Monday, April 15, 2013

21 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Welcome to the middle (ohmygod will it never end?) of a long conversation between an Aunt and the Niece she has never met, who has been sent by the family to "help orgainize." Do not read any part of this as if it were a completed story or you will be disappointed. In 2007, my strategy for Nanowrimo was to call my efforts 'literary' and use that as an excuse to dump ideas and references that had been collecting in my mind and desk and files for years. I skipped linear progression.]

[I also skipped quotation marks and dialog tags. They may or may not go back. I kind of like the ambiguity.]

[Barbara has collected stacks of notes and is reading from them as she and her Aunt Sheila sit on a log in a meadow an undetermined distance away from nearby houses. The point of their exercise is to enter things into a database and throw the pieces of paper away.]

Here’s another one that sounds like a family thing. 

On Thursday, July 7, 2005 at 2 o'clock, a memorial service was held for GSB, known to his friends and family as G, in the town of K, near K2, Idaho.  The casket was made locally of cedar wood and was the only casket available that wasn't polished to a scary shine. There was an insert inside the lid of the casket with an embroidered elk, but you couldn't see that during the service because the lid was down.  Mom had decided that she'd have trouble looking at him for the full hour of the service and I think it was a good call on her part.

The casket was topped with grape vines and roses from Mom and Gerry's yard.  There was a shiny, wavy picture of Jesus on his knees in the garden of Gethsemane with a sunbeam illuminating his face in the night, in a thick gold plastic frame on the wall over the casket.  There were two waist-high pillar stands on either side of the casket.  One held a vase of silk flowers, a prop that the funeral home kept on hand.  The other held yellow lilies, the trumpet kind, like easter or tiger lilies. Those had been sent in remembrance.  There was also an arrangement of daisy-shaped chrysanthemums and white roses on the floor in front of the casket.

There was piped music before the service started, but during the service the songs Amazing Grace and The Old Rugged Cross were accompanied by piano.  The pianist was the same woman who had played at their wedding.  I think her name was Dot.  I'll ask Mom. 

There were a couple dozen people who came to pay their respects.  There were people from their church and people from Mom's quilting group and people that Gerry hunted or fished or shot pistols with.  A few people couldn't make it because of their own ill health or that of a family member.

Bob the preacher did the service.  I've heard Mom talking about the Senior Center a lot, but I hadn't realized that she and Gerry had quit their church and started following Bob, who had started up a congregation that met at the Center.  The funeral director was also named Bob and I'll say more about him later.

Pastor Bob said some very nice things about Gerry.  He was obviously someone who had known him well.  He also said things about how devoted Mom and Gerry were to each other.  And then there was about half an hour about how it didn't matter how nice you were, you could only get into heaven by accepting Jesus.  The image that sticks most in my mind was one about riding a roller coaster and how none of us could measure up to the line on the sign that said you had to be this tall to ride.  I'm sure he had no idea that I kept seeing kids coming up to the sign and standing on top of Jesus, who had gotten down on his hands an knees to boost them all up.  It was during that section of the service that I got to looking at the picture on the wall enough to notice the waves in it.

At the end of the service, Pastor Bob read a note that S had emailed to us the day before, for the service.  It was touching and warm and caused more than a few sniffs and eye-dabs.  If you've had a chance to read it, you'll know what I mean when I say that Mom showed me pictures of the World's Largest Beagle later that night.

Other people were then invited to share stories about G.  One of his hunting buddies shared a few hunting stories.  It was funny to learn that G's voice had been low enough to cause bull moose to call in answer to him.  One had challenged him directly enough that they had been afraid it was going to charge.  You only get a moose stamp for your hunting license by lottery, you see, and none of them had one that year.  So if they shot it to protect themselves, there would have been a lot of explaining at the least, and maybe a stiff fine.  But in the end it had decided that an attack was unnecessary.

G had encouraged one man to 'follow a calling' and start preaching.  He had done carpentry work on almost every church in that section of the valley.  He was almost the only active elder in the little congregation at the Senior Center, where he and Mom went to church.  They also delivered lunches and dinners for the shut-ins that the Center served.

After the service, which was held on the second floor of the funeral home, we drove to the cemetery, which was located on a road labeled Dead End.  G was a World War II veteran, so there was an honor guard waiting at the cemetery.  The two flag holders were middle aged.  One was a woman from Mom's quilting club.  Mom hadn't expected to see her there, but she thought it was nice. The rest of the guard ranged from upper middle age to barely able to walk.  There were a couple of men with no guns and a couple with guns that were not part of the salute.  There were only six men with guns in the salute guard and the little shaky guy on the far end only got one shot off, if that.  Mom said she was pretty sure he fired the first time and I'm not going to argue.

There was also a spokesman and a chaplain and the service at the graveside was very respectful and patriotic.  The spokesman had a cane.  He presented the folded flag to Mom.  After the service, he collected three spent shells from the salute to be kept folded in the flag.  He said that he had been surprised to see her - that he knew her and G, but hadn't known their last name, so that he had come out not knowing that he was coming to the funeral of someone he knew.  I think that was true for one or two other people in the guard, too.

At four, we went to the Senior Center for a pot luck dinner.  We had gone there earlier in the day to make a delivery.  The night before we had gotten some of G's things together to make a display table at the dinner.  There was a big picture of him in a white-water raft and a good-sized picture of him holding a 32 inch salmon.  There was a picute album and his bow and arrows and a big frame holding dozens of pistol sharpshooting medals.  There were two shooting jackets with lots of patches and two bibles that he used a lot.  There was a little framed verse that had hung in his parent's home and a little brown beer stein that had been his father's.  It was ceramic and had a whistle molded into the top of the handle.  "Whistle for more beer" was written on it in white.  We took pictures of the table, so you can check out everything I've forgotten to mention.

I said I was going to talk about Bob the Funeral Director, and I guess it goes here as well as anywhere.  He had a quiet, understanding demenor.  He had a list of things that needed to be done and decided.  It was kind of like working with a wedding planner.  G had taken out an insurance policy, with the paperwork at the Funeral Home, to cover the expenses.  I don't think it covered everything, but it covered a big chunk of it.  Bob handled cashing it in.  He also arranged the military funeral and he'll arrange the military plaque, if Mom decides to use it.  I liked the fact that he seemed most concerned that things be set up the way the family was most comfortable with and had no problem with pointing out which items were least expensive, because he knew that both G and Mom weren't interested in spending money on stuff to be buried, just as a general principle.

I'll figure out a way to wrap up this later.  It's late.  We're all going to miss G.  He was a nice guy.
That was for the same woman.  No cookies for that one.  She was in Idaho for awhile after that, staying with her Mom.


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