Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30: Sister's Funeral, Eulogy, New Poem, "Strawberry Picking"

My sister's funeral was this afternoon.  It was not without its share of family drama.  In the end, no blood was shed, and everybody was well-fed and happy at the end.  You will forgive me if I am not witty or profound this afternoon.  I was up until about 2 a.m. finishing my eulogy and poem.  It is now after 7 p.m., and I am practically comatose.  The only blessing is that I don't have to work tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Or the next.  For the next five days, all I have to do is create lesson plans and teach.  Basically, I'll be living the life of a tenured full-timer.  No jumping jobs in the middle of the day.  No late nights at the medical office.  Basically, I will have a normal existence for the next week.

The funeral was beautiful.  My sister's best friend, Lydia, gave a moving eulogy with a Nightingale tribute.  My sister was a nurse for 32 years. And then I gave my eulogy and recited my poem.  My friends sang the "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber and "I Have a Dream" by ABBA.  At the end of the Mass, I turned to Lydia and said, "I think Sal would have been happy."  Lydia hugged me and said, "Sal is happy."

So, I am exhausted.  When I got to the church, I cried.  When Lydia showed up, I cried.  When I gave my eulogy, I cried.  When my friends sang, I cried.  When I ate my stuffed shells, I cried (they were really hot).  When I got home and saw the rum my wife's cousin dropped off for me, I cried.

Saint Marty misses his sister a lot.  Or he's pregnant.

Strawberry Picking

for Sally

You took me strawberry picking
once, drove out to a farm
where we paid to squat in green
beds laced with tongues of red.
I could feel my ears and neck
tighten under the punishing
sun as we filled Morning Glory
ice cream buckets with our
harvest, each berry looking to me
like some vital body part,
an organ or muscle necessary
for life.  You sat on your haunches,
fingers staining red, as if you
were some battlefield surgeon
patching up the fallen with only
your hands.  Every now and then,
you would lift a berry to your lips,
eat it in a hummingbird moment,
smiling the smile of the freshly
healed at Lourdes, where miracles
are common as empty wheelchairs
or dandelions in a July field.

The days since you've been gone,
I see strawberries everywhere,
in a welt of blood on my lip
after shaving, a stop sign,
a friend's dyed hair,
my son's sunburned shoulders,
oxygen in the gills of a perch.
Last night, I stood outside, under
ribbons of borealis, watched
them glide between the stars
like garter snakes in a midnight
Eden.  The Bible says that, in the cool
of the day, Adam and Eve heard
God taking a stroll through
the garden.  There were probably
peacocks nesting in the pines,
a stream talking with moss and stone,
the scurry of mole and spider
in the ferns.

That's what I believe you heard
in your last moments of breath.
You heard peafowl screams,
brook trout leaps.  Grasshopper wing
and corn silk.  And you heard
His divine toes in the grass, walking
along.  When He came to you,
He couldn't resist.  He reached down,
plucked you from the stem.  You were
ripe.  Sweet.  Ready.  He put you
in His Morning Glory bucket, continued
on into the dew and sunlight.

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