Monday, 9 October 2017

A stumble, a tear and a rainbow

Greeted by a surprise rainbow
on Mom's birthday!
It was at a dressed up gravesite that 40 or 50 people gathered around last Tuesday, October 3. Complete with all the trappings: artificial turf to camouflage the freshly dug grave, and a spray of fresh flowers to 'dress up' the wooden box, add a pinch of reality - a truckload of city workers waiting to backfill the hole, and a few too many commuters rushing down the 7th Concession to nowhere; it was death that grabbed centre stage. A scripture reading, a sung blessing, a spoken Apostle's Creed, and a hushed rendition of 'Amazing Grace' seemingly flowed without pause. The fine-tuned orchestration by the funeral home and minister to conduct a graveside memorial was going as planned.

We each took a flower from the arrangement that draped the coffin and either knelt, stooped, bent or did whatever it took, to get nearer to Mom for the last time. While setting the flower down in her remembrance, some placed their hand on the coffin and felt the warmth of the sun's glow on the wooden chest, while others, with muted whispers, closed their eyes and mouthed a final farewell. My nephews' sobs were muffled into the sleeve of brother Scott's jacket as he attempted to remain composed. However, he, too, eventually wept aloud. Death confronted us that Tuesday and was directing its 'billionth' performance.

From where I stood, I observed my four uncles and one aunt, - Mom's brothers and sister - who had flown in from Nova Scotia, each cautiously approach what remained of their sister. First Uncle Bill, bum knees and all, placed a flower on the grave. Then my aunt, Tante Tini, with all the grace and composition of a younger sister, she, too, placed a flower in tribute. Uncle Joe was next. And, you know that artificial turf meant to hide the mounds of soil and the wooden frame which held the coffin temporarily in place, well, Uncle Joe stumbled over it. As he fell headlong into the grave's opening, thankfully his reflexes did not fail him and he put out his hands to prevent a more disastrous tumble. Uncle Joe's hands landed on the coffin, shifting it slightly, and we who witnessed this event unfold gasped in unison. As quickly as it happened Bill and Tini were there to help their older brother up. Death's 'billionth' performance was becoming unhinged.

Perhaps, from embarrassment or shock, Uncle Joe did not want to try again. But, with a little encouragement and assistance, he finally did place a flower successfully. After navigating his way off the platform, the five-some siblings, Bill, Tini, Joe, Gerry and John moved into a row and stood to face the grave. Their backs were to me, sun glistened off their mostly silver hair, and I heard a short cry.

"Siny, you were a good sister. We will miss you. We love you." was all my aunt said. It was a simple and moving tribute - uninhibited, unscripted, and unrehearsed.

Slowly people headed toward their cars. But, as with gravesite exits, there was an unremarkable hesitation to leave by some of the mourners. Just one more look, one more touch, one more reflection...just one Time marched on and death was eager to search for its next performance. Next act. Same as the first.

The following morning, October 4, would have been Mom's 80th birthday. I didn't want to miss it. I had never missed that day without saying, "Happy Birthday, Mom." So, as I headed down my driveway I spotted a rainbow. Odd, I thought, it hadn't been raining. Quickly, I jumped out of my car and snapped a picture. As I drove toward the cemetery, which is just a few kilometres from my home, I noticed I was driving in the direction of the rainbow.

A left onto the 6th Concession, a right onto Garden Lane, a left onto the 7th and I was at the cemetery. There in front of me was Mom and Dad's marker, shaped like a teardrop or a flame depending on your perspective, the fresh soil raked neatly and the spray of flowers - now visibly missing many blooms - served as reminders of the previous day's events.

As I stooped down to say "Happy Birthday, Mom", the rainbow I had observed was now perfectly aligned with the gravestone. It was God's promise sketched into the heavenly realms and it was though I heard him whisper, "I'll never leave you, nor forsake you." This wasn't in death's script. It was outside the 'norm'. It was as if God grabbed the sickle holding, hooded playwright's pen, scratched out the next line of the all too familiar play, and in celestial penmanship with a panoramic font, wrote: "Death exits stage left."

“Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting?” 

1 Corinthians 15:55

Of auto correct and the smaller things in life

There are moments when you can't help but just laugh. Take the time when my wife, Wendi, texted me and asked where I was. Apparently...