Wednesday, June 4, 2008

About one funeral too many

People, they are born, they grow up, they live, they go to Starbucks. They get sick, they get better, or not. Get old, or not. Die old, or die young.

It's a two-funeral week that I'm tryin' not to think too much about. Failing miserably at that.

A one-funeral week is one funeral too many--but it's not my funeral, so I shan't complain.

One funeral, for a friend's father, on Monday, was as familiar as a wedding, sad only in a high-school graduation kind of way, comforting for the family who will miss the father, grandfather, and great-grandfather they had loved and honored for so long--he was 89. His life was like so many of the greatest generation, launched by war, but with a strong foundation in small-town life, work, family, and church. Ill for some time, bereft of his beloved wife for a couple years, he was ready to step through the door to his next great adventure. And his family was ready to let him go, so the tears were few, the smiles genuine, and a firm knowledge that Mr. Foster's had been a "life well-lived."

Tomorrow I will attend another funeral Mass, this one for a friend who died at age 44 of Huntington's Disease. Huntington's steals your brain, it steals your speech, it steals your mobility, it steals your intellect, it steals your life. It's a genetic thief that should be jailed for infinity. Yet my friend Mark was as valiant in living with and despite his disease as any soldier in a 100-years war. Strong as a Klingon, and courageous as a samurai, a patient and kind friend, gracious and outgoing as a host, even as he lay in bed, his head and eyes the only body parts he could move, always a smile for visitors, an interest in your lame conversation (until the very end, anyway), he was gently cared for by his mother and brother, both of whom devoted their lives to his care.

He amazed his nurses for a year, outliving most hospice patients by months, attributable to the loving devotion of his family. His favorite foods, his favorite TV, the softest bedclothes, the right medications exactly administered -- all eased his journey, but none so much as as mother's touch, his brother's care.

Mark followed Mr. Foster through the door last week, and now friends from around the country gather to wish him Godspeed in his new-found freedom.

Tomorrow, I think I'll wear something cheerful, for this funeral needs no black grief, just as Mr. Foster needed it not.

Mark will be going back to Hawaii soon, the state he loved, where his remains will rest in warmth and sunshine, surf and sand, where it's summer forever.

Mr. Foster and Mark never met on this earth, that I know of. Perhaps they're acquainted now, the 89-year-old with a full life, the 44-year-old gone too soon. Maybe they're embarking on their next adventure together. Who knows what happens, though that door?


joe said...

This was a beautiful post - you're in my thoughts; thanks for sharing this perspective with us.

Ruth said...

Thanks Cathy