On Saturday, a FEDEX package arrived
containing 2 DVDs that I haven't had the time
or emotional energy to watch; the memorial service
held this past July for a 90-year-old-somewhat-famous-
in-ceramic-circles-artist I had the curious honor of
working with for five years. I was unable to attend,
so after a few emails back and forth with his daughter,
I sent a package and letter in my place.
Also in her package to me, was a handwritten note
and a small commemorative bowl that she had made
which—I kid you not—incorporated his ashes.
Knowing him, I was not shocked or appalled by this, but everyone
I've shared this with thinks it's creepy. Oh well.
On Sunday, after a night of disturbing dreams,
more like nightmares really, I read and wrote
instead of going to church. Maybe that was my mistake. Oh well.
The weather was beautiful, so I grabbed my camera and an apple
and headed towards a farther graveyard.
I hadn't walked more than halfway up a side street, when I saw
a woman raking leaves and my heart sank.
She had a daughter who died at age ten, from undiagnosed
diabetes, while she was away on a business trip.
FOX News had a field day, sent helicopters and reporters.
The whole town was upside down with rumors.
Maybe you can imagine, fourteen years ago, a single mom
with one child and a career, who leaves her child in the care of the town veterinarian,
whom she happened to be dating. And the child dies in her sleep.
Maybe you can imagine, attending the saddest funeral ever,
in large part because the majority in attendance were other children who knew her.
Everyone was given a daisy to place in her open casket, during the service.
Seated at the back, watching as each child went forward, I was thinking I can't do this.
I had not been to that many funerals then, and never an open casket.
I overheard a young girl tell her mother, "We shouldn't feel sad; that's not really Elyse;
she's somewhere else."
FOX News was still hovering outside like vultures, the town was still in turmoil,
none of it calmed down until the autopsy results were released weeks later,
"diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which blood sugars soar, the body goes into shock,
and then a coma, and in a small percent of cases, death."
(Coincidence or not? I had just been going through clippings and memorabilia from my past,
saved by my mother, in case there was something I could bring to the high school reunion.
In the folder was the obituary of this girl and the explanation from members of the medical
community about the condition.)
So, what did I say while she raked leaves? Something stupid about the leaves.
But she looked right into my eyes and said, "You had a son my daughter's age."
I stalled by hugging her and her rake, then we talked. Well, mostly I listened.
To say it was depressing would be wrong; it was life and death and life.