Seeing All the Colorful Pieces
Today was my dear Aunt Ruth's funeral. After a very rough two weeks, feeling exhausted and emotionally raw, something kicked in today—more of my writerself, who perceives the world a bit differently. The world revealed itself in striking, sometimes startling, juxtapositions. Seeing those who came to my Aunt's funeral, the collected family, friends, church family, colleagues, and acquaintances of her 71 years, her life came into focus. The individuals unique—the childhood neighbor who remembered making mischief; her best girlfriends recalling reckless youthful travels; work colleagues who lauded her competence, loyalty, and kindness; church family who valued her constant support and willingness to give (in addition to her meticulous cleanliness); the pastor officiating who recalled my aunt always met him with kindness and support; and the funeral director (who had known my aunt for years) remembering her laughter and sense of humor. The different stories told formed a picture of a woman both constant in her graces—always kind, positive, smiling, giving—yet adaptable to what the occasions in life called for.
Then my writerself engaged with the day from another angle, noting the misfit details. A golden cherub on the mantlepiece at the funeral home with an actual Band Aid on its knee. The bird's nest atop one of the columns in front, an odd sign of new life at this place where we honor our dead. The framed print in the ladies room with a tutu-adorned child ballerina falling ass over teakettle whilst sitting amongst her little peers. The furry green seat covers, which looked like a Sesame Street character had been skinned for its pelt, over a few of the seats at the graveside ceremony.
Finally, looking back at the last 48 hours, I realize my good fortune in life. Yesterday I hit a point when I felt so terribly alone. Logically knowing that I am not alone did not change the emotional weight I felt—with many of my close family members loving on me from afar as well as friends supporting. My brother surprised me by showing up at the viewing last night and something uncorked in me. The relief and joy I felt at seeing him mixed with a sudden permission to feel the deep sorrow and weight of my loss. Last night I FaceTimed with beloved cousins, and we laughed and cried together (well, mostly I cried and they supported). Friends reached out via text, voicemails, and email. I received an impossibly funny and joyful video of a red panda and a pumpkin in a Facebook message. Today a family member unexpectedly attended the funeral, and I felt a mix of joy and anxiety upon the person's arrival. All this converges together today to make me feel grateful. To see the world as rarely one emotion at a time—the sorrow mingling with joy, the funny stories bittersweet, the heroes and villains rarely clearly defined—more of us vacillating between the two roles, or more accurately falling short of wholeheartedly being truly either.
A person's life can be seen as this collection of colorful moments held together by the mortar of their constants. For my aunt, her kind, positive spirit—her loyalty, intelligence, diligence, generosity—these the glue that held together the moments of her life. The bright girlhood travels, the somber moments of support for her family and colleagues, dutiful service and support of the church, her signature pink lipstick, playful affection for beloved black cats, and rock solid life bond she shared with my uncle. My dear Aunt Ruth will be missed but surely not forgotten. The world has lost a bit of its color with her no longer here with us, but I believe we will see her again soon. And in the meantime, heaven is a bit brighter with her in its midst. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't my Aunt Ruth who patched up that poor wounded cherub's knee.