I was looking through my closet tonight trying to decide what I’m going to wear to the funeral this weekend. l have a hard and fast rule that I only wear things to a funeral that I am willing to never wear again on the off-chance that it becomes “the dress/pants/sweater I wore to Emily’s funeral”.
Funerals make me sad, and that’s hard as part of my husband’s family. They are quiet-solemn sad people. I am a blubbering red-swollen-face sad person who blows her nose, a lot, and they tend to avoid me at funerals. I do acknowledge that in this situation, my awkward fear of sobbing in front of them is nothing compared to their pain. Emily was their matriarch: mother of four, grandmother to seven, great-grandmother to my daughter and three others with three more great-grandchildren on the way. Her 95 years on this planet were full of learning, creativity and love.
Emily was an inspirational, story-telling, life-loving matriarch. I am jealous of my husband, and my in-laws as I see the Facebooked and e-mailed pictures of Emily. In one, she is pulling her grandkids on a sled dressed like Jackie O. In another, she has two kids on her back playing horse. My husband is unusually sentimental when he talks about his summers with Emily: eating fudge swirl ice cream and sugared cereals. She loved her family ferociously and they loved her.
I didn’t know her like they knew her. Our relationship was focused in short intense visits with my husband where we would sit and talk with her for hours. She awed me with her experiences every time I saw her. I remember clearly the day I said to her, with the hubris of a 21st century mother, “I just don’t know how you did it, having four kids.” She replied, “We didn’t have any way to stop them from coming.” Her stories of boiling diapers and feeding two babies with one bottle – because when you can’t stop pregnancy the babies come close – they weren’t just nostalgic stories: they were her life. Her stories about boarding with a family and cleaning their house so she could go to college to be a math teacher put in perspective how much she valued education and what she had to sacrifice to do what I took for granted.
On Saturday I will go and mourn with Emily’s friends and family, and celebrate her life and how she enriched our lives. I will shamelessly cry for her family and what they have lost. I will cry for the end of her stories. I will bring extra tissues in case this time the loss is great enough to open other’s flood-gates. Today though, I write to remember her and to bring her essence to a few more people, because not long ago she said to me that I should be a writer. While I never told her about my novel or my new writing avocation, her words inspire. Today I write a little of her story to thank her for the extra confidence she gave me, because I never thanked her in person.
Now I’ll go pack my favorite grey sweater and black boots for the funeral, because remembering Emily often might be an okay thing.