You’d better skip this one.
On the morning of Friday, August 5th, 2005 my mother died. She was 59 and would have turned 60 today. Her name was Dorothy Parker and she was married to my step-father Fred Parker. I’m not exactly sure what her death certificate will say the cause was, but she died of cancer. I found out from my brother pretty early in the day and then talked to other members of my family throughout the day. Tuesday morning my brother Adam, his wife Susan and I flew to New Jersey for the services. We had an informal viewing Tuesday afternoon, a formal viewing Tuesday evening and the funeral was Wednesday morning.
The last funeral I remember going to was for my mother’s father. My mother’s mother died after he did but I don’t remember her funeral. Those were both when I was pretty young, but honestly I don’t remember when. I may have been around 15 years old. So the point is that my mother’s funeral was the first one I have been to in my adult life. Most people seemed pretty surprised about that.
During the viewing I met a lot of people that were involved in my mom’s life who I had never known about. People she worked with, extended family, employees of the salon she went to and so on. More people than I ever imagined one person could know. On top of that I met, or re-met many of my family members who I either had never met before or had not seen since I was a kid. Since I live so far from the rest of my family it was interesting, and surprising to see just how big it was.
I’m rambling a bit here…
Back to the funeral. Everything went as well as one could hope, I think. You hear a lot about seeking closure and how the funeral and viewing give you a chance to come to terms with the death but I felt like that had all happened in the weeks before for me. In July when I went to New Jersey I knew that my mother wasn’t doing well. She put on a strong face and we parted by saying “See you soon” but I think that I knew I wouldn’t see her again and I think she did too. When I was in Chicago a few weeks back Fred called and said that my mom wanted to talk to me. I was ordering lunch at some deli at the time so I went and found a quiet corner and sat down and talked. We had a short conversation and my mom said some things that maybe she’s wanted to say my entire life. Talking to Fred it was clear that that conversation was “Goodbye”. And I thought that was actually going to be her last day. She held on for another 2 weeks after that.
During the funeral services, while still at the funeral home my brother Chris and my two sisters, Civvy and Laura spoke a bit about my mom. Judy Underwood, my step-brother’s fiance’s cousin, sang Ave Maria, beautifully, and the pastor from my mom’s church spoke quite a bit. As people said things the rest of the people in the funeral home responded and it was clear that everyone there knew my mother. I don’t think people were just there to pay their respects to someone who had died. They were there to say goodbye to someone special in their life.
The service at the cemetery was short and accompanied by a bagpipe player playing Amazing Grace. My mother’s request and very much in character. She’s always loved the instrument and the song. And that was that. We had lunch at the church that she attended, people shared memories and caught up and parted.
As many people said during the services, my mom was tough. All her life she dealt with everything that came down the road head on and she fought to the very end. She went to bat for me more times than I can remember and many times for things she knew I was in the wrong on. But she would never let anyone mess with her kids. She was protective and supporting and all the things that a mom should be.
We weren’t very close for the last 10 years. I didn’t call very often and I didn’t visit very often. I don’t feel bad about that. I would have called more often if I had more to say but as other people in my life have found, I don’t often waste time with idle chatter. My mom knew I loved her and I knew she loved me and that was enough, for me. I think it was for her too.