Her pencil stroked across the journal paper, slow and deliberate, each word chosen with care. It was a eulogy after all, and none the less important because it was her own. Odd to have been inspired to do so by her father, a man reluctant for many years to make a will superstitiously believing that when he did, he would pass. A man, more often heard to say IF I die, than WHEN I die.
In his later years, he took to calling her at work to mention that he and Mom had been to a wake that day and they liked this feature or that about the wake, and would she mind making note of it for theirs? She humored him and faithfully took the yellow sticky notes or scraps of paper home and put them in a manila folder labeled “funerals”. When the days unexpectedly came to make arrangements, she was never so glad to have the knowledge of their wishes to draw upon.
She wrote both their eulogies, just ten short months apart – each a testament to the good life they lived and what they meant to family, friends and each other. And she wrote them with honesty, like she was doing with hers now. Not all selfless devotion, faith and goodness – but including a smattering of their human flaws as well. For surely everyone carries some degree of ballast to balance their life. And everyone is loved because of, and even sometimes in spite of, their load.
Reading about her parents to the crowd gathered at the church wasn’t easy to do. But she was their daughter and a writer after all and the courtesy of her craft, exemplifying their lives, was her final gift.
She’d never envisioned herself as being the “last one standing”, yet here she was, alone, with no family left to write hers. The arrangements had been made a while ago with her lawyer. There would be no visiting hours or service. Hence, no opportunity for it to be read. Was it necessary then after all?
What mattered, the love she gave, the family she nurtured or the self she struggled with? The accomplishments achieved, the depression overcome or the passion for writing? Was it significant that she avoided committees like the plague but carried within, her own version of belief in a higher good? That her taste in poetry was eclectic, that she had a mean controlling streak or that she indulged in a piece of chocolate every day?
Necessary? No. She underlined the quote by William Wordsworth she’d started with in the beginning…And so, her pencil strokes continued on, slow and deliberate, in the fading light of the autumn afternoon.