I went this morning with Mike and my folks to the local funeral home to work out the details of my sister’s funeral today. I wasn’t really needed, but I wanted to be of support, and also learn how this stuff works. I’m going to have to do it someday for my parents.
Here’s a lesson I learned today, and it’s a big one: we all need to do as much of this stuff in advance as we can. The man at the funeral home could hardly have been more helpful and considerate, but still, there are lots of details, and it’s hard to focus on them in one’s grief and confusion. Less than 24 hours earlier, Mike had been sitting on the couch talking to his wife. This morning he was picking out her casket. You can imagine how hard it is to focus after that kind of blow. I just talked to my wife back in Philly (they’re all coming down tomorrow), and told her that when we’re all at home, we’re going to have to update our will, make sure we have all our papers in order, and write out our preferences for our own funerals, so those we leave behind won’t have to guess, or have to hunt for our papers. My folks have done that to a certain extent, I know, but I have no idea where to find their will, or their written wishes for their funerals. I’m not leaving here until I have all that information in hand.
“You young people don’t think about things like this,” my father said. True. We all think we’re going to live forever.
The funeral is going to be at the St. Francisville United Methodist Church on Monday at 1 pm. It’s going to be huge. So many people want to be a part of it that we’re going to have extended visitation. (All this will be in the Baton Rouge paper tomorrow). Visitation will be Sunday evening from 5 till 8, and then again on Monday from 10 until time for the funeral. Here’s something really beautiful Ruthie’s friends wanted to do for her, something that my dad says hasn’t been done to his knowledge in our town for many years: they’re going to keep an all-night vigil with her body in the church after the first visitation. People want to sit with her for an hour, maybe longer, all through the night. Orthodox Christians do this; I didn’t think Methodists did. These will, though — and Baptists, and Catholics, and everybody else who loved Ruthie. The Orthodox tradition is to read all the Psalms over the body of the deceased during this vigil. As it happens, I grabbed my Psalter on the way out of the door from Philly yesterday, so I’ll have it at the vigil. The pastor said folks will be able to pray the Psalms over Ruthie if they want to. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.
Andrew Sullivan very kindly posted again the photo of Ruthie and her daughter Claire that he did a year ago. It was taken in the hospital a day after her diagnosis. Look at Claire’s luminous eyes. They’re Ruthie’s eyes, by which I mean they resemble Ruthie’s. Ruthie donated her eyes to the organ registry. One day, a blind person may see again, through Ruthie’s eyes.
I hope I can see through Ruthie’s eyes someday, even just a little bit.