As briefly mentioned earlier this week (late last week? I have no idea; any more my week is one big day I refer to as Sumotuwedthsday), my aunt was very seriously ill. Very Seriously Ill quickly progressed and, early yesterday morning, she passed away.
This was a rough one, guys. I won’t lie. I’m currently coping with Haagen-Dasz gelato.
Sooo, tomorrow is the viewing, followed by the service on Monday and then the ever popular Family Funeral Trek to Fairmont, where we all go to the same little cemetery on the same little hill and try not to be blown away by hurricane force winds. This is actually the first time that we’ve gone in the summer time, so that will be nice. My family likes to die in cold weather. I don’t know why, but we do. My dad died on the coldest day of 2007, followed by the funeral service on the second coldest day of 2007. The holy water froze on the casket. And, you may remember from previous posts, I’m not Catholic. But my Baptist minister father’s best friend was a Russian Orthodox Priest. And they hung out with a Jewish Rabbi.
I don’t talk much about religion on here because, look, I have my beliefs. I’m sure you have yours. I say we just be friends for who we are and accept each other for that–that’s what Jesus did. But, if you’re curious, my beliefs are Christianity and I don’t think death is The End, it’s more the beginning. Didn’t Indiana Jones say that death was the ultimate adventure? Anyway, as you may remember from this post from October, my uncle passed away. So, my aunt and my uncle are together again and that’s a good thing.
God gives you strength when you need it. This is how I attribute to not losing my mind or eating my way across the eastern seaboard when my dad was terminally ill. We deal with death by laughter. And, look, my life is one tornado of chaos and hilarity often ensures. This is what I brought to the table when we got The Call on Thursday night. The “you’d better get down here” call.
I’d already told my mother (my aunt was her sister) that I wasn’t doing the bedside vigil again. And yes, I ended up doing the bedside vigil. But, prior to that, The Hubs and I threw the kids in the car and drove 40 minutes to the hospital, oh, lets just call it The Hospital on the Bad Side of town. I brought a sweater and a notebook. And four tissues.
Now, The Hospital on The Bad Side of Town is notoriously the place where a coworker went to visit her ailing mother and drove past a man wandering around the sidewalk completely naked. With this in mind, the decision was made that I would stay and The Hubs and the boys would go home. Fine. So, we attempted to find an entrance. “Leave me by the Emergency Room,” I suggested. “I’ll find an orderly and I’ll get in. I’ll blend in with the EMS folk.”
“No, no,” The Hubs said. “I’ll get you to the elevators.”
So, then we’re driving around the parking garage, which looks more like the Mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings, looking for the elevators. Then we’re driving the wrong way up the parking garage. Then, The Hubs realized he needed to pay the fare card before he could leave. So, I offered to stay with the boys while he paid and then make a mad dash to the newly discovered elevators to the left. And probably not get murdered in the process. Probably.
And all I could think was, “I’m in the parking garage. After dark. Lock. The. Doors.”
The next thing you know, we’re driving back down the parking garage and almost slam directly into the exit booth, resulting in The Hubs now driving in reverse up the parking garage, doing an illegal u-turn, and finally parking.
“Oh my God.” I said.
“I’ll pay the ticket.” He storms off.
When he came back, I said, “So, did you pay the ticket?”
“The first fifteen minutes are free.” He said. “We have thirty seconds to get out of here before it costs us four bucks.”
So, now, we’re driving about 110 mph back down the parking garage, jamming the ticket in the meter-thing, and then flying back outside. Where he proceeded to let me out of the car on the sidewalk..
Which is where I wanted to be in the first place.
Now I have to find my mother. Not surprisingly, there’s no cell phone service. So, I leap into the first elevator that opens, no doubt looking like a scared cat at this point, and just start pushing buttons. Then, somehow, I convinced myself everyone else on the elevator was going the same way I was, so I leapt right back off at the next stop. Then had to get right back on (Floor 1, dummy, not 1A!). Now, I’m on the hospital level. I saw my aunt’s pastor walking down a flight of stairs so I thought, hey, that must be it. I walked up…..and was back in the parking garage. Turned. Ran.
Found my mother. My mother, and a historical display about the history of Nursing and The Hospital on the Bad Side of Town. I said, “But history!! History I’ll never see again!!”
As I relayed this information to my cousin, after nearly losing my purse in the elevator doors, she laughed and said, “We needed you here the whole time during this. You’re the life of the party!”
I’m Special Edition, that’s what I am. And I get that, as well as my propensity for humor, from my dad.
So, with all this death and despair fresh in my mind, I determined it was time to make My Will. So, I did that today. Now, the Living Will was horrifying and way too much to consider. Withhold this, don’t withhold that. It was like taxes, but taxes and death. The regular old will wasn’t bad. I giggled inappopriately at the instructions, instructing me to divide “my bounty” because, really, is a VCR, a PlayStation, and two loveseats “a bounty?” Are my children going to fight over who gets the VCR and my copy of “The Sandlot” on VCR tape?
But, you know, figured out who gets the kids. Who gets “the bounty.” Made Golden Girls references about my ability to navigate will prep software mainly due in part to how close I sit to the TV when I watch “la Law” (instead of L.A. Law, come on people, watch some reruns. I can’t be the only one laughing). Told my mother and The Hubs that I want buried, not cremated and checked the toggle box to make it official.
I feel a bit responsible after all this. A bit, adultish. Sometimes responsibility is unsettling, especially when you’re determining who gets all your stuff when you die and if you want those people to stick you in the ground, or put you in a jar on the mantle.
I once read you can now opt to be buried in a cornmeal box and have a plant planted with you. Then, in theory, as you decompose, your molecules will bind with the molecules of the plant and, in a way, you’ll live forever. Assuming your family has picked a good plant full of longevity and not like, a tomato plant or something. I relayed this to a friend.
“Fine.” She said. “But the Bible says after the Second Coming of Christ, the dead in Christ shall rise. What are you going to do if you’re all bound with a plant?”
“Well,” I said. “Then, dammit, I’ll be the only Ent lumbering down the street in plant form.”
She considered this. “I hope the dead rise alphabetically so I can see Zombie Plant Heather strolling around town.”
Now that responsibility is out-of-the-way, on with the show. July stared out awesome with Gettysburg, rapidly began to suck with quasi-natural disasters, illness, and rejection, and now we’re rounding third base with a death in the family. It can only go up from here. Yes, the next few days will blow. But death, like taxes and authorly rejection, is inevitable. We can’t bypass it. But we can cope with it. And, this family copes with it with a smile. We’ll think of the good times, say something inappropriate, and laugh til we pee. Then we’ll laugh at that.
Still, though, I love you Aunt Lynda. And I miss you already.
(Special shout out to my mother: Pumpernickel!!!!!)