One of the Hard Days
Gail says that your boss pays you for the hard days, not the easy ones. Of course, if you just write a blog for a few dozen of your friends you don’t get paid at all, but there are hard days nonetheless.
Our friend Dan Scarola has been romantically attached to the mysterious Pamela for over 20 years. She’s mysterious because they don’t live together, or even close–she’s resides in West Marin, and they see each other mostly on weekends. Pam is a dog person, Dan isn’t. Dan is a bridge player, Pam isn’t. It works for them, it is not for me to judge.
Now that’s in the past. Three days after Christmas, Pam suffered an aortic aneurysm and died quite suddenly. Her funeral was today.
Last night, Gail and I drove up to Sacramento for a service at the funeral home. Some people would think that was a long way to go, we think nothing of an hour’s drive, and if you don’t support your friends when they really need you, what kind of person are you?
The service was interesting because Pam was Greek Orthodox. I went to Catholic school, and the Greek Orthodox are sort of Catholic-ish–prayers in both Latin and Greek (I think), mostly similar liturgy but they cross themselves backwards, which makes me dizzy to watch. The proceedings involved much of the backwards signs of the Cross and frequent icon kissing, which seems awfully un-hygenic to this sissy California boy.
The funeral home puts together a video program that includes a slideshow of all the family photos of the deceased. It’s mesmerizing to watch somebody’s life unfold from baby pictures on, even if you don’t really know the person or anyone (except Dan) in the photos with her. Grade school, high school, college, career, trips, aging, all move along smoothly until their eventual and inevitable conclusion.
Pam’s brother and sister and assorted nieces and nephews were there. Dan’s sister arrived from Wisconsin. Gail and I were the only ones from the local bridge community: I hope there were more today for the formal funeral and interment.
Dying suddenly might be the best way to go, but it sure is hard on the ones you leave behind. Slipping away slowly lets everyone go through the grieving process slowly and prepare themselves for the separation of death. The instantaneous confrontation of a loved ones mortality is shattering. Dan is holding it together, but the strain is evident. This is when a person needs his friends the most.
Articles like this are supposed to conclude with some deep and profound observation on life which all too often becomes self-serving pompous pretension. I avoid that by having nothing to wax deep and profound about.
Mother always said that life is short and death is sure. I guess she was right. There is a theory that one should live every day as if it was his last: the theory forgets to say to live every day as if it is your loved ones last, too. Tell somebody you love them today.
Thank you for your wonderful article, Chris. You captured the heart of what that solemn occaiaion was all about. We celebrated Pamela’s life and now we are left to deal with our own lives without someone we deeply loved. That will be a process that takes a long time, I know. Thank you Chris and Gail for attneding and for you support. It meant so much to me. Dan Scarola