Wednesday, February 21, 2007

But where are the sleeping lady's feet, mom?

On Friday a woman from my congregation passed away. I had bought her a card and just never got around to sending it. She was in the hospital for a few weeks and then they moved her into a nursing home and I kept telling myself to get the address, but I never did. Today was her funeral. Don't know what your church does on funeral day, but in ours the tradition is the ladies bust their bum working all morning preparing a hot meal, after working all evening the night before preparing sandwiches and cake for the prayer service. When I was a working woman, I rarely experienced this unique gathering of women who are dedicated to providing the entire extended family and hundreds of guests a great homemade meal. One lady was there before I left the house this morning to drop my dd off at preschool. So I hurried home and dressed and cleaned up the spilt grape juice off the carpet and got super boy ready and headed across the street to the fellowship hall. By this time there were three women, in full force, cackling and laughing, cutting cake and unwrapping the biggest hams I had ever seen. I jumped right in and got the electric knife out to coax my arthritic wrists into slicing the hams. At least a ham and a half into the cubing, my son comes up to me and says, "mom, who is that man sleeping in the church?" At first, I had no idea what he was alluding to, I thought perhaps the funeral director was power napping before the family arrived and I kept right on cutting and chopping. Until I realized that he was talking about the body. She was a thin woman with short, straight, white hair and he had mistaken her for a male. I couldn't believe the casket was open and that I had let my son stumble upon something so foreign without any explanation at all. We have the tradition of cremation in my family and it is not very often that we see the body after death. My son, in his three short years, had never seen anyone in a casket. Thinking as fast as I could I proceeded to tell my son about this woman and how she got sick and died, just like Grandpa T. Her soul is in heaven now, I explained and we are throwing her a goodbye party, called a funeral. He listened intently and asked a few other questions about where heaven was and if all grandparents go there and finally after a few seconds of silence he said, "But where are her shoes?" He thought that the body was only half there and with good reason. The bottom half of her body was completely hidden by a tiny curtain and a lid. I washed my hands and lifted him up and we came and looked at the body and I explained how she was lying down and there were two doors on her casket and one was open and one was closed. Satisfied, he hopped down and continued driving his motorcycle in to the hall. I sighed and my brain relaxed and I felt glad to have had this little lesson in life, although I was completely unprepared to teach it.
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