“And, so it happened . . .” just like the passages from Genesis describing the Earth’s creation by God. A little over two weeks later, the Saturday morning had begun inauspiciously with a thunderstorm. But just as my great grandfather used to say, “A summer’s morning thunderstorm is like an old woman’s dance.” The rain and thunder didn’t last long but did leave the air clean smelling along with birds singing their appreciation. As afternoon approached a breeze dried things out and the skies cleared with expectation for a wake for the not yet departed.
Later, as the four o’clock funeral time approached, Aunt Mollie’s yard and driveway were rather unfilled by ten or twelve kin and friends and three or four autos. The idea of having a funeral for the living had not exactly caught on like wildfire in Clinton. Spending time and money on words and flowers for someone who was yet alive just didn’t sit well with most who heard about it. Several folks complained that they’d just have to do the whole thing all over again when Aunt Mollie did actually depart this realm.
One of Aunt Mollie’s cousins, Jeb Beets caught a ride down from Blowing Springs for the occasion. He arrived with a tongue that had been liberally lubricated with white lightnin’. Wandering around with a lopsided grin, he made efforts to move straight ahead, but his internal gyroscopes were skewed and he crabbed sideways usually missing his intended objective. Blabbering loudly to anyone who would listen, he used the event to reminisce about his brother-in-law who had apparently recently died of a heart attack while having sex with a woman who was not his wife.
“I’ve been wonderin’ if’n he came before he went!” his words delivered with a generous spattering of saliva. Jeb then cackled gleefully, took another pull from a flask halfway hidden in his bibb overalls, and then slapped his thigh as if that comment was the funniest thing he had ever said. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for everyone to give him and his alcoholic halo a wide birth.
Jessie (good ‘ol reliable Jessie) did come and was cranking a freezer full of ice cream. A covered dish was brought by each woman who showed up and Aunt Mollie had fried a huge platter of chicken. However, it began to dawn on her fairly quickly that her idea of a good time send-off and the reality of the afternoon were markedly different.
After listening to one too many comments about how nice her yard looked and “Oh, isn’t it a pretty day!” and “My, that dress you have on is sooooo beautiful!”, Aunt Molly had a “craw full” of insincerity. She wanted wailing, regrets, anguish pouring out of prostrate mourners. Not too long into the proceedings she disappeared inside her house and came out having changed into one of her workday dresses. Pinching a dip of snuff into her lower lip, she proclaimed that she wasn’t gonna waste no more time on this earth doing something she didn’t care to and anyway, she needed to can some tomatoes and clean out the crock and get some dill pickles started processing. And, my goodness, did she have enough vinegar for a run? With that, she strode out to her garden with basket in hand to gather tomatoes and cucumbers, patently ignoring her perplexed, but relieved, funeral guests who began to quickly melt away much like the ice cream that lingered in the now thawing freezer.
After everyone left she told me that the whole thing was a major disappointment similar to the time she got married. She vowed to live as long as possible in order to avoid “having to go through all that again!” And, she did, dying over forty years later at the age of 106 on her birthday in late July having spitefully outlived just about all of her contemporaries. Likely, she would have made it a while longer but she choked on a bit of her cake while a few of us sat on her front porch helping her celebrate another milestone.
In an effort to relieve her strangling, Jessie stood her up and unintentionally slapped her back with a little more force than necessary. Aged himself, he lost his grip on her arm and she lost her footing, pitching forward off the three foot high porch which had never had a railing. Landing face first amongst the gladiolus she had planted along the foundation, her brittle neck promptly snapped.
She had the foresight to be wearing that satiny, pink dress she had bought years ago at Millers which had also expired as a business entity. I remember thinking she looked rather peaceful splayed amongst those red and pink glads. Unfortunately, she was a little over three months from gaining back the hour she had ‘lost’ in the spring to Daylight Savings Time.
Sitting at her funeral in the Methodist Church (the Baptists were still somewhat petulant about her life long absence), I smiled thinking about her longevity. My great grandfather used to remark that he had a couple of cousins when he was growing up that lived to be over one hundred.
“My folks used to say that they’ll have to be knocked in the head come Judgment Day!” he recalled. I found it amusing to think that feisty Aunt Mollie might merit the same treatment from St. Peter.
For me, I missed her grievously. I learned that loss is not something one gets over, but that it can become something that can be lived with. Of all the people I have known who have died, Aunt Mollie was one of the few whom I felt really graduated to the next realm.
Whether in my garden or watching roaming chickens, I think of her often. I wonder if St. Pete was able to cope with her matriculation.
THE END (or Intermission for sure!)