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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I haven't been able to focus on an idea and write for awhile. Thoughts came to me but by the time I fidgeted and fulminated the thought was gone. I think this began last week when I attended another friend's funeral. This was a lady in her late eighties, and I have known her for quite awhile. I used to spend a little time in her home almost every month, not a lot, but enough to be fond of her.

She was a member of our church and we were given the opportunity to make some food to serve to her family following the funeral. It happened at a time when Janet was having a lot of pain in her feet and legs, and was still concerned with her broken wrist, so I decided that I wouldn't bother her. I actually cooked a turkey, but decided that it would be better appreciated by my family since Jan hasn’t really been able to cook for a while and both of my local sons have been down with colds or flue.

I finally put together a casserole that I like, and took it to the person who was organizing the dinner, but missed her, so I ended up carrying this massive penne pasta casserole thirty miles to the funeral then passing it off to be provided for a family group meal. Somehow I wasn't organized and though it was a very nice funeral (as funerals go) I went home that forenoon with a disquieting feeling, and was a bit fidgety all day.

The next day, I sat at the computer and organized the way I would like my final arrangements to be organized. I am not kidding, I picked the songs and those whom I would like to sing, and did all the rest of the funeral and burial stuff. I know it sounds morbid as it can be, but it wasn't that way. It was a bit shocking for my kin when I gave copies of what I had done to my wife and two of my sons and asked if they approved, or would make suggestions, but they, sort of, got into it, and now I have a signed, witnessed document (which of course, they can all ignore when the time comes, if they wish) and for some reason I felt like I had accomplished something worth while. I could have been repairing the dead Dodge Caravan in the back yard, or finishing the hook-up on the hot tub, or shampooing the carpets, all of which would have made Janet's life happier, but I did my morbid little thing.

When you are an old coot, strange things affect you. I find myself reading the obituaries, and being pleased when all of the participants are: 1. older than I am, and 2. not people I know. But I really am emotional right now. I just got a phone call letting me know that one of my best friends had just been over to another best friend's house, and had discovered him (the second friend) lying dead there. He had just come home from Atlanta where he had been baby sitting some of his grandchildren while his son and daughter in law were out in Utah looking for a new home (His son is a computer geek and had taken a new job for some outfit in Utah). He had just come back home, and I was looking forward to seeing him this weekend, and now he is gone.

He was just a little older than I, and from all appearances, a lot healthier. His wife was one of the three ladies in our local congregation that all passed away within two weeks, a few months ago. I had performed the marriage ceremony for him and his wife on Valentine's day about twenty or thirty years ago. And we had worked together very closely in both our church lives and in other mutual interests. I am just stunned. I have been weeping on and off for two or three hours, shuffling through very pleasant memories. (I am not really sure why I am weeping at pleasant memories, but I am, in fact I am dribbling a little bit on my keyboard.). Death is a companion to coots. I used to fear death a little.

I have climbed four story ladders to wander around in what theatre folks call the "fly" up above the stage completely without fear, and climbed staging(platforms) to work on both bricks and steel, but when I was climbing poles -some pretty high- to attach wires for Railroad Communication systems, and jumping out of airplanes training for what ended up an aborted career as a smoke jumper, and stuff like that, I often just knew that I was going to die and didn't want to.

Now, I am more concerned that I must finish saying the things I need to say to my children and grandchildren, make sure that our housing situation is solved (owning two houses, one of which is empty is a pain- one that I share with my youngest son but he's paying on both mortgages and I'm just paying, well, one and a half). I want to finish a memoir that I began ten years ago (You folks who read this have read quite a bit from that memoir), not that I expect anyone but my descendents to read it, but I want the feeling of haunting those who don't read it. Other than the fact that I don't want to go till I have finished a lot of that stuff, I no longer fear death. I really expect it to be just one of those transitions that always come along a foul up our plans.

Even though I feel this way, I am still weeping- the tears have stopped since I started writing- but inside I am still weeping for my friend. I am confident that he is in a better place, holding his wife's hand as she no longer suffers so much pain, but somehow, the tears are still at the back of my eyes, probably to seep through as I have finished the page.


At 9:33 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Ever since I "died" on the operating table ten years ago I've lived one day at a time knowing it was a bonus.

I stopped going to funerals 25 years ago when a close friend died - a Chinese guy, one of the pharmacists with whom I did night shift for 7 years. He was younger than me and had recently gotten married and had his first son. He was killed in a freak accident. Seeing his mother look at her dead son in the coffin cure me of funerals for ever. As Jesus said: "Let the dead bury the dead."

But I know that as I get older I will have to attend my peers funerals out of respect. I don't intend to have a funeral. I've made arrangements for my corpse to be removed and burnt immediately.

BTW Just in case you don't see this:

You hit the nail one the head when you commented on my blog about Mahndisa.

You said: "The only thing I thought of was Mahndisa's comment that she didn't know if there has ever been a politician with integrity. I think that one of the things that ticks me off most about the Clintons and their ilk is that they promote this thought. I have worked with a lot of politicians over the years. The best-man at my wedding became a politician and so many of them are serious, caring, and want to do a good job."

I replied to you: "Exactly. Richard. Maybe Mahndisa has fallen prey to leftist cynicism. Funny thing is my best friend in high school (who was a Mormon) became a politician and was a practical, sensible man and the best mayor we ever had."

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Norma said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. This type of thing happens more and more as we age. My husband made a remark yesterday about when we would be married 75 years (I'd be 95) and the first thing I thought and haven't been able to shake was who would be left who knew me? What you've done in making your funeral wishes known will be a help to your own family. Ours is on file at our church--although frankly, I don't recall what we decided!


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