Sharon, a local artist of some renown, said to me, "you know what it's like. I'm afraid for when it happens to me." Well, it did happen this past Sunday and that Tuesday I went to her father's funeral in Florida. My mother has passed on about 2 1/2 years ago. Having a
routine in my life has been hard fought for, and breaking that routine, even for a funeral, is one more adjustment. I was asked to transport Helen, a lady in her 80's, originally from Poland, who had worked at Sharon’s father's blouse factory in Brooklyn for 15 years. Helen
did not receive my help at first graciously. I had to sell myself, and that wasn’t easy because the air conditioner in my car was not working. Still, her reserve and suspicion was a taste of the old world.
On the funeral grounds I went to ask a manager for directions and he misdirected us. Later, he recognized his error and found Helen and I at the wrong funeral and redirected us. We barely made it. At the services it was hot and muggy and I felt a bit awkward.
I was surprised to see a lady rabbi. She ended up giving a very appropriate service; quoting David's psalm 23, singing sadly but pleasantly, and kept a nice pace. All around indifferent workmen went about their business so this wasn't easy. This was a mausoleum burial
and we were outside. The older people sat in the middle on chairs, the rest of us stood on the sides. I still felt some resistance, selfishly cautious about becoming too absorbed by the experience.
Sharon then spoke and, performer that she is, animatedly thanked each person for being there, recognizing their sacrifice of time and spoke of each person’s relationship to her father.
Those that made it there had a special place in her heart and she wouldn't forget it. Nice. This, plus a slight rear breeze helped me relax into the moment. Suddenly, my insides started churning, not necessarily in a bad way. I became conscious of death and how everything I did, we all did, seem so irrelevant. I then looked at the older people sitting on the chairs and their frailty and I felt fearful of becoming like them. Then Sharon said her father would be in "heaven," a word I would not expect from her. She wasn't religious at all. Upon hearing this something connected in me. I felt close to the death realm, and saw its immensity and expanse and saw how minute life itself actually was. It was just one stop on the AA train headed uptown. How could we not live and be conscious of this more? It's almost like we're in a daze. Later I ran into Linda, a local Delray Beach lady active in the arts, local affairs, politics, business, her kids' meanderings, and said we should be closer to this other realm and more removed from everything else. The funeral made this clear. She agreed mightily and then told me she liked a new project I had been working on. Nice to hear.
After giving Helen a lift home we parted with good vibes. She had said she enjoyed meeting me. I then drove to Sharon's place where there were people and food. At first communication was forced and awkward, and I impatiently corrected Sharon's 89 year old mother for taking bites out of food and putting it back on the common table. She said she didn't know what she was doing. Gradually, the men and women, who, for the most part were neat and looked well, began, at least from my perspective, to blend together in a sea of acceptance. Who were we, after all, in comparison to this thing called "death?" We were all humbled and small and hence gentle with one another. We all had this life in common at this particular unique time amidst the vastness of everything. Ah, this event felt normal and everything else seemed strange. Why not huddle when we can?
I finally felt relaxed with myself and some people were comfortable around me because of this. My worries over the future, fears and doubts, mellowed out. Death reaffirmed life and was not closure but an opening to what is more, to what is needed. The path forward is to look in this direction, and skip hop from hope to faith to wonder and repeat this, bringing our entire selves along including fear and doubt, even if they have to be dragged kicking and screaming.