Saying good-bye to my sister and singing hymns and drinking wine


It rained. A steady yet gentle rain came straight down on the cemetery, wrapping it in privacy. Discreet sign reminded us to social distance. We made our way slowly toward the place where we would say good-bye to her. There was the usual covering over the grave site but no chairs. There was no escape from the reminders of COVID-19. At first we paused at the edges of the shelter with our umbrellas, as if afraid to get to close to each other. Gradually we moved in just enough to get out of the drizzling wetness. Some stayed along the edges with umbrellas still up to keep them dry. It was a private service with less than two dozen people attending. Masks hid our smiles but not our tears. Ours is a hugging family; we hug when we first meet; we hug when we leave. Not many hugs on that day.

No minister. Service led by her granddaughter. A prayer, a bible reading. Poetry readings. One written by the granddaughter. One written by my sister to be read at her service. A hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven” sung by Alan Jackson, played on a small speaker. Each of us placed a white rose beside her urn and a spray of flowers.   A prayer. We left in the rain. I will miss her bright spirit.

BARBARA ANN MITCHELL
1935 – 2020

Pre-pandemic we would have gathered after the service at a church or a home for food and fellowship. Not today. Daughter and Son came home with Husband and me. We sat in the living room, silently at first, as we drank wine. Bottles of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay had been opened. Talk of hymns. I was too far out of practice to play any on my out-of-tune piano, so Son called up hymns from his phone and played them on the small speaker used for the service. Daughter, Son and I sang along across the room from each other. So many memories. Don’t attend church these days but I knew the words to every song called out. Husband must have thought the three of us were a little crazy. Wine and hymns? In the pandemic of 2020 it seemed an acceptable thing to do when you lose someone. 

 

MY SISTER AND ME
circa 1948

REMEMBERING MY SISTER


Some of you may remember my post that mentioned my sister and her husband losing their home in a fire outside of Freer  the day before Hurricane Harvey hit.  They were able to rebuild and move into their new home in time to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in December.  Sadly,  the effects of Alzheimer’s had already reduced the quality of her life.  Last week she died peacefully at home at the age of 87.

With my son standing beside me I was able to deliver these words of remembrance at her service.

SISTERS: MARIE, BARBARA AND ME

I hate losing one of my big sisters, Marie.  She was thirteen years older so she was like a second mother to me.  My other sister, Barbara, is nine years older.  I wanted to grow up to be just like my big sisters.  They both helped with me when I was little.  When Marie and Clifton got married, I would often stay with them as my mother had some health problems.  She always seemed to be in the kitchen cooking something.  If unexpected guests arrived, she would waltz into the kitchen and whip out a meal from scratch.

As our age gap narrowed, we became adult friends.  She shared her recipes – buttermilk pie, Christmas cookies and casseroles.  And she taught me how to cook deer meat a dozen different ways.  Yet could never teach me how to crochet – my fingers could just not handle a crochet needle and thread.  But she could crochet anything!

For the past several years the three of us could not always get together very often, but when we did, before we left we would join hands and make a circle.  We laughed like kids again.  I am not sure who started this, but I think it was Barbara.  If only two of us were together, we would still join hands and enlist anyone standing nearby – a niece, a nephew, a husband – to join and complete the circle.

Last Sunday Barbara and I went to Freer to see Marie.  As we left we took her frail hands and made our circle.  She opened her eyes.  We wanted to think she understood, but it didn’t matter…we were making our last circle.

I will miss my big sister, Big Daughter, as our father called her.  She had a full life.  She loved Freer, she loved living on the ranch that our grandparents started, she loved her family and most of all she loved Clifton for almost 71 years.

Rest in peace, my sister.

