A Funeral On Friday In Florida

A view of Sarasota Bay & the beautiful clouds above taken from my hotel room balcony.

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Last Thursday I boarded a flight to Sarasota, FL, so that I could attend my aunt’s funeral on Friday.  Although my aunt’s health had declined during the last few years, it was still a strange feeling to travel for this reason.

I knew that it was likely that she would proceed me in death, but when the phone call came a few days after Christmas that she had passed, I was sort of stunned.  Granted at age 88 she was the last relative of the WWII generation in my family, but I think that we all thought that she’d go on forever. 

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The waterfall by the pool at my hotel. It’s all about water in Sarasota.

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Family members from all over the country attended her funeral, which was about as happy as a funeral can be.  She had lived a full & unique life– and after years of chronic illness she was ready to go.

Talking with everyone at a casual dinner the night before the funeral, all were in agreement that our aunt– or mother, or grandmother– was: generous, funny, kind, educated, creative, determined & a church lady, in the best sense of that phrase.

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Prettiness while looking across Sarasota Bay at a pink building situated underneath the blue winter FL sky.

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The service on Friday was in a lovely Episcopalian church on Siesta Key.  It was late in the afternoon and the light from the setting sun shone through the multicolored abstract stained glass windows that rimmed the top of the sanctuary.

‘Twas beautiful & inspiring in a way that perfectly summarized the goodness that was my late aunt.  And I do believe, set the stage for a wonderful, loud, cheerful family dinner afterwards at a local restaurant where everyone lifted their glass of her favorite wine, pinot grigio [or whatever they were drinking], to toast her one last time.

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So long, Aunt Mary Jane.  You were the best.

Reflections On Dining Early & Sharing Happiness

A FEW WEEKS AGO we drove four hours north to visit Zen-Den’s parents + his sister & her family.  It was his mother’s birthday, so it seemed like a good time to see what was up with his mother and his father. 

We arrived at his parents’ house around noon and spent the afternoon talking with them.  Then around 4:00 p.m. we drove with his parents to a brand new Outback Steakhouse where we met his sister, her husband and their teenage daughter.

We were seated at a long table with banquette seating on one side of the table and chairs on the other.  The room’s decor was modern with lots of muted dark colors in geometric patterns and large pendant lights with drum shades.  The look reminded me of my late aunt’s home which was filled with mid-century modern furniture.

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WE RARELY HAVE THE opportunity to get together with Z-D’s family so sitting in this beautiful restaurant, eating good food, chatting, laughing was special for us, for me.  It reminded me of when my parents were alive and I was a little girl.  The three of us would go out to dinner somewhere fancy, usually early because my dad refused to wait for a table.  And we would have the best time.

So with my happy past in mind, while sitting there at the Outback Steakhouse I took a moment to look around the table, to really see who was there.   And I was struck by the strangest thoughts, out of nowhere.  Fragments of my life, I suppose.

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I REALIZED THAT MY niece is the same age as I was when my father died.  That my SIL looks so relaxed & happy that she could be half her age. That my BIL, who is retiring this year, is exactly ten years younger than my mother was when she retired.  That my MIL, whose birthday we were celebrating, is turning the age that my mother was when she died.  That my FIL is so lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s that I doubt that I’ll ever visit with the real man again.

And as for Zen-Den and I, here is what I observed: we are much older now, both physically and spiritually.  In some ways, life has worn us out.  On the other hand, we’ve learned, adapted, moved on so many times that somewhere along the winding way we’ve both developed deeper understandings of relationships, beliefs, limitations– and the value of focusing on shared happiness.

At an Outback Steakhouse, for instance.  On an early Saturday evening.  While dawdling around a table after dinner.