It took my Aunt Marguerite several hours to realize my Uncle Eddard wasn’t dozing. He was dead. “Well, that man never did talk much,” she said in her own defense.
I know you’re not suppose to laugh at funerals or at the bedsides of the dying but when my father’s generation died, I couldn’t help it.
After Aunt Bernie passed my father forgot to call the priest to preside at the funeral. The cemetery representative, clearly not a Catholic, volunteered to read the Lord’s Prayer. “And lead us into temptation,” he pleaded. “Amen!” cried my father a little too exuberantly.
Uncle Rip died of a heart attack. Oh, he was warned by his doctor to give up those fatty meat soppings. “Doctor, I’d rather die.” said he. So he did.
Aunt Bev suffered from emphysema and Uncle Joe was blessed or cursed, depending on your viewpoint, with being hard of hearing. He never let deafness stop him from answering the telephone though. The phone was in the front foyer next to Aunt Bev’s oxygen machine. To carry on a conversation Uncle Joe had to turn off the oxygen and Aunt Bev would sputter and spew and turn shades of blue Picasso hadn’t even imagined.
When my mother was dying of cancer she got a big bouffant Marilyn Monroe wig to cover her bald head. “It goes with my mustache!” she exclaimed. And when my father was dying she tootled into his room and told him this joke:
Q: “How did the mortician propose to his girlfriend?”
A: ” I love you, will you bury me?”
Yes, I will. I will also promise to keep your memory alive by telling stories about you. Stories are witnesses to the value and meaning someone has had in our life. Sharing the bizarre, tender, and outrageous things my relatives said and did is part of my family identity and helps me love them for who they really were. There is a wonderful folktale called The Cow Tail Switch told by Hugh Lupton about the value of telling stories about people we’ve lost. But how do we tell family stories? Click on stories to learn how and then make a CD or a recording for someone in your family as a gift. This holiday put a story in someone’s stocking. It’s the greatest gift you can give.