Her a link to her obituary is below.

https://www.holmgreenmortuaryinc.com/services.asp?page=odetail&id=3293&fbclid=IwAR2Pt64cMmojGOApGeUTqWk7lF4bqfrusQyy2iLuSb1oisILbPVdcW7h_K8

 

DAY OF THE DEAD ALTAR (ofrenda)


Inspired by a El Dia de los Muertos Street Festival last year that I wrote about, I have created an altar(ofrenda) in my home.  These altars are to remember and honor the dead.  November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day.  The Day of the Dead is celebrated November 2  although some seem to combine the two days.

Day of the Dead –
Paths of flower petals and
burning incense guide
spirits to the house of the living.
Tables with favorite food and drink.
orange and yellow flowers,
all offered to the spirits.
Then the living go to
graves of the dead.
Custom says ill fortune, illness
death or worse
may befall
those who make no offerings.

Who will decorate my grave?
Who will bring me food?
Who will talk to me?
No one.
Cremation may be best f or me.
JH
Nov. 2016

Below is a closer look at my orfenda   The pocket knife is for my father; the clip earrings for my mother; the wine bottle for another relative; the carnations for a friend; matches with Mexican Loteria characters for those that loved to gamble; sage for cleansing.  I needed marigolds!  Maybe next year.

MAY THEIR SOULS FIND THEIR WAY TO MY ORFENDA EVEN IF ONLY IN MY HEART.

 

DAY OF THE DEAD OR THE DAY I DIE


A post from two years ago.

My beautiful picture

NO VISITORS

Day of the Dead –
Paths of flower petals and
burning incense guide
spirits to the house of the living.
Tables with favorite food and drink.
orange and yellow flowers,
all offered to the spirits.
Then the living go to
graves of the dead.
Custom says ill fortune, illness
death or worse
may befall
those who make no offerings.

Who will decorate my grave?
Who will bring me food?
Who will talk to me?
No one.
Cremation may be best for me.

 

For more on the traditions of the Day of the Dead check out this website.

http://www.celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com/

 

Death’s Garden: Crossed Fingers


Loren Rhoads just published on her blog a piece that I wrote, “Crossed Fingers,” about a cemetery in Texas. She has an outstanding blog and is an impressive author. Check out her blog & my piece here and also check out her other writings at lorenrhoads.com

Cemetery Travel: Your Take-along Guide to Graves & Graveyards Around the World

All photos of Pleasant Hill by Jo Nell Huff. All photos of Pleasant Hill by Jo Nell Huff.

by Jo Nell Huff

“Cemetery! Cross your fingers!”

The admonition floats to the surface of my consciousness like the command of an angel as I see the cemetery ahead on the left. The child within me obediently crosses the middle finger over the index finger of both hands. I continue to drive my car along the freeway at 70 miles per hour.

When I traveled with my family as a child, the females in the car crossed their fingers while passing a cemetery. Father did not participate. Either an older sister or my mother would warn of an approaching cemetery and we would all cross our fingers. I confess that I still do it after these years, even though I know it is foolish. While driving alone, I can boldly cross them without fear of derision. When traveling with fellow passengers…

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THREE SCORE AND TEN


Thirty-three years ago I wrote a simple poem for an old friend (REALLY old, I thought at the time) for her 70th birthday.  She has been gone for many years, but as I approach my own 70th year I remembered that poem and dug it out of my files.  It was composed in longhand and then typed without the assistance of  word processing.  In those days I often wrote basic rhyming poems for birthdays.  I am sure family and friends cringed inwardly when they got one!  Here is the poem.

For Nettie…in her Seventieth Spring

Nettie,
Ms. Lynn, if you please,
is a friend of mine,
but hard to define.

A gentle soul,
courageous fighter;
giving much,
reaching out to touch.

I see in her past
glory and sorrow.
Yet she’s come through it all,
still standing tall.

She brings sunshine and hope
wherever she goes;
a reminder of giving,
a vision of living

Happy birthday to a
lovely lady!
3/3/83

Nettie Lynn was Jewish.  Her family came to the United States from Russia.  She had only one child, a daughter, who would have been about my age had she not died as a young child.

As I enter my 70th fall…I remember Nettie and look both ways…past and future…and embrace today.

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