I went to a funeral this morning. One of my friends had cancer and reached the end of the road last Saturday morning. She was 76 and very faith-filled and I have no doubt that she’s feeling much better this week than she was last week.
It was sad, of course, but I loved hearing her family talk about her. They, as a family, have a terrific sense of humour (this is the family who, when their former-airman father died two years ago, attempted to recreate the “missing man” formation with a paper airplane fly-by at the graveside). Christine herself was a great storyteller and her children have inherited that. They were funny and moving and there was not a dry eye in the house.
I really value my friendships with older people. There’s a definite danger as a stay-at-home mother, that all the people you talk to will be the same as you, with the same concerns and the same (in)experiences.
When my eldest child reached the terrible twos, I found myself walking along beside Christine, pouring out my worries about him.
“What do you do, when your kid is pushing other people’s children down?” I asked her.
She looked straight ahead and thought for a moment. I could see her winding back time in her memory. She smiled slightly and took a breath. Here it comes, I thought, the voice of experience, the answer I need.
“You live through it,” she said, with great feeling, and walked on.
So many of my peers were ready with books and articles and the phone numbers of child psychologists, but we were all muddling around in the dark together. From her vantage point in the future, but blessed with a great memory and understanding, Christine was able to give me the perspective I needed. This too, would pass.
Today, listening to my friend’s children (at least one of them a grandmother herself) talk about her as ‘mom’, I felt my perspective shift again. They talked about the habits and characteristics that had shaped their lives. They talked about the things she had done for them, that stayed with them. Their experiences with their mother were different from my experiences with mine and I listened and tried to learn from Christine’s example one more time.
I realised, as I came home and greeted my family, that I am on a path that will end up the same way: with my family standing around, saying goodbye and trying to sum up what I meant to them.
I hope they will be able to talk about me the way her family talked about Christine. She was funny, graceful, faith-filled, intelligent, straight-talking, impeccably well-mannered, and utterly charming. I will miss her, but I will not forget her.