My cousin’s wife walked into the funeral home.
She wore a sequined top that shone in the afternoon sunlight, and as she greeted us all with hugs announced “I wore this because I thought it was the kind of top Aunt Juanita would love.”
We all nodded our approval before my cousin Terri spoke up.
“Go have a look in the casket.”
Much to her chagrin, and everyone else’s amusement, she was wearing the exact same blouse my Aunt Juanita was laid out in. It was the lightest moment in an otherwise very sad day. But it was the kind of story my dad’s sister would have told over and over again. She had that dry British sense of humor that is common in my family. She had a knack for finding humor in strife.
Doug has written a few times about remembering the blue sky - that even when the clouds are hanging above you to remember that there is blue sky above. That moment of levity was my blue sky moment in the day. Recently, I’ve been focused on the practice of gratitude, trying to think of three new things every day to be grateful for, and to think of why I am grateful for them.
That day, in that moment, I was grateful for my sense of humor and that my family shares in that humor. Humor is how my aunt survived a life of struggle. Humor is how I’ve learned to make the best of sadness.
I’ve been home to Pennsylvania only twice this year, both times for a funeral. The longer you live, the more loss you will have I suppose. I am lucky, in that I’ve been spared the kind of loss that many others have lived through at much younger ages. If there is a cost to aging, then the empty feeling of losing someone we love must be the price of admission.
I left the church to the closing hymn of “On Eagles Wings,” crying harder than I meant to as I watched my brother and cousins carry her casket. As I held the umbrella over my mother’s head on our walk to the car, I remembered the quote, “if you live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus a day so I never have to live a day without you.”
Oh the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh.
Emptiness is a tough feeling. It’s hard to know what to do with the hollow pit in your stomach. We cope in different ways - with food, with alcohol, with anything that will make us feel numb for a little while. Later in the day, after the funeral, I hung out with my dad at one of his local clubs, a time that would have typically been spent in the company of my aunt as well.
Sitting in that club next to my dad, I missed my aunt - I thought of her laugh and her jokes and her love of Patsy Cline. I looked over at my dad who was sipping his beer, staring intently at a preview of Sunday’s Steeler’s game. I can’t imagine the pain of losing his first sibling - of seeing his family shrink. I felt a catch in my throat and tried to freeze the moment in my mind - I want to freeze so many moments of time with my dad.
I leaned over and tapped my head on his shoulder for a second, then focused my attention on the t.v.
Two people, holding their grief together in silence. Holding their grief together in love.
My blue sky moment? That everyone should be so lucky, to have someone with whom to hold their grief.