The daily race was on. I fed a bunch of pets, poured cups of coffee & cocoa, packed lunches, taxied north and back to deliver Char to school, attempted a tank fill-up with $3.56 (which gets you a little over a gallon of gas), taking photos here and there along the way. Back home, in the warm kitchen, I chit-chatted with the downhill skiing crew that was preparing to depart in the 11-below January cold. I moved hay and water, herds and flocks, and cuddled with wooly sheep. After sweeping the barn, I realized I was about to be late for a funeral for a friend.
Flying out of my coveralls and into a wool coat, I threw a beret on to cover my unbrushed, unwashed hairdo, hoping no one would notice my pajama top if I put a nice scarf around my neck.
When I got to Denise’s funeral, I was indeed about 5 minutes late. The funeral parlor gent greeted me so kindly and assured me I wasn’t late at all, escorting me to my seat. Right behind Denise’s family.
It began with a eulogy by her 22-year-old son- same age as my eldest. He broke the ice with “Well, this sucks” and then, of course, after the tension was eased, shared the most poignant speech I ever want to hear a 22-year-old boy give for his 50-year-old mom. Sean’s job has him arriving home at a variety of times and in the last year, he and his mom had a ritual of sharing a cocktail on the porch at possibly all hours after work. Sean wanted us to remember Denise’s good humor, smiling love of life by playing “It’s 5:00 Somewhere“,(Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett version), and of course, we all sang the chorus together in high spirits.
Curiously, though I’d never met her, I was seated next to Denise’s best friend “Tammy.” When she stood up to speak, I was dumbfounded. For years, Denise had told me about her best pal, the “Southern Tammy” (I am her “Northern Tammy”), and here I was, finally meeting her, in a funeral parlor. Isn’t that just life, people?
Cassie is Denise’s 17-year-old daughter, good friend to my own 17-year-old daughter. She stood and spoke with so much courage, so much beauty. I know Denise was beaming upon her. Cassie announced, “I’m going to sing you a song now. A song that mom and I used to sing together…I never understood, though, why mom would start crying at a certain point. Now I know.”
There were more words we filled in the time together to try to make the celebration of Denise’s life fitting.
I thought I had it all together, I thought I’d be o.k.. When Cassie sang “The Parting Glass” at the very end, well, that was my undoing.
On my way home, I decided I’d freeze my arse off in a cemetery. It had the right sobering effect.
In small town Vermont we are not always on guard. I left the car idling alongside the church, purse and all in the front seat, and headed into the snowy forest of tombstones. Frost’s grave is a shortish hike from the road. Downhill. At some point I realized maybe I should’ve turned the car off and locked it, and so I hurried along.
Thought my lungs would explode with the sharp, cold air while I hustled. I arrived frozen at Frost’s grave. It was good to bawl. I’m all good now.
Life is awesome, folks. All parts of it. Thanks for the lessons, Denise.
- As expected, a frigid Thursday morning in Vermont (blogs.burlingtonfreepress.com)