It’s been a week since the kids who don’t live here left, and since the house became noticeably quieter, though I actually think it is less clean. I am not in such a hurry to wipe and sweep and tidy up between living room and kitchen cyclones. There haven’t been any. I should put the Legos away. At least they are all in the bin.
Jeff seems kind of depressed.
It’s been “snaining” for days– snow/rain/snow/rain, and the ground is like a skating rink. My micro spikes are firmly attached to my boots.I made it to my daughter’s yoga class at the pool today after the Hospice of Haines board meeting.
Sarah likes us to take mini Shavasanas, or rests, flat on our backs during the class, as well as at the end. Shavasana is a gentler way to say Corpse Pose, which can be kind of alarming at first, especially as we get older. Sarah says it often. She prefers it to Shavasana. Name aside, it is a favorite pose. Before the final Shavasana we did Ananda Balasana, which no yogi I know ever says, since the other name is Happy Baby. On our backs, legs wide, holding our ankles with bent knees rocking gently like, well, a happy baby on her back. It is also a favorite. We talk a lot in this yoga class at the pool, and listen to music, and wave to the people down in the water.
I listened and looked, and said that there is a story here: from baby to corpse and happy in both. The hard stuff and all the action happens in between: Sun Salutations, Warrior poses, Tree, Locust, Chair, Dancer– cradle to grave. A lifetime in an hour. In life we are in death.
“I hear a blog,” Sarah said.
Welcome to my world.
I was trying to focus on my breath.
But since we were chatting, I told them about the funeral yesterday for a retired nurse who had a great sense of humor.She was one of my favorites at the clinic. Blue hair. (True blue, like royal blue, and purple. Pink too sometimes.) Everyone I knew was surprised she had died. We didn’t know she was sick. She was making jokes on Facebook just the other day. Her son announced her passing from cancer on her Page and invited folks to a graveside service at 2pm Thursday. He said there wouldn’t be a formal service. She didn’t want one.
There were a lot of people standing by the pile of dirty gravel and the hole in the snow. There was a big yellow excavator. It was cold and damp.The ambulance drove up and Al climbed out and told us to move around to the back of it. They’d bring her out that way, he said. (The ambulance doubles as a hearse, and the volunteer EMTs as undertakers and helpers.) The doors opened to muffled gasps.
She was wrapped like a mummy in a lovely quilt, rose and cream, tied with white bows from ankles to chest. They carried her out on a board and set it down on the 2X4s over the hole. Her son took his place near her. The rest of us gathered ’round. “Have you ever seen this before?” A friend whispered.
“No,” I said, adding, “Not here.” One man I wrote an obituary for was wrapped in linen after he died, but that was for a burial at sea.
“It’s… unexpected” another friend repeated. Wiping tears, she said, “I’m sorry. It’s just a bit of a shock, is all.”
Her son welcomed us, reaffirmed that there would not be any service, and said that his mother asked that he say just one thing today — he looked down at her, all bundled up– it was her wish, he said, to be buried in a shroud. Because it would be easier to get out of when “the zombie apocalypse” comes.
Some of us out of relief. ( I mean, we would have paid for a proper box if that was the issue.)
She looked more comfortable than any of us, all wrapped up tight in her cozy quilt.
It got real quiet. Then someone spoke, saying something nice about her. Other people started talking too, like in yoga. Taking turns. With pauses in between.
I did not take any pictures. It’s disrespectful.
But I want you to imagine this, and to see the friends and colleagues, former patients, neighbors, Facebook friends (yes, people made more of those Facebook connections, even locally, during the pandemic, and some of those budding relationships have blossomed) — all talking, laughing, crying, holding hands.
The rain began in earnest again, and the footing was so icy, and I didn’t want to stay too long and witness what happens next to the nurse and her clean quilt, but I wasn’t sure if it was okay to leave. Al leaned over and whispered something to her son, and then they invited us to walk up and around the grave and pay our final respects. A line formed and some people did that. I chose not to. It was too hard. I did hear someone ask her son what was in the pouch tied to the middle of the body-blanket, and he seemed surprised– it was a personal question– he paused, and said, “A photograph and three dog biscuits” for the dear pups that preceded her in death.
On my way home it rained hard enough to turn up the wipers. I cried for her, and us, and all the people I know in that cemetery. I blew my nose on the rag I used to wipe the fog off the windshield.
Maybe it’s just January, or maybe it’s the big moon tomorrow– but you know, perhaps, just perhaps– I’ll be buried in my favorite blanket too. Is that a weird thing to say?