June 26, 2016

It’s hard to believe just a week ago Tracey and I were dashing to get back to Massachusetts in time before my mother passed away. In some cases you can say a period of time seems to have gone by like it was just yesterday, but in this case it seems like the last ten days has gone on forever. The call with Mom’s nurse discussing her condition, the urgent travel arrangements, getting to the Phoenix airport only to hear that the family had been called to her bedside, the hassle and extended wait at the Logan Airport rental car center, the call from my brother saying that she had passed away while we were waiting for our car, seeing her in death and kissing her goodbye, the negotiations over her arrangements and writing her obituary, meeting with the funeral director, coordinating the funeral service with the priest, then helping Dad with all the calls and e-mails was a virtual whirlwind of non-stop activity.

But then you have this awkward period (for us it was Tuesday and Wednesday) where everything is in waiting mode, so we used that time to visit family and begin making plans for Dad’s transition to his new, single existence. It gave Dad a chance to meet his new great-grandson, Jace, born just two days before Mom died:

Then came the next whirlwind of activity and the renewed ramp-up of emotions: the visitation (remember, it’s not a wake!), funeral, post-service luncheon, and, a day later, the final goodbye at her resting place in the church memorial garden:

But you’ve still got tons of family around, of course, so spaced in between these events and then afterwards, before everyone heads for home, are various gatherings, large and small, where folks are given time to spend time together and start decompressing from the past few days. Of course, in these experiences I’m not telling y’all anything you haven’t all experienced before. While it’s a part of life no one likes to talk about, it’s still life. You got your beginnings, you got your endings. I’ll tell you this: Tracey and I had been putting off and putting off getting our wills and affairs documented, and it was only weeks ago that we started working with an estate planner to get these decided and documented; you can bet that will be expedited in the coming weeks! Me? I don’t really care what happens to me and my “stuff” when I’m gone, but you don’t want to burden those you love and who survive you any more than absolutely necessary, and getting it all down – and I mean all down – in writing is essential for everyone’s sense of security and emotional well-being.

But I digress.

I remember the last phone call I had with Mom two days before she passed and her telling me how old she felt and (once again) how she had outlived her usefulness and was a burden to others. I told her we were both dinosaurs living in a world quite different from the ones we grew up in – in some ways for the better, in others not so much. But a very different one, for sure. And I was thinking about that call Friday night as we “kids” sat around a table with my aunt and uncle reminiscing about us all living in the same house together the first ten years of my life, and the times Auntie and my mom lived in when they themselves were young and growing up during the Depression. Some of the stories and memories were familiar, others not such, but all recalled with fondness and laughter. Yet underneath it all lie more than a hint melancholy, because so much of it was from another time: one so strange and so distant from the present day as to be virtually unrecognizable if we ourselves hadn’t lived it.

I thought about this as Tracey and I sat at Logan Airport waiting for our flight back and seeing all the families traveling together, with children in some cases carrying larger pieces of luggage than I did. A far cry from the last vacation our family took together 45 years ago when we traveled to Niagara Falls and back by car, cooking on the roadside with a hibachi and cramming ourselves into tiny motels we’d find along the way! It’s not just my Mom and I that were dinosaurs, I thought, but the entire family unit known as the Richard and Fudge clan. Which is OK – again, this is what life is all about: those families with the kids and the luggage will have their own lives and own experiences to share down the road when it comes time to say goodbye to one of their own. Not sure what kind of world it will be for them at that time, but you can count me as someone damned content to be my age and happy to have been born and grown up in the era I did.

At any rate, in the end everything went about as well as can be expected under these circumstances, and by and large the family got through it OK. My Mom is at rest and at peace, the rest of us are starting the process of moving on, and we’re all now getting back to the day-to-day lives we’ll all live until this kind of thing happens again. Because it will. Because that’s the way life is: no use sticking one’s head in the sand about it. My Mom understood that better than most, and she kept her smile until the very end. Here’s a pic of her and Dad the day before she passed away:

Me? I’m back here in the Valley of the Sun and still haven’t started decompressing, for there is still much left to do upon my return for Goodboys Invitational week – yes! – two weeks hence, when Dad and I plan to finalize all of Mom’s affairs. We’ve already started going through her things trying to figure out what will be saved, what will be tossed, or given to family, or brought to Goodwill. These two weeks will be good for Dad, giving him time to grieve and reflect and think about things in private; the kinds of things you just can’t do when you still have family lurking around.

Life goes on.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 11:49 | Comments Off on Wrapping Things Up
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