Monday, December 9, 2013

Fourth quarter urnings report

On Saturday, we held a memorial service for my mother, who passed away on Nov. 22. It was a lovely ceremony, conducted with warmth and compassion by the Rev. Gaea Thompson. A number of my parents' oldest friends attended, people I haven't seen, in some cases, since the late 1980s. The service was formal, yet touching. I think my mother would have been pleased.

Gaea is the chaplain at Canterbury Place in Pittsburgh, the long-term care facility where my mother spent her last years. I realized just how remarkable Gaea is when my uncle and I attended her Easter service in Canterbury's Alzheimer's unit last year. During the proceedings, my mother asked for blessings for "my brother and ... this other one," meaning me. Mom, mind you, was one of the highest-functioning patients there. (She got one out of two!) Yet Gaea handled it all with kindness and good humor. She conducted a truly meaningful service with people whose tapestries of meaning consist of a few tattered cobwebs in the basement. That's a rare and admirable talent.

The morning of Saturday's service, we picked up mom's "cremains" at Winter Funeral Home. It's almost impossible not to feel surreal when you're carrying the remnants of one of the most important people in your life in a metal cylinder the size of a football.

After Winter's, we had to make another stop nearby. There was a shuffle of coats and parcels, and the easiest place to put mom was the driver's seat. "That'll be nice for her," Debbie remarked, looking at the urn. "She hasn't been behind the wheel for years."

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