Death is an unpleasant event. For all the obvious reasons.
When the time came, finally, for my mother's memorial, I dreaded it.
For one thing, she died four months ago. My hip surgery immediately afterward stalled the date. So, this final piece of business lingered and I had a lot of time to not look forward to it.
I wasn't prepared for the joy.
Or, for my life to change in one day.
My mother's friends and neighbors are old school. When someone dies, they pay their respects. It's how it's done. They don't even have to know you very well. They're there. It's a small town. There's lots of little feuds among them. Nothing too Hatfield and McCoy, but still.
No matter, it's all set aside.
My husband and I hosted a BBQ with all the trimmings. But, here they all came, no one empty handed. They brought their cakes, pies, macaroni salads. It's the first time I can recall that a tray of deviled eggs made me cry.
There's no better balm for the soul than an entire community of people who gather for one common purpose: to share their love with you and your family.
Most everyone had a story to tell about my mom. Some I knew, some I heard for the first time yesterday. Without exception, they saw my mother as her best self, giving, loving, willing to help anyone who needed it.
I hated to acknowledge this ending, and feared I'd have nothing left of my mother when we left. But, this was the most precious gift, their love for her, magnified.
After my husband's beautiful, loving and dignified eulogy, we trudged up the hill my mother'd chosen for her final resting place, my best friend from girlhood, who I hadn't really seen in 30 years, held my hand all the way up. Just like when we were twelve, conquering the world, together.
I felt awash with gratitude for all the people in my life who wish me well, who overlook my faults, who love me and think I have something of value to bring to the table.
Instead of sadness, I felt happier than I had in quite a while, up there on that desolate hill with my family and friends.
A weight lifted, a decision made.
I believe that for most of us, life isn't short. It's long. Misery, bitterness, and anger only make it longer, the load heavier. It's days like this and the people who think it's their job to offer sustenance when you need it, and who offer up a pure heart - those are the things I'll keep.
Everything else, like my mother's ashes, blowing in the wind - I let go.