My son and his family got back last evening from a few days of camping in Belleville. They unpacked their gear then got ready to go to a viewing for funeral home to pay their respects to the family a 15 year old girl who lived in their neighbourhood.
Yes, you read that right. A 15 year old girl. That is so very wrong. She was killed in a ‘freak’ accident at an athletic field last week when the soccer net fell across her chest and crushed her to death. She was to begin grade 10 today. Instead of the excitement of the first day of a new school year, she’s lying in a casket, her young life cut brutally short, her family and friends devastated and unbelieving. I feel heartsick.
My 14-year old granddaughter is also a goalie or keeper for her team. She roams the goal crease like a tiger, fighting to keep the opposing team from scoring. The two girls had been on the same team a few times when she ‘played up’ as an alternate.
I remember clearly in high school, one of our classmates was killed in a car accident. I didn’t know him well but his name was Terry Cahill. He was a gifted actor and popular. The school held a mass in the gym. Almost everyone attended. I recall the almost uncontrollable weeping and the leaden weight of sorrow. Really, we were probably too young to understand what it all meant, but the wrongness of his death caught us up.
My sister-in-law’s sister passed away on Friday at the age of 71 years. She’d been in declining health for the last six months, precipitated by diabetes, severe rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Hope was a beauty, with Lena Horne exoticism and a sharp wit. She and my sister-in-law were closer than any two siblings I’ve ever met. Hope was also a beloved aunt to my two adult nephews, often looking at them with a sense of wonder and delight.
We’ll celebrate her life a week from Saturday at The Simple Alternative, a facility affiliated with the Mount Pleasant Cemeteries Group. I’ve been putting it off, but I know I have to call them and make my own arrangements. It’s the right thing to do, after all. Instead of a solemn, mournful requiem mass followed by the grieving family trudging behind an overpriced casket, Hope’s ashes will be there in a tasteful container. There’ll be lots of photos, music and laughter as we commemorate the woman we knew and loved for a long span of years.
I’ve told my brothers and my children that I forbid them to have a funeral for me. I’ve attended five – for my best friend’s sister, my mother and my father, my ex-husband and my Uncle Ken. They were all uniquely wrenching and awful. I don’t want that. Pack my unembalmed corpse into a cardboard box then cremate me. Stash my ashes in a really snazzy urn then fling them into the ocean, down a volcano or onto the peak of a snow-capped mountain. No wanton displays of over-priced death-flowers. No Amazing Grace. Plant some trees instead. Take a trip somewhere beautiful. Be sad a bit, not for me but for the things I won’t get to experience, the events I won’t be there for in person. But don’t forget me. Play some jazz and salsa and Motown music. Cook up some great food and drink lots of booze. Celebrate the amazing life I’ve lived and remember the people I’ve loved.
I want people to be joyful and face forward because life will go on, no matter what. If there is any display of melancholy or despair, I’ll be watching. I’ll come back and slap the sad out.