Two years ago, I read this essay from the “This I Believe” series on NPR–“Always Go to the Funeral.” Daddy had passed only two months before so this lesson taught to attorney Deirdre Sullivan of Brooklyn, New York by her father was very precious to me. It speaks a truth that goes beyond showing up at a funeral…..these words are poetic, beautiful, and speak to what life really boils down to–
In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil.
It’s hardly so epic.
Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
–Deirdre Sullivan, “Always Go to the Funeral”
One year ago today, we gathered to celebrate the life of Mama. I remember pulling up to the church and seeing family and friends whom I had not even thought about expecting to come. We had been fed by neighbors and Mama’s church family, all of these wonderful people taking time to do something, to do good, rather than nothing.
And then there were the ones who weren’t there. Who couldn’t be. Because of emotions, of illness, of schedules, of pain, and of geographical distance. It was okay. The sweet one Mama loved whom I had to tell over a screen, and whom I watched crumple when I told her Mama had left this world. That is a memory I will always carry with me. Her countenance was a reflection of what was in my own heart. But she couldn’t come to say goodbye and remember with us. It was too far. And our family waiting on Mama’s newest grandson to arrive any day. I held them in my heart throughout the day, memorizing so I could share it all with them later. Each one of those who weren’t there still were in spirit. And we felt their love too.
Sullivan goes on to say that her father’s lesson extends to more than just funerals. It’s about doing things that we might not want to, that are inconveniences to us, but would mean the world to someone else. It’s doesn’t have to be a mile, it’s about even going a few feet for another. It’s about showing up. My Mama was good at that.
Tonight I’m thankful for all who showed up and all who wanted to one year ago. In the rain they came and sat in the church Mama loved so much. The pastors who had given her hope, encouragement, and friendship led us as we remembered and shared our own stories. We sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” just as she had wanted. And Mess Cat and I leaned every time we sang those words, just as we had teased her we might, back before this was even a possibility of happening anytime soon. It made us smile a little bit. We loaded into vehicles in the rain and drove and drove out to the little country church where fifteen months before we had gathered to remember Daddy. As the rain poured down and I kept moving Cooter’s feet from catching the rain dripping between the two tents, my sweet Pastor read to us from “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney, in honor of the love of our Mama and her love of children and children’s books. It was heartbreaking and precious. We shared more stories, and we said goodbye once again.
In all of the words I’ve written about my Mama, I am not sure I quite captured the essence of her that her cousin did. I was looking back at the on-line “guest book,” as it won’t be available after today. Which is hard to think about. Silly, I know, but it’s another mile marker on this journey. I am not sure that I saw this entry at all before today. I quit checking after a point. This cousin lives out of the country and has for many years, but when I was young, he visited us quite often as he is only 10 or 12 years older than I am. When I read this tonight, it was like a balm to my soul. Yes. YES. This is who my Mama was. Thank you, Cousin T. It means the world to me to see her through your heart and to remember all of this.
Memories and feelings will never leave all touched by Barb, “The rocking chair rockin’ always rockin’ always with a child, “Little Bunny FooFoo”, cleanin’ red clay from everything, snappin’ pea’s and makin’ the best biscuits in Georgia; using only one hand and doin’ something else with the other… This is the Barb, who will always be with me, She’s left here, but gone Home. Our prayers and condolences are with you.
That right there. My Mama. The best biscuits, the best everything…..and that whole using only one hand and then doing something else with the other–he’s right, she was the Queen of Multi-tasking. She was more than any of us can put into words, but these come really close.
Tonight I’m thankful for the folks who choose good over nothing and who inspire me to do the same.
Love to all.