Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Other Reason We Were in Utah for Thanksgiving

What is there to say about the funeral of one of my favorite people?

It was cold. It was snowy and cloudy. It was short. It was nice.

I can't conjure the words I need.

As I wrote last week, Sally had a gift for making whoever she was with feel loved and important. Her immediate family was small--one stepson, one daughter, five grandkids--but her extended family is large. Of her 21 nieces and nephews, 19 came to her funeral, many with their spouses and children. That is a testament to her and the reach of her love.

It was hard to see her children mourn her loss. She leaves a hole no one could fill. Who will mother her kids now? Who will grandmother her grandkids? Now that I'm a grandmother and have grown children, that thought made me sad.

It was harder to watch my own mother mourn. My mom goes through life behind the scenes quietly doing good and loving others. I know she spent countless hours sifting through her sister's stuff, planning funeral arrangements, and comforting Sally's children. I watched her embrace her family and listened to her pray. I watched her walk to the casket and say her final goodbye. Despite trying to lose herself in the background, I felt her loss deeply. She lost her best friend and favorite game partner. I could see her heart on her face many times that weekend, and I hurt for her, wishing I could take away her pain and fill her void.

While I was sitting on the stand watching my extended family mourn the loss of one of our best, a scene from The Secret Garden kept coming back to my mind. Mary Lennox is a young girl who has lost both of her parents to a cholera epidemic in India, and she has moved back to England to live with her unfamiliar uncle, Archibald Craven, at his dreary estate. The dead in her past visit her and comfort her, and Mary is confused about the line between life and death. When they first meet, Mary blurts the question that must have clouded her mind often.

"Where do people go when they die?"

Archibald, who still mourns the loss of his wife, Lily, ten years previously, is haunted by ghosts of his own.

"They aren't gone, child. They're just dead."

Every time I saw the show, the profound truth of this seemingly harsh line would linger with me.

That's how I feel right now, the words no longer harsh but comforting to me. And as strange as it sounds, I know Sally is just dead, for she will never be gone from my heart.

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