|My hometown, Ohope Beach, at nightfall via|
Last week I went to the funeral of a 96 year-old-gentleman and I use that term in it's fullest sense. I never met him, he was the grandfather of a friend of mine. A true gentle man, he was a devoted father, husband, community leader and carpenter. He loved his cakes and sweet treats.
As an African American child from a poor family, his first job was picking cotton in Tallulah, Louisiana which he did for many years and the rest of us can only imagine how hard his life was. He came to Oakland where he met the woman he called "Honey" and together they raised four children.
As the preacher said, he had seen segregation then integration and then disintegration of his culture. Yet he remained a dignified and hopeful man. A man with an old-time respect for money. When he was really ailing towards the end, his Grandson, my friend, pleaded with him to spend some their savings on his healthcare. Grandpa refused, saying "Those savings are for a rainy day." Grandson replied:"Grandpa, please - it's raining!"
All his family gathered in their home in Berkeley to say goodbye and eat the sweet treats he loved. When his wife of 69 years returned from the cemetery and climbed those steps to their home, it was such a sad moment. But because of her belief in God, she was certain she would hear him say "Honey" again.
It got me to thinking about my final send-off. One of my friends says at her mother's funeral the church was filled with mourners out-the-door and this gave the family comfort to know she had touched so many people's lives. Another friend's mother who lives in a small town says she only wants close friends and family to come: "None of the others come to see me now, why should they come to see me when I'm dead?"
My sisters and I discussed this at length on a bike-ride last Christmas when we were back in Ohope Beach. My sisters had lost one of their best friends, Helena, and after the funeral, the sky turned the same Deflt China blue of Helena's eyes. They took it as a Sign. We decided we would have a Sign too. (Now I'm not totally sure what it would be a sign for...)
Anyone who wants can come to my funeral, except the mean girl at High School who bullied me and the lady who flipped me off in the carpark last Tuesday. Oh, ok, you guys can come too. Everyone will wear white. Special dispensation for my husband and his brother, Dave, who don't suit bright white; you're allowed to wear off-white. All my favorite foods will be served: Mum's banana cake with chocolate icing, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and gravy.
Champers will be flowing and people will get squiffy enough to tell fond anecdotes: "Oh, remember what a dag she was at 'Varsity in that lopsided haircut and farmer's singlet she wore as a dress" but not so drunk they will lapse into: "Total slob, horrible flatmate, never rinsed her dishes. Truthfully I only ever put up with her because she was Sue's friend."
And the Sign? My sisters muttered something about white birds flying overhead. My Sign I said was going to be this: it will be raining when everyone goes into the church and then bright sunshine when they come out.
"Wait" said one of my sisters "We have white birds flying overhead but you...you're going to change the weather???"
I stand firm on my Sign. There will be Torrential Rain and there will be Bright Sunshine. I can't wait to see my sisters' faces when it actually happens and I can say "I told you so."
Is it just me...or have you thought this through too?