“I know this is a hard time for you all,” said the tall man with brown curly hair. “But if you just answer a few questions, I’ll be able to do a much better job eulogizing Carolyn tomorrow.” Confused looks.
“Klarisa,” corrected Uncle Phillip. The tall man blushed as he glanced down at his clipboard.
“Er, sorry. Klarisa,” he went on. “What were some of her hobbies?” he asked hesitantly. Marc groaned. Wasn’t it bad enough that his mother had just died? Did he really have to play twenty questions with this clown? This “lifecycle facilitator,” as he called himself, sort of a cross between generic clergyman and social-worker, Steve had been chosen by the family from the phone book to lead the funeral, since the family had severed any formal religious affiliations years ago. “Cooking? Sewing? Maybe needlepoint?” prodded Steve, as the family sat around and racked their brains. Klarisa Allen just wasn’t the hobby type. She had quit a promising teaching career when Marc was born and had basically devoted herself to caring for her kids, and as her anxieties began to overwhelm her in later years, worrying about them.
“Klarisa liked to, to, draw!” said Aunt Jenny with the glee of someone who had come up with the right answer on a game show.
“When did she ever draw?” asked Mandy incredulously.
“When she was a girl she used to draw me and all the cousins hand made birthday cards!” asserted Jenny. Dad buried his face in his hands as Steve, who had a combination baptism-circumcision ceremony to officiate in 45 minutes, fidgeted in his seat as he glanced intentionally at his watch. “Um, did Car… er, Klarisa, have any favorite poets or musical groups? He asked, deftly changing the subject…
The next day at the funeral home. When Marc arrived people were sitting solemnly in rows like at some sort of classical concert. Marc noticed it was a decent turn out. He felt it to be an honor to his mom that so many people would bother going to her funeral.
Of course, it had been considered a tragic death. At 56, she was still considered a young woman, at least to be dead. The suddenness of her demise had added to the pathos. Marc, Mandy and their father were lead up to the front row, as after all they were the guests of honor, after Mom. It was a day of dread, no doubt about it. Yet lingering in the background was a whisper of relief. Relief of their mother’s suffering, and their own. There was a certain relief to conclusion, even if it’s not the one you had hoped for.
Marc sat down next to his sister. Ever since childhood they hadn’t been particularly close. He was considered to be the creative brilliant misfit and she normal, popular and in his opinion, dull. Now she looked so small and vulnerable, an orphan without a mother. Hollow, they were now all so hollow. Mom, in all her tragic intensity, had been the heart of the family, and its brains. How would they ever go on? Marc pondered. Or would they? Perhaps they would all just be cut loose like logs of a broken-up raft, and float off, each in its own direction. Marc could easily see it happening.
Instinctively he knew that the key to preventing it rested firmly and solely in his hands. A gesture is needed, and now, he thought. As he sat down next to Mandy, he hesitantly put his arm around her shoulder. This was a big move in a family of non-touchers. They both stifled sobs. The gesture did not pass unnoticed to friends and family sitting behind, who would comment later. Perhaps they had shared some of Marc’s unexpressed fears. He was determined to try to hold things together, if for no other reason than to prevent himself from falling apart.
The organ music lilted chillingly in the background. Steve, now in a more appropriate dark gray three-piece suit than yesterday’s chinos and sandals, stepped up to the microphone that had been placed in front of Mom’s coffin. His eyes looked red. “Hay fever?” thought Marc.
“Klarisa was an artist…” he began. Marc began to tune out. The eulogy continued.
Facts and figures were mentioned. Thankfully all names had been properly pronounced. What emerged was a picture of a wonderful caring woman who was taken from her family in the prime of life. Which Mom was, of course, but the picture was all off. An artificiality, a lack of unity. Kind of like those weird looking police sketches of a criminal-at-large based upon a conglomeration of witnesses’ descriptions. Somehow this indignity of having to be artificially eulogized by a man she never met was for Marc the most painful thing of all. Of course, Dad, Uncle Sid, or even Mom’s hairdresser could have done a better and more heartfelt job. But of course, no one would consider breaking with tradition. Steve was a paid, certified professional after all.