Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sweet Goodbye

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?




45 comments:

  1. Oh my, you are echoing my exact thoughts. Maybe just because we both went to funerals last week, and both were for true gentlemen who lived such long and full lives. The only thing I was always firm on was not having a funeral in Seattle - if it had to be after I died, then fine, but I was getting out of the rain eventually. So the sunny day funeral bit sounds good.

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    1. Cool - and no one would be very sad, since Hawaii has such a happy vibe for all my friends and relatives.

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  2. I love this post, Jody, and all your favorite foods and the chatter to be at your party and especially Your Sign. I'll come to yours if you'll come to mine but guess that'd be a little difficult. ;)

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    1. TR: It's a deal. Somehow we will manage it.

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  3. This is a beautiful post. I don't know about a sign for me on my passing, but it is actually quite nice to reflect upon now that you have brought it up. All I know is that when my father died many years ago leaving behind our mum and six children, we have taken it as a sign that he is present on each of our wedding days because the weather was glorious (even when it was forecast for torrential rain on at least two of those weddings, including my own). The last of us to be married ties the knot this weekend and heavy rain is forecast; I will let you know if Dad's sign marks his presence :). I hope it does, I'd really hate for my bubble to be burst :).

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  4. This is a lovely post
    something that goes straight to the heart
    and I believed he lived a full life
    an honest and happy one.

    http://roomsofinspiration.blogspot.com/

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    1. He was very happy by all accounts and loved his wife like anything. Incredibly sweet.

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  5. Luff this post.

    I've thought about my funeral, who hasn't? Everyone had better dress the hell up and be sobbing.

    Since I have become a mother, death is something you do think about because I would hate my toddler to be without me.

    x

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  6. This was beautiful...some find it morbid to think of these things...but I think it's beautiful really, we should know what we want and how we want to be remembered. I want to be buried like a mummy (no joke) and I want everyone to be happy and have a party like in Labyrinth and dance. I know there will be sadness when anyone leaves us, but a good balance of happiness too would make me feel great!! xx

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    1. For most cultures that time is much remembered and traditioned and valued. Love the Day of the Dead here, part of the Mexican culture

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  7. I haven't thought it through at all. I think you're right to want to change the weather. If you can't change the weather at your own funeral then, well, what's it all for?!

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  8. Love this! When my dad was dying last year, one of my friends told me that after his dad died her started finding dimes in random places and always took it as a sign of comfort from his dad (and no, it doesn't include change in your pocket, has to be in random unexpected places), so I mentioned this to my dad on the last day and asked if he couldn't try this.

    Since then, I have "found" about 18 dimes. I never found dimes before. I know - I wasn't looking for them, but honestly, I'm not now - they just show up. It is always a comfort!

    I think you should change the weather however you want and I trust you will!

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    1. How funny - yes the dimes must be a real thing. Easy to find one cents but dimes and 1 of them - that is a Sign! Thanks WMM for your support on my changing the weather, am determined now

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  9. my sign from my father was that the kettle would just go off on its own when no one had been in the kitchen. he always asked me to make him a cup of tea - it was my treat for him.

    But I haven't thought in depth - in fact as i get older i am getting a little scared of it...

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    1. Love that. I am an inveterate tea maker. In fact my hubster says the one thing me and my sisters share is that we make endless cups of tea and never drink them. Something gratifying about putting on the kettle...

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  10. My dad finds parking spaces for my sister.

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  11. I like the whole idea of rain and bright sunshine. I haven't thought about it in detail, but bright sunshine and lots of flowers sounds good to me. That funeral that you went to sounds like it was really beautiful.

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  12. lol I told them to burn me, stick me in a 2 dollar container and then set me at sea or use me for kitty litter. I'll be dead, so what do I care? lol

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  13. I had never really thought about funerals until I had to plan my father's with my mother and brother. Although my dad had been poorly for some time, neither he nor Mum had given thought to what they really wanted. When the nurses had asked him what music he might like, the rascal said, 'I've always loved Blanket on the Ground! .....We made sure it was playing at the wake.

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    1. I am now googling "Blanket on the Ground". Dad always says: "Who cares? I'm dead"

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  14. That's a lovely idea about changing the weather! Do you mind if it's my sign too?
    I'm planning an eighties themed funeral. Just because.
    SX

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    1. MS> That was my era too! Maybe having white is very eighties,n'est ce pa? (Like Franglais)

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  15. JODY!
    I knew HONEY……..has to be the same.When you first said OAKLAND I thought maybe not but then you said BERKELEY and thats where she lived!She gave pedicures in ones home……..years ago.Do you think it is the same?She had a wonderful word for my first SON who was just a baby…..which is not coming to me at the moment……something about a dog and trash!BELIEVE ME IT WAS PRICELESS!So sorry, to hear her husband has passed and yes I think about your question all the time!

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    1. I will ask re Honey. I can only imagine what yours will be like, Paris?

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  16. A former colleague lost her son at the age of 19 in tragic circumstances (in NZ ironically). His girlfriend said she had seen a rainbow over the bay when she sat down on the beach to think about him. Ever since then, they have seen rainbows at meaningful times - Christmas, birthdays etc. there's got to be something in it....

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    1. Oh really sad about that family. Love how they see that rainbow

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  17. Sorry to read about the passing of the friend's grandfather.

    I haven't given this much thought yet, but I am wondering how are you going to tell your sisters "I told you so." :D

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    1. Well yes. This is just it, as my Mum's friend Noelene would say. I will have to have another "Told you so" sign.

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  18. 96 years old... bless his heart AND his soul...

    He had seen a great deal. I can understand his comment about the savings being for a rainy day. I think he knew it was his time... and the money would be for his wife's rainy days...

    ~shoes~

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  19. I think more about death now and thankful for every morning when I wake up.
    I have accepted to let go of thinking of living to be a hundred.Celebration of life is now because I will not know after I'm gone.

    Your lighter vein's approach, I like.

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  20. I have thought about death (my own, my families) at some point, every day for as long as I can remember.....maybe just briefly (is this date going to be the day I die next year? etc.,) and my friend says I must be terribly depressed but in reality I am an anxious control freak and subconsiously I think I am trying to harden myself to it with familiarity.....and we have been doing a lot of funeral planning recently at my Pa's request.....my mom has given me a 'word' that she is going to try and send to me from the other side.......crikey this comment makes me sound mental doesn't it?

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    1. You are twice as normal as moi, I have that on good authority

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  21. You crack me up. No, I have not given my funeral a single thought so far. But as my wedding (never used to think about weddings either), I am sure it's going to happen one day.

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    1. You're not married? We didn't marry until we had three children and only because we were moving to the US and they would have stopped me at immigration gates if I hadn't been American. Mind you with three small children, being turned back to spend a couple of weeks by myself in London seemed rather appealing at the time.

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  22. Sweet post. I never think about it actually. Love that people believe in signs though. The story about the gentleman reminds me of The Butler. DId you see it? Such a wonderful movie about a similar gentleman and how much the world changed throughout his lifetime.. xx

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    1. Kim, have not seen The Butler yet, am looking forward to it. Yes he had really been through many many lifetimes

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  23. I haven't thought about a sign at the funeral. I just figure I'd visit ppl some time after and they would "know" I had been there. I'm guessing I'll decide how I'll show myself back here once I'm on the other side. lol

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