What Will They Say?
Yesterday I attended the funeral of my brother’s wife’s father. Though I hadn’t seen him in several years, I knew that my sister-in-law and my niece would be understandably distressed. I wanted to be there even if my presence provided only a smidge of support. Family members began to speak of his generosity to his family, his open affection for his grandchildren that was in such contrast to his somewhat gruff exterior to the rest of the world, and his love of cooking. Many comments were devoted to his love of cooking and his enjoyment in sharing the products of that love. I realized my own memory bank included a beautiful day after he made his customary pot of gumbo in preparation for his daughter and son-in-law’s visit. My mother and I joined my brother and his wife to visit her dad. My small one was barely toddling and was sitting on her grandmother’s lap while we ate. After the first bite of that gumbo, she turned into a little baby bird, squeaking and opening her mouth as wide as she could for one bite after another. On the periphery of his life and family I can enjoy the legacy of his cooking with that memory.
When I returned home, the activity next door clued me in that the backhoe parked in my neighbors driveway the day before was not for a yard improvement project but for his son’s themed birthday party. It struck me that I had just returned from celebrating the end of a man’s life to be treated to the celebration of the beginning years of someone else’s.
I wonder what will be said of me? I suspect that like the deceased, there are many people in my life who have been on the receiving end of my gruffness, my lack of ability to forgive and my very apparent ability to be blunt even when I shouldn’t be. But I hope that there are people who also remember me feeding them, or that I was a good cheerleader on the sideline or in the midst of a race. And I think I need a themed birthday party so my guests can ride around the neighborhood in a tractor.