Dressed For A Funeral
She had finally found death. It was in her bones and would be the last great test of her resilience to life. However, that was not quite true, as the old woman sat in her chair, tears in her eyes, thinking about the life she has lived, much of it full of pain, physical and emotional, the memories kept haunting her. The old woman had a film reel in her mind, playing in black and white, reliving her life in chapters, some longer than others. Many segments of her life were daunting, some just confusing. She had tried to edit the film that she carried within her, leaving the parts she wanted to cut out on the floor, but it seemed the memories kept being glued back together, not offering her any peace.
The old woman replayed her own birth, or so it seems, because even though she has lost much of her physical self, her memory remained intact. Though memory can be more painful than any disease. Thoughts catch you off guard. They sneak up on you when you are vulnerable and put a choke hold on your throat, leaving you gasping for air.
As she neared death, one thing she wanted was shelter for her old, disease filled bones, and a place for her children to visit. She had always kept things simple, not wanting a lot, only a few canvases, paint brushes, a good pen to write with, some clean, off-white paper, and a little coffee. She also wanted love and acceptance, but it was often hard to come by. She wanted more love from her mother. She wished her father would have been there for her and not on the road, his great escape. She longed for a husband that she could have lived a life with, being kind with his hands instead of angry. She had sisters who didn’t understand her meaning or their own, and children that struggled to not be rushed by life. In fact, she had some children that had already dressed her for her funeral, only for the convenience of not clothing a stiff body. This one act shows the hurry of life. We not only rush life, we rush death.
The woman sat back in her chair and a warm depth of light through the window touched her. When she put aside the suffering in her heart. When she left some memories on the cutting room floor and let them lay there, still, without life, realizing that we are the ones that control gluing those memories back together, she thought of the happiness that was hers. She did have plenty of love in her life and she was told so daily, for if you are told even once that you are loved, it should be enough. Love can sustain you and the old woman realized that to live long enough to have wrinkled skin and a shuffled gate when walking, she must have been loved.
It takes great courage to look death in the eye and accept it fully and the reality that you are mortal. However, it takes greater courage to accept your suffering and realize that it is needed in order for you to recognize the joy in life that always came after the pain.
The old woman sat on a worn stool, painting a mountain range. She often painted the places she wanted to be. She also painted them for her son and grandson, and she painted for God. With every brushstroke, she was telling God all of her fears and desires, and she showed him what she wanted her heaven to look like. It was usually a meadow with flowers, a small cottage with a strong front porch where she was concealed by the afternoon sun and could patiently wait for the sunset. As her son had talked to her about, death is just a continuation of life, and perhaps we will get more choice in the next one.
The old woman’s appetite began to fade and her smile faltered. She knew her second chances were gone and she lay there with the evening sun shining through her window, and its rays momentarily covered her broken body. The woman was realistic, knowing that we all have an expiration date. This brought her some comfort because no one wants to live forever. If they do, they have not accepted what they owe, which is a death. It is part of the impermanence of life. Change is happening all around us, that is why we need to stop waiting for death to provide nirvana, knowing that we can have it now, in life.
Life! This joyous, wonderful thing that so many waste and take for granted. The old woman thought about this often, wondering about the time she had wasted on her journey? What thoughts had she wasted on so many meaningless things that she could never change or control? Oh, to get it all back, to do it differently. However, regret had no purpose but to weigh us down and churn our bellies. Regret is a useless emotion because what has happened in life was meant to be. The woman believed our lives were already mapped out at birth. This thought interested her and helped her make sense of her life. Isn’t that what we are all doing, trying to make sense of it all?
The old woman left her body and bones to science. She didn’t allow herself to be dressed for a funeral. She wanted to leave one more gift to the world, which was allowing them to try to understand how an old woman could become ill and maybe, just maybe, how others could survive it. It left her children without a body to cry over, but why cry over something that no longer carries a soul? The tears should be for memories and being thankful that the old woman gave them all a life. She carried them each for nine months, breathing for them, eating for them, and already loving them while inside her womb. Her children should also hold their own children, and great grandchildren, realizing that they too would not be there if it weren’t for the old woman. They should all stand around a tree, a creek, that holds her ashes and look at all that the old woman created, and then find wonder and gratitude in the life that stands before and next to them. It was all her doing. This was her purpose in life, her legacy, to be a mother and grandmother.
Women are the creators of life, and with that, they are the creators of love. Old women should be celebrated because they have suffered for us all, and with their suffering, they provide us with joy. They provide us breath.
With love, I write this for the women that I cherish. They have made me who I am.