Rite I, Obituaries, The Blood Tastes Better At Home

I am resurrection, and I am life, saith the Lord.

So goes the Rite One burial of the dead. I heard my brother say these words (or close to these words) as we processed silently in on Thursday. We did not sing, no joyful hymn, no reading of words and notes all at once as you try not to tread on the person in front of you. Just a solemn procession. Thursday we buried the mother in law of my dear, dear friend and confirmation sponsor, Cindi, AKA, Lucinda.

On the Wednesday just before she and I visited Grace in Holland, we took Eucharist with Mother Jen, who hates to be called mother, and who I thought I would like to be like, with her cutout panels on her feminine alb, her lilac colored blouse and her kind eyes.  I found it striking that instead of a sermon she said, so, those readings had a lot of meat, let’s talk about them. And there commenced about ten minutes of discussion. We also visited St. Paul’s, and met Father Finn (Fenn? I don’t know, they have a newsletter from 2010 on their website so I am really not sure). He gave  us a blessing in Gaelic and muttered to himself as he served communion to himself. Both of these were distinctly different experiences for me.

My Cindi and I agreed that the communion wine was awful, I told her my next post was going to be titled, the body and blood of Christ taste better at my church. And she thought it would be a good confirmation class exercise to write our own obituaries. I can see how this is a helpful reminder of mortality and living into what is important to you, but I just can’t, not yet.

Tonight, as the grill heated and the rice simmered, I was reading Anne Lamott’s book called Bird by Bird, in which she talks about the process of writing. She was talking about writing as a present, as a gift. She talked about how she took all of the humor and the sorrow and difficulty of watching her father die and put it in a book and that he got to read it. It was interesting because then Casey came in and said, my mom says that my grandma is pretty bad. All the kids are coming.

Ironic that he would come and announce this as I am reading about the gift of having that last and awful and heroic story to give to a loved one, all of the sighs and the pains and the secret thoughts put plain on paper with ink.

I have always and only known this grandmother as an old woman who is bent over, she has a white bun, and small glasses. She has always reminded me of someone that I just can’t quite place, I can’t tell you who. She is calm, and she is sweet. She raised all those kids, TEN! kids. She lost one to a shallow river, a dive, a fearless boy. She lays in a hospital bed now, soon to be surrounded by her children, most of whom are grandparents themselves, who have endured the hardship years,  years of small children and never enough money and second guessing every decision you’ve ever made.

This woman was a devout Catholic. She left that church and became an evangelical, like the charismatic kind. Last I knew there were not actual rites or sacraments in that sort of a church. And so I wonder now, as the sun sets and the daffs are coming up next to two feet of snow in my front yard, I wonder if she can see the purple of the sky tonight. I wonder if she is thinking of another night, long past, where she had waited so long for spring. I wonder if she longs for Last Rites, to be anointed and blessed. I wonder if she can see that fearless boy, that husband of so many years. Maybe they are sitting peaceably on a bench with fishing poles. I am sure they know she is coming. I am sure they are listening for her footfalls on the path.

Her husband, Casey’s grandpa, had very strong views on everything, so, naturally, ran up against Casey’s father on pretty much every issue. Casey says he remembers going up to visit their place in Scottville and how she would feed all the barn cats, all those metal pie plates glistening with milk in the morning sun, the absolute stampede of felines, the little tow haired boy who was my husband being utterly overwhelmed with kittens as grandma went back inside to make a huge breakfast and the other cousins raced around like dervishes.

I kept having to walk away from this, to let my computer sleep and lock me out and force me to type a complicated and asinine password. There was dinner and showers and mom come watch this! And then, because I waited, I started to question myself. Good old Anne Lamott reminded me to tell the truth. I think I have.

The sky is dark dark blue now, almost black, shining with bright stars. The kids are asleep and Casey is “resting”. I’ll give the obit a shot.

Alicia Hager, born August 21, 1979 passed suddenly today.

Alicia loved to write and felt it was the best possibly way to externalize all that the world forced her to take in. Alicia was an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven where she sang in the choir and organized the Annual Spring Fling, which was a fundraiser for the church. Alicia loved to sing, especially the old gospel style hymns she was raised with.

She became a fully confirmed member of the Episcopal church on the Great Vigil of Easter, 2015 in service that was breathtaking and reverent and included the baptism of a dear friend. Alicia often said that she allowed her heart to open at St. John’s, and that it was so very hard, and so very worth it. Alicia often said that we belong to each other.

Alicia always wanted to learn to play the piano, but sadly, didn’t have time. Alicia loved to read and felt that words were actual and true nourishment. She loved all the ridiculous antics of her cats, and one noble old dog.

Alicia is survived by her loving husband of 9 years, who will never be able to locate his wallet or his socks again, and her two beautiful children, Kaia and Avery. Alicia said often that her daughters were the best things she ever did, and the hardest.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by VBK, with services at St. John’s Episcopal. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Loving Spoonfuls soup kitchen or the Ministry of Music and Fine Arts at St. John’s.

Ok. So it wasn’t terribly difficult. But it wasn’t pleasant.

Anyhow. I hope you got to see the sky tonight. I hope you got to feel the sun on your face today after such a long and hopeless winter. Even in the midst of our penitential season I still believe we can take comfort, and offer it too.

I will call my own mother in law tomorrow. I will listen to her as she maybe cries quietly, it is a large thing to lose one’s mother. And tomorrow I will see my own mother.

And the sky will bruise up again and the stars will come out. And all of those who’ve gone before us will carry on up there, sitting on their benches with their fishing poles, waiting for the sound of a familiar foot fall.

These fleeting charms of earth, farewell, your springs of joy are dry. My soul now seeks another home, a brighter world on high. 

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