“For whatever you think of me, any thought you might allow
I’m not who I would like to be, it’s just who I am right now” – ‘Fragile’ by Ralston Bowles
There I sat, alone by design, at another funeral. It’s the fourth or fifth one since April and I was looking toward another one in a week or so for my brother-in-law. I sat alone because there were so many long-time friends and acquaintances at this service and I couldn’t face them. This was a service for Gary’s family and I didn’t want to draw attention to my own griefs. One more condolence and I knew I’d lose it so there I sat, in the middle of a row, with four seats on either side of me trusting that no one would recognize the back of my head.
There were some solid musicians playing at Gary’s service, the minister who officiated at my wedding. They were there to pay tribute. I’ve heard Ralston Bowles play many times over the years and he’s a flippin’ musical genius. But today, his voice was singularly beautiful as he sang one of Gary’s favorite songs by Andraé Crouch. For a moment I forgot myself as I listened to him. I forgot where I was or why I was there. Ralston had transported me for a brief moment and I am truly thankful.
I really thought I could do this. I thought I could come and share the grief of another family and offer comfort. But once the service was over and I spoke to a couple friends I realized I could not stay. I was saved by a text. A friend had gotten lost on the way to the service wondered if I could meet her for lunch. Yes, oh yes! I had to get out of there.
And so I said some goodbyes, signed the guest book and fled.
Now I’m home, changed and in solitude. I’ve received an email from my sister-in-law who has taken me up on my offer to come stay with her. In fact, she’s asked if I’d come down before the funeral to help. I’m more than glad to be of some help and comfort and will be leaving soon. I can do one on one. It’s crowds of people I can’t deal with right now because I’m feeling quite fragile.
If you are interested in learning more about Ralston Bowles and his music, go to https://www.earthworkmusic.com/artists-ind?i=1039
You can hear his music here: https://www.reverbnation.com/ralstonbowles
When our good friend died recently, my heart was broken into thousands of pieces. Not only did we lose Don, but it refreshed the grief of losing his wife three years earlier. One of my longest friendships and most dear, I thought my heart couldn’t break any more.
I was wrong.
Monday, after work, Mike sat down and said, “Chaz* has died.” I stared at him and thought he had lost his mind. Our brother-in-law is a healthy, intelligent, vibrant, and engaging man. He and Mike’s sister were due for a visit soon. This simply did not make sense. My mind was struggling with what he was saying and I kept saying, “No” over and over. Mike had to be wrong but the sadness in his eyes finally convinced me and I broke into wracking sobs.
Among his many accomplishments, Chaz had been a pilot for decades. He flew in the Navy and continued to fly privately when he got out of the military. As an engineer, he worked in aeronautics and when he retired he spent time with other retirees refurbishing aircraft. He had built his own planes over the years. His cars were not parked in the garage, since parts of planes inhabited that space. A couple of years ago he purchased a glider and was enjoying it immensely.
Sunday, he took the glider for another flight. It was a lovely day for it and he was happy to be in the air again. When he wasn’t back by late afternoon a member of the glider club contacted the local sheriff’s office to see if there had been any reports of a downed plane. The search began. Through pinging his cell phone, he and the plane were found. Chaz was pronounced dead at the scene.
My heart, which has been ravaged by loss over the past few years, is broken even more. Our family is overwhelmed with grief and it seems to be never ending. Prayers are always appreciated.
Most likely, this blog will be on hiatus. I trust you’ll understand that.
*His name has been changed to protect his wife’s and family’s privacy.
The morning was shrouded in fog which gave it a quiet beauty. As we pulled into the cemetery, a group of mourners emerged from the mist to our left. I pointed to Mike and said, “Over there” and we made our way to the small group. Today was the day we’d join Don with Jan. The weather was fitting.
Mike and I joined their children and one grandchild to lay him to rest. As we waited, we reminisced. Stories of Don and stories of Jan. Laughter, tears and waiting. And waiting. And even more waiting. Where the heck was Don? Wasn’t the internment at 9? One daughter said she thought she remembered 9:30 and that number sort of tugged at my memory, too. But the sexton was there waiting as well, and the family hadn’t contacted him. The funeral director must have arranged for him to be here this morning.
After about twenty minutes, another daughter went over to speak with the sexton to see if he had any info. He called the funeral director who was still in another (very close) town and would be there shortly. There had been a mix-up on the calendar, but the delay gave us more time to remember, talk, weep and hug. Earlier, I had mentioned to Mike that I was out of tears. I was wrong and they fell freely. Again.
Turns out, Don was late for his own funeral. An irony since he was a very prompt and considerate man. But it is also funny and he’d appreciate the pun. The late Don Upp.
Rest in peace, Don. You are deeply missed.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.