Death is inevitable – as is the sheer absurdity that occurs when someone passes away. Lord knows I’m trying – quasi-successfully — to meander my way through the grieving process after losing my beloved Mom this week. It’s a struggle, but I’m also constantly struck by the overwhelming, goofy weirdness that keeps occurring.
For instance, the day Mom passed on someone from “Iowa Donor Services” called. Um — at midnight. Would we be inclined to donate Mom’s tissue to help burn victims – and, if so, could I answer some questions? “Sure, that would be fine,” I said. For the next forty minutes (!!!), I was sure I was being punked as the procedural Q&A ranged from random to obscure to unbelievably insipid. “Has your mom ever been bitten by a Tsetse fly?” (No.) “Has your mom ever had Ebola?” (Again, no.) “Has your mom ever been in contact with a rabid animal – including dogs, bats or vermin?” (Um, nope. She did, however, have a rabid pet raccoon as a small child though.) My favorite question? “Has your mother ever lived in a grass hut in Botswana or Tanzania before 1977?” Of course, I told them yes – just to screw with them bit. Big mistake. Turns out there were tons of sub-article questions pertaining to African grass huts.
Mom was wise/kind/controlling enough to have all of her funeral arrangements taken care of before she crossed over. Except for one tiny little detail. When the funeral director asked me what kind of music Mom would like at her visitation I announced, “Well, Mom was a HUGE Foghat fan. So maybe that and a lil’ Lynyrd Skynyrd. Maybe some CCR? Just play Freedom Rock!” The funeral director thought I was serious — as funerals are clearly serious business. Always go with ambient music, people. Later, she announced there would be cookies, coffee and tea served. I suggested perhaps a nice taco bar as well. She actually took it under advisement until – again – I informed her I was merely kidding.
In my life, I’ve been through exactly two major deaths. (Knock wood.) Because folks never know exactly what to do to help, they usually end up bringing over a casserole. We have a lot of casseroles in our house right now. They are much appreciated – because – hey, who doesn’t like comfort food? You really wanna make an impression? Bring some chilled Chardonnay while you’re at it. We’ll toast to mom. It’s kinda hard to toast with a fork full of “Asparagus Surprise”.
When someone dies, the phone starts ringing off the hook. Inexplicably, my dad has three numbers – so take the usual amount of calls and triple them. Most people just want to extend condolences, but then there are the people who call already in hysterics. I’m putting a mandate out right now to be calm, cool and collected when you ring our bell. You can have a nervous breakdown later in the conversation for all I care … but you better be composed when I pick up your call. Otherwise you’re getting the ultimate “buh-bye”.
During the grieving process, people you don’t know, don’t care about or don’t care for (or all three) want you to comfort them. I asked my best friend what to do – as she went through this whole unfortunate experience two weeks ago. Her advice was spot-on: “Somehow, in their awkward interactions, their pain will become more important that yours. Seriously. Walk away. Zip.com your mouth and walk away.” (Zip.com your mouth … I love that.)
What exactly have I learned over these past few – extremely odd, extremely gut wrenching – yet, extremely cathartic – days? Let’s recap, shall we? 1) My mom was an amazing, awesome human being – and rabies-free to boot. If you felt like you knew her because of my musings … well, that makes me (and made her) happy. 2) Go plan your funeral now so I don’t have to worry about it – and have a debate on playing John Fogerty during the services. 3) Bring wine. And 4) Don’t be an asshole. I’m sure there are a lot of other life lessons that I’ll write about later – but right now, I need a nap. My belly is full of comfort food … and I’m in a casserole-induced coma.
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