in it. But there's like a whole decade of pictures of my folks missing from my junior high and high school years. I have looked through all my mom's drawers and closet boxes and can't find anything. There used to be a framed church portrait of Mom, Dad and me when I was in about 7th grade, that used to hang in the living room of the house I grew up in; can't find that anywhere. It's a conundrum. I know once upon a time, before the 'rents invested in a dehumifier, they wound up throwing away a big box of papers and books that had mildewed; I wonder if the church portraits somehow got into that box. Or maybe it got lost when they moved. (On a happier note, while rummaging around downstairs I found my old copy of Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love that I thought I'd thrown or given away long ago, and I found my lost copy of Joan Chittister's Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, which I thought I'd left in the hospitial waiting room but for some reason wound up on my closet floor. I tell you, I need a minder.)

My mom was the kind of person who would run away from the camera, so I had to really dig to find some good photos; several from when she was a career gal in the big city, where she looks like a model, and a couple of her holding me as an infant while I'm making crankypants faces, which I guess was an early warning sign of my adult disposition.

(I also found some of my doofy high school photos, when I seemed to have a penchant for newsboy caps, scarves tied in four-in-hand knots and other Annie Hall-ish garb. More early warning signs, perhaps. And I miss my girlish figure...sigh.)

Anyhow, having put together the album, I'm no longer breathing into a bag.

Verdugo said...

You are a good, wonderful, caring person and whatever you want to do right now is good and right.
You are loved.

terri c said...

thinking of you now and as the days go by. Be gentle with yourself...

Kathryn said...

Huge hugs...The throwing out thing was the most positive memory I have of the aftermath of my mother's death...that and appalling relatives.
So glad you have a phalanx of church friends beside you through this.
We're all praying...

Nicodemia said...


Go easy on yourself. And take absolutely no notice of what remarks others make unless you feel good about them!!

Funerals bring out the worst in others who are not having to arrange the whole thing and run around like scalded cats!

I'm praying.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I think you will be glad you did the picture album in your current state of mind. Later it might drag you down even more. You will be walking around with a cloud over you for some time to come. My "it" (that cloud) remind you of the cloud that led the Israelites... so you can see God's hand even in the dim light.

deb said...

My Dad passed away a couple of weeks ago - I'm 51 years old, and it was the first death in my family in my life (except for my maternal grandmother who passed away while I was overseas in '77).

Putting together the funeral arrangements, contacting friends was difficult - but I found it to be a cleansing experience. We put up an easel and a table of my Dad's momentos. It brought to mind the brash, young WWII fighter pilot who obsessed with flying.

To pay tribute them and to what they love about their life - that's what it is all about.


RainbowKate said...

I think it's very normal to be doing the cleaning and rearranging. I think sometimes the action of doing things has to come before we emotionally get there, if that makes sense. That's how we react in my family anyway.

Praying that you have the support you need around you, and that the annoying relatives manage to behave.


see-through faith said...

I wanted to stop by and see how you are doing. I'm glad I did.

I leave you a huge hug. I wish I could be with you - to fend off pushy aunt, cousins, know it alls, and everyone else.

It's ok to grieve and it's ok to move on. You'll do both each day for a while yet -a good while.

I just wanted you to know that it's ok and that you are loved and appreciated. Death is hard, even when you are a believer.

net said...

treat yourself gently, LC! who cares, but you and God, how the memorial service comes off? those who know and love you best, will do just that and there will always be others whose life's purpose is to pitch and moan about everything! so let 'em!

we love you and we're holding you up! (((((LC))))

Cathy said...

All of the feelings you have bring back memories of when my father passed away now almost 4 years ago. I agree on going slowly on throwing things away. Take care of yourself and know we are thinking and praying for you.

Naomi said...

Your 'stuff' is a way of letting us share your grief at this time. We are glad to be able to 'listen' to you as you grieve and eventually begin to heal. We pray for you and send you virtual hugs which we hope will be of some comfort to you.

SingingOwl said...

Rant away. It is YOUR blog. Good space to do that.

Love and prayers to you. ((((((LC)))))))

Bad Alice said...

I went through a frenzied cleaning stage right after my mom died. I didn't live with her, so it was my house I focused on, but I would have turned my parents' house upside down if I had been there much longer. As it was I cleaned bathrooms, tossed old stuff, mopped. Then I went home and cleaned our house top to bottom, even though it was brand new and we hadn't lived in it for more than a few months. Grief has unexpected twists and turns. I continue to hold you in prayer.

see-through faith said...

(((just for you)))

and throwing away stuff is good too, honestly, I think it gets harder if you leave it to later. But I'd hang onto hand written things -they were important for me at least.

and rant if you need to. We've got two ears and we can listen even if we can't be there to hold you as you cry. Wish we could mind - but God's given you us and a safe space to let go of some of the hurt, confusion and maybe even relief. We're here and we'll keep popping in to see how you are.

Prayers too

Katherine said...

Still praying for you...

Connie said...

Love and sympathy to you, LC. Do whatever you need/want to do, including screaming at bothersome relatives. It is all right. Praying for you, also.