Thursday, March 24, 2011

Funeral Thoughts

I feel such pain at funerals. I haven't thought about it enough to know why- is it the collective pain? Is it the appropriate place? I think its all the love you feel in the room; it is so much love; it is hard to bare.

Sara died two weeks before she was due to retire with no indications that she was at the end of her life. Her death came as a shock to her family, friends, and co-workers. The service was held at the chapel at NAS Whiting Field. She was known for her kindness, her cooking, and her rock collection. The first thing I noted when I entered the chapel was a box of rocks with the label, "Sara's Rocks." My aunt explained that as Sara worked around aviators and those going to different places she asked folks to bring her rocks. It was quite a pile so I think people enjoyed bringing them to her. Cyn, my aunt, said Sara had a story for every rock and kept a record of them. Her nieces made a cookbook with a collection of her recipes and things she had said or written in her email messages to share with everyone who attended. It was wonderful to read through it at home afterward. I think many will cherish it for a time to come.

This one, about her trip to Boston, gives you an idea of Sara, "I had a wonderful trip! I went everywhere I really wanted to go and enjoyed some places more than I thought possible. I was sitting on someone's steps in Beacon Hill, eating my Havarti and pear from DeLucca's Market when the post lady walked up and sat down beside me. She told me several places I just couldn't miss seeing and one of those was Acorn Street, 'the most photographed street in America.' I can see why as it appears to be just the way it looked 300 years ago, except perhaps with more blooming plants. Went to Cambridge and walked around Harvard and loved that, me, thousands of students and about an equal number of tourists. It was really fun to just sit and listen to the kids gripe about their housemates and discuss their plans. And found a little take out place with pay as you weigh stuff and had the very best spicy slaw ever." I loved that Sara both enjoyed the moment, had the post lady sitting with her, found fun in listening to griping college kids, and mentioned the food she ate. My mom's phone calls always include food- must be an Ohio thing; Sara grew up in Ohio too.

Her co-worker Sam, also an ordained minister, spoke at the memorial service. Sara once told him that if she died she wanted Sam to say a few words. Sam is a big black man with a soulful boom in his voice. Sara was a slim white woman whose gentle ways and open heart made her many friends from all walks of life. Sam's wife had died a few years back; Sara was at his door with food and kindness. Her nieces each shared wonderful memories. A telling story was from her niece, Anne. Anne said a few years back she got married in a very small ceremony. Sara gave her a gift; it was a set of dishes. Anne was happy to receive them. But later Sara pulled her aside & took her out to her car- to show her the whole set plus the serving dishes. Sara didn't want to upstage anyone, but she wanted Anne to have all of her dishes like if she had had a big wedding. Sara had a good heart. The memorial service was a good way to say goodbye and it was wonderful to hear all of those stories. Her spirit will be around reminding us all to be kind and gentle, but she will be sorely missed. On her memorial card it said, "In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the American Red Cross, PO Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013-7243, noting donations are in memory of Sara McBride to benefit the Japan Earthquake." Sara had plans to visit Japan in her retirement.

On the phone this morning, my husband told me it was cold in Yokosuka. He saw snowflakes falling as he left the office. It reminded me to come back to add this last quote from Sara, "I just had to go outside last Friday and feel the snow. I just so love the quiet. There's nothing like it." I don't like to be cold, but I do feel peaceful when I watch the snow fall.