Monday, March 3, 2014

The Mystery

I am attempting to put into words the inexplicable. Today was a funeral. Difficult, sad, uplifting, humanizing; all the things you’d expect a funeral would be. But the funeral was only a catalyst for something greater, something intangible. For years screenwriters and directors have tried in vain to capture the inscrutable relationship of women; women who love one another at a visceral level. Through marriages and divorces, births and deaths, there is a kinship, a calling and commonality that seems to reach across distance and time, mending all wounds and infractions rendering even the major blowouts moot. I have had the privilege of knowing such a group of women. For two decades, these women have passed in and out of my life; we’ve moved across the country, across the continent and beyond. Between us we have I think seven marriages, three divorces, children from infants to high school and an immeasurable love for each other that leaves me humble.

Today marked another milestone, not one which any of us felt like celebrating. The loss of a friend is often unbearable, the loss of a family member often irrevocable, but the loss of a mother is tragic and confusing. There is a bond between mother and daughter, whether you honor her memory or reject her methods, which leaves this scar on the heart. It heals but is never the same. My one friend said it best. “She is a member of the club none of us wished to join.”

It had been years since we had seen each other, and the first time we were all once again together since the last funeral when we put one of our own in the ground, not the reunion we had wished for but today, we answered the call, circled the wagons.

I wish I could express what happened today. It was a Catholic service, which is always a little unsettling to me, having been raised a lapsed Catholic and armchair Christian myself, but the Father was gentle, kind and a bit provocative, hitting just the right notes of humor and shame to leave everyone slightly uncomfortable and yet relaxed at the same time; like a family dinner, tense but familiar. Then came Communion.  It’s a funny word, communion. It means the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, esp. when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. It was a transmogrification of a different kind, not the mystery of death or the mystery of Christ, but the mystery of women, women who are getting a little older, women who promise to see each other more, women who are busy and struggling, succeeding, failing, fighting but women who answered the call, even when they were not asked. It is the strange beauty of a funeral and the death of a parent. The final sacrifice which brings us together, makes us stronger, braver. There are no words of solace that make the transition easy but the love, laughter and loyalty make the pain a little more bearable. I did not know her mother but I can’t express what a wonderful gift she gave me in her daughter.