Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts on a Funeral

My mother-in-law, Sally, has been laid to rest.   Her funeral was held Saturday, November 20 in St. Christopher's Catholic Church in San Jose, California.  The priest who presided was her own son, who flew in from the Philippines to deliver her eulogy and lead the services. 

I knew my mother-in-law for 37 years.  I met her on the same night that I met my future wife.  Two people, who didn't particularly like each other at first, grew to love each other in the years that followed.  Sally didn't like this white guy who she was sure was out to seduce her daughter; and the white guy (me) didn't like this combative hen who was ready to scratch my eyes out for sniffing around her prize chick.  I married her prize chick, without her permission, and then things began to improve. 

When our baby boy came along, Sally was overwhelmed by the child's perfection (as perceived from a grandmother's eyes), and came to visit him every weekend.  She just wanted to sit and stare at him.  She said he was the most beautiful child she had ever seen.  On his first birthday, Sally gave her grandson a big cake, without icing, placed on her coffee table where he could tear into it with his tiny hands, stuffing the pieces into his mouth.  I loved that she did this.  It made me realize that Sally and I were kindred spirits.

When two bloodlines mingle in a single child, it represents the juncture at which two families join together and become one.  Nothing unifies two people like a common love for the same child, a child to whom both are related, me as the father, she as the grandmother.  We became fast friends from that point on and loved each other like any natural relatives would.  And Sally didn't object when almost all of her younger daughters married Americans, one by one, adding greatly to her supply of beautiful grandchildren, several of whom (the boys) were pall-bearers at her funeral, while others (the girls) sang.

November 20, 2010, the day of interment, was rain-soaked, blustery and cold.  After the service, we followed the hearse to Oak Hill where Sally's body was placed in one of those wall tombs where many are laid to rest.  Her spot was about half way up the wall, in the middle.  I always wondered how they got coffins into those high spaces.  They use a special lift, with places on either side for workmen to stand, and raise the coffin up to the open space where it is slid head-first, on rollers, into the space.

As the coffin was lifted skyward toward its final resting place, I was struck by the sight of two of Sally's sons, one of them the priest, holding each other and sobbing loudly. Encircling the scene was a crowd of uplifted faces watching the coffin's ascent, drenched in tears and haggard with grief.  One of Sally's daughters shouted a last, emotional message: "I love you mommy!"

Sally, you were loved.

The coffin was inserted into the space, which was then sealed with a square metal plate using common white spackle. Secured over that was the decorative stone plate, bearing the name and dates of the deceased, i.e. the year of birth and the year of death. Sally’s read:

S.... T M.......
1926 - 2010

How strange it seemed to me, to see her familiar name like that:  as an inscription on a tombstone.  How odd, that a person so loved could be reduced to such brevity.

Our final act of the day was to retire to Sally's favorite restaurant, Khan's, to eat and visit with one another before departing.


Adrienne said...

What's with anon??

A lovely post for a lovely lady. I will offer my Mass up for her today...

Stogie said...

Adrienne, anon was just spamming. I deleted his message.

Thanks for your thoughts on Sally.

Always On Watch said...

Sally does indeed sound like a wonderful lady.

So good that she did reconcile to your having married her daughter.

Stogie said...

AOW, well 37 years is a lot of time to mend fences! :)

Yes, Sally and I loved the same people and it's hard not to love each other under those circumstances.

kate said...

Journée émouvante et bien décrite Stogie ...

Stogie said...

Kate says the day was moving and well described.

Thank you Kate.