Last entry in Eleanor Brown’s Journal: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)
I opened my Bible to this text this morning. Sitting here before dawn on the patio, the heat already like a living being wrapping its insidious arms around me in a strangle hold. The wind is blowing, imagine that, this is after all Oklahoma, “where the wind comes sweeping down the plains”, but it only reinforces the smothering effect. Of course, it is the tumor, not the wind, sucking life out of me. Still reading this scripture, I know that I have experienced everything in the world offers, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” and not a single one of them filled me up like they so enticingly promised.
I feel it in my bones or maybe in my head a need to pry my fingers from the world and all its fake offerings, the old grudges and even all the good and precious gifts I have here. Turn loose of the world so I can really live these last hours, days, weeks, whatever and then FOREVER! Last entry in Eleanor Brown’s Journal
James Adams slammed the door of the house. Rose who had preceded him through the entry jumped slightly but didn’t turn, instead she bore down on Jessie whose sneakiness had brought on this latest burst of temper from James. Swinging the girl around, mouth agape, scathing words tripped and ready, she froze at the sight of her daughter’s face.
She expected some smart mouthed retort but instead Jessie’s large brown eyes were tear filled, spilling over down her face. Her summer tan appeared like a transparent watercolor over a face drained of color. Rose crumbled the girl into her arms, letting her own anger fade as her tears flowed into her daughter’s hair. She could hear James shouting, stomping about behind her, but she ignored him holding tightly to Jessie for dear life. As her husband retreated still swearing, she lifted her daughter away from her.
“Why don’t we give your daddy some room. Let’s go in the kitchen and talk.”
Jessie nodded, but hesitated. “I need to go check on Megan and Cindy. They get real scared when Daddy’s …when Daddy’s mad.” Without waiting for a response from her mother she scurried down the hall to her sisters. Rose exhaled unaware that she had been holding her breath. When had Jessie become mother to her sisters? Had all this trouble closed her off from her children. James drinking and her own reliance on those pain killers Doc Noble had given her after her back surgery a year ago obviously had impacted their family more than she knew. She thought about the note she had written to herself this morning to call Doc’s office for another prescription as she stood listening to Jessie’s soft voice comforting her sisters.
Clara found herself reluctant to leave the viewing room at the conclusion of the visitation, exhausting as that had been. She had asked for a few moments alone with her mother. Settling into a chair on the front row, eyes fixed on the casket, rubbing her temples in small circles, her thoughts always random ran amuck. She felt like she needed to concentrate, but could not.
Perhaps if the visitation had been an orderly affair, which decidedly it was anything but. What with the tumbling of flowers, the children’s evaluation of her mother’s body, the Colonel’s–what would you call it?–outburst, the endless people sharing story after story about her mother. Clara was way beyond overwhelmed.
The children, Les Burton and Jessie Adams, obviously were there without parental permission. After the flowers were uprighted, Nancy had kept them with her for a few minutes, before whispering to both of them and leaving the room. Clara supposed she had left to call their parents, but while she was gone, both of them approached the open casket. In spite of the setting, her raw emotions, the reality that the wide eyed white faced children gawking at her mother’s body, Clara found herself fighting back a bit of a giggle. It was so obvious that neither of them had ever been to a funeral visitation.
Clara watched even as she greeted the folks who had come to express their sympathy as they leaned cautiously over the edge of the casket. The little girl, Jessie seemed to be waving her hand over Ellie’s body. What on earth was she doing? Les seemed to be looking around, his faced scrunched into a grimace as he tugged at Jessie’s arm, sputtering a whispered warning. Clara several steps away and too far forward to see what Jessie was doing took a half step back to try to get a better look.
Jessie’s hand fluttered near Ellie’s face…it was then Clara saw it..a fly had settled on her mother’s face. Seeing it Clara instinctively brushed at her own face as if the fly had lighted there. The child’s hand did not seem to distract the fly a bit, as it continued to explore the nooks and crannies along the heavily applied make-up of the upper lip. Jessie’s feet lifted off the floor as she strained to reach the insect. Les tugged at her pulling her back toward the floor, but she was determined. Just as her hand almost reached the fly, Les’s tugging, her own precarious positioning and gravity caused her to slip backwards. She landed awkwardly, but managed to keep her balance, just as the fly crawled inside Ellie’s nares. Clara gasped slightly, causing her grandfather to rise a bit too quickly, almost toppling into her.
They caught each other grasping at each others elbows both of them upright. It was the closest Clara had been physically to the Colonel since the stiff, forced hugs of her childhood. For all those children who had close relationships with their grandparents, including her mother, Brian, Mandy, and many others, Clara held a deep seated envy.
As a child she had silently pretended that Ann and Paul Stewart were her grandparents as she considered herself a cousin to Brian and Mandy. Her grief when Paul died had mirrored Brian and Mandy’s. It was something her mother noticed, something they both knew, but never spoke of, Ellie, letting her daughter grieve. Clara realized at that moment that Ellie had seen the Stewarts more as parents than merely a friend’s parents, that her mother’s grief plunged the same waters her own did.
In the awkward grasping for balance, Clara realized her grandfather was shaking and as she stepped back, he tightened his hold on her. The still formidable frame of the Colonel heaved with emotion, first silent, but breaking into loud choking sobs. Clara’s reacted first with an unexpected repulsion, an unexplained desire to distance herself from the grasping weeping hulk, who clawed at her enveloping her into his embrace. Never could Clara have prepared for this, she knew how to be polite and restrained in his presence, she did not have a clue as to how to comfort him. As he clung though she relaxed in his embrace.
It was Delia who stepped forward, putting her arm around the Colonel, her face composed, kindly patting Clara’s arm and steering her grandfather back to his seat, calming him as they moved away. Clara followed them with her damp eyes. His behavior confused her while tripping her own raw grief, threatening her composure.
The children’s parents had arrived but Clara paid little attention to the turmoil over that leaving Nancy to manage. The remainder of the visitation was a blur, so intent was she on restraining her emotions. Now sitting in the semi darkness, she stared straight ahead at the still face and frame of her mother. For a woman who hardly ever was still, death did not become her.
“Who were you, Mom?”
After several minutes she rose. Brian and Amanda waited for her in the entry area, but they stood quietly allowing her the silence she craved.
“I am. Know what, I really want to go home” a gulp then, “I think it is time I got to know the woman who birthed me.”
First Published February 18, 2015 on Braking Points