My husband and I live in a hundred plus year-old home. It has a mail slot beside the front door where the mail person drops the mail everyday and it plops on the floor. I love that!
One day I found an envelope addressed to me in an unfamiliar handwriting. (Finding any mail that is hand-addressed now a-days is a novelty.) When I opened the envelope, my mother’s obituary fell out onto the floor. It had been at least eight or nine years since my mother’s death. This was one of those bookmarks made by the mortuary that buried my mother, where they laminate a copy of your loved one’s obituary and make family members a book mark. (This isn’t just a Louisiana thing either, cause we have one from my mother-in-law’s funeral and she was buried in Texas.) Many emotions flooded. I often can not put into words the feelings I am having. I hate it when my husband asks me how I feel…”I don’t know!”, I often want to shout! But none the less, emotions flooded.
When I was in college and going through my “oh, I am so philosophical” stage, I thought traditional rituals were archaic and silly. Now that I am 52, I still believe that is true of many traditions and rituals, however, with age and experience, I have come to understand and even appreciate some traditions. During my college years, one of the young men in my business fraternity died in a car accident and many of the club members were going to the funeral. I declined to go. Part of it was that I am just naturally a shy person, and tend to opt out of unfamiliar things. But part of it was, that I thought funerals were archaic. I would remember him and think of him and that was what was important. (I wish life had a rewind button.) Another young man that was friends with my college roommates died the next year. I had met him and hung out with him, but again, did not feel that going to a funeral would change anything. I would stay home and listen to sad music and be philosophical! (rewind)
No one close to me had died. I had not had the experience of going to a funeral of someone that I knew other than a remote relative or two. At my mother’s funeral, the church was filled to overflowing. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were there. I grew up in a small town of only 250 people. Everyone knew everyone. My mother was a quintessential southern women who touched lives spread out over a large geographical area. I was touched by every person there. I wondered why more people did not come. The graveyard was only a few hundred yards down the road from the church. I don’t even remember how I got there. I think a cousin drove me and my three sons.
I remember, after I returned home to Macon a week or so after the funeral, I was driving along Northside drive for some reason. And as tears started welling in my eyes from some passing memory of my mother, I wanted to roll down my car window and shout to everyone…”What are you doing? Why are you acting like nothing has happened? I have had the most momentous, horrific loss possible and you people are going about your normal day!”
Almost exactly a year later, the mother of a close friend of mine (in fact our children are getting married next year) died and I went to her funeral in Chattanooga. After my mother died, I would have attended every funeral I heard about if not for my natural shyness. I wanted to be reminded of those feelings of sadness and loss. I did not want life to continue as it was. After the funeral, I followed the other cars to the graveside service. Along the way, I saw the on-coming cars pull to the side of the road and stop. Of course, I know that when you see a funeral procession, you pull your car over and wait until it passes. I had done this numerous times, but I had not seen it from this perspective. It hit me hard. There is a moment when the world does stop. The world stops for a few minutes and shouts back…we know! Funeral processions are not silly or archaic.
The laminated obituary/book-mark was found in a book that we had donated to the Friend’s of the Library book sale. Someone had picked up the book at the sale and turning the pages, found my mother’s obituary. They saw our name listed as family members and that we were from Macon and I guess, googled us and found our address. There was a small hand-written note included. She knew that it had been forgotten in the book and that I would want it back. She was right.