Note from Carolyn: I have been off for a couple of months, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year…I also started a new blog exploring my seventh decade. If you are interested it is at http://www.lifeinmyseventhdecade.wordpress.com. But I don’t want to neglect Braking Points nor do I want to fail to finish “Porch Story” for myself if not for anyone else. I also want to continue to share the bits and pieces that I find encouraging and enlightening in scripture, prayer, meditation and the act of living life in the here and now. BRAKING POINTS..times to stop, look and listen. So with that here is the 13th chapter of “Porch Story” for anyone who cares to read.
“While the doctor talked, my mind only partially engaged with what she was saying. CAT scans, PET scans. lab results. diagnosis, treatment options, on and on…I drifted away. They say at the moment of death your life flashes before your eyes, but I have always had flashbacks to earlier times, mostly at night when the devil tries to bring up every transgression I have ever committed. But while the doctor talked, I suddenly remembered holding Clara, immediately after her birth, hearing her healthy cry, and watching her latch on to my breast, suckling as if she were starved. Before I could stop them, tears rolled down my cheeks not because I was dying but because of the beauty of that moment with Clara in my arms for the very first time. It will be saying good-by that I will hate the most.” From Eleanor Brown’s Journal
With Clara’s luggage packed inside, Brian scowled at his sister, obviously miffed by her avoidance of his phone calls, hugged his mother and bid the threesome of females good-by.
“Are you headed to the house, Brian?” Nancy inquired.
“Later I thought I would go visit GiGi and Dad.” He leveled his gaze at Mandy, “It wouldn’t kill you to go visit them too.” He even cringed at the judgmental tone in his voice. Mandy glared back, but held her tongue, shrugging her shoulders slightly. Nancy studied the exchange between her two children before pointedly turning to Clara and asking, “Mandy’s been camping here. Would you like me to help you get settled, before…?” Hesitantly, she waved her hand around the room the untidiness evident. “before we tackle the journals?” Her voice quivered.
Clara reached out, touched Nancy’s arm then collapsed again into the safety of her hug. Traces of moisture spilled onto both of their cheeks intermingling. In that instant both grew unaware of time or space or the occupants who were inhabiting it with them. Brian and Mandy unaccustomed to seeing their mother cry shared a silent inquisitive look, their own animosity dampened by their shared concern.
Finally, Clara shifted away from Nancy, scanned the room and spoke, “Why don’t we meet for supper…”
“At our house.” Nancy interrupted, looking pointedly at her children and not at Clara.
Both shared uneasy glances and then nodded.
“Are you sure?” Clara asked.
“Yes, and then we can talk about how we want to carry out Ellie’s wishes.”
“Ok. And, Mandy, would you consider staying on here with me? I think having company in this big house would be good.” Clara stated, not at all sure she really wanted company.
“I’d like that, thanks.” Mandy turned to Brian, “I think I will go with you to see GiGi and Dad,”
“Let’s all go,” Nancy said, “and give Clara some time to rest and get settled. Oh, Clara, your grandparents will be here this evening. They have a driver bringing them from Wichita Falls.” The look on Clara’s face prompted an unexpected laugh from Nancy, full bodied and deep and then she found she could not stop laughing. The shocked looks on her children’s faces rather than tamping her outburst made her laugh even harder. Clara’s face twisted slightly before she too dissolved in a fit of giggles. Brian and Mandy stood uneasily to the side before smiles brightened their faces.
It felt good to laugh, Nancy thought. Ellie would have been laughing with them. In that moment Nancy knew her eulogy needed less sentimentality and more humor. It needed to be a realistic portrait of a complicated but wonderful friend.
“I will follow you all over to see Mom, GiGi, and Dad.” Nancy said as the Wingate’s left Clara standing in the living room of Ellie’s house.
“Have you ever seen a dead person?” Les asked Jessie. The others had gone except for Jessie’s little sisters who were camped in front of the Burton’s TV, watching Sponge Bob. The Burton’s still had cable service, a fact not lost on Jessie.
“No. Have you?”
“No. Maybe we should go down to the funeral home and take a look at Miss Ellie…you know, before tomorrow so we don’t act too shocked or something.”
“What do you mean?” Like on a slab, or one of those drawers like on TV?”
“No, I heard my Mom talking to someone on the phone and they should have her in a casket all prettied up by this evening sometime. We could walk down and go see her.”
“I d-don’t know,” Jessie hesitated, stuttering slightly on the words, “What if someone sees us? Or, if she looks really bad. I mean she was hit by a train, Les?”
“Lots of people go to viewings. It’s respectful,” Les said proud of his use of the word “respectful”. He liked practicing new words, but that didn’t mean he wanted to learn a new language. He hastened to add, “My grandmother says the funeral folks use all sorts of make-up and stuff so folks just look like they are sleeping.”
“Should we take something…like flowers…I don’t have any money, Les. My Dad says we are probably going to end up in the poor house…but I don’t even know where the poor house is, do you?” Jessie had been storing up all the tidbits of information she could accumulate from her parents arguments since they were laid off, trying to prepare herself for whatever was coming. She had a boatload of negativity that she carried everywhere she went. She knew it was all bad, but she didn’t understand most of it.
“Nah, we can just go and pay our respects,” stated Les, a tone of authority in his voice.
“Ok,” Jessie murmured. “What time?” She eyed Megan and Cindy across the room, knowing she would have to get them home and find something for them to eat. She rose, grabbed her sisters’ hands over their protests and dragged them toward the door.
“Oh, Jessie…dress up like for Sunday School.” Les called after their backs as they retreated through the hedge.
The phone rang almost as quickly as the Wingate’s were gone. It was Matt Ryan at the funeral home. Could she bring something for Ellie to wear and did she want to view her mother before they put her out for the public? It struck Clara that who ever wants to see their parent dead before or after the public, but she simply said that she would pick a dress and yes, she would appreciate a few minutes alone with her mother. Apparently her worries about the funeral arrangements were uncalled for. Ellie had made all arrangements two weeks before. Matt Ryan knew her mother was dying before she did. Childishly, she decided she had never liked the man and then, had she ever even met him?
She found the dress, shoes–shoes? whoever sees feet in a coffin?–jewelry, all in a bag, clearly marked in Ellie’s broad script, “For my funeral”. Lump in her throat, she pulled the bag off the hook. Carting them out, she stopped dead in her tracks. How was she getting to the funeral home? Guess I will have to take the Mighty Moose. Backtracking through to the kitchen she grabbed the keys to her Mom’s GEO tracker, a relic from the 1990’s, which she found in the garage. Thankfully, it started right off. Matt Ryan had remarked that Ellie’s viewing room was filling up with flowers and other memorials, so they wanted to get her out as soon as possible.
God forbid that folks had to wait to get a gander at the woman who had been hit by a train. Clara grimaced as she and the Mighty Moose took off